Transaction accounts

Your everyday account

Just about everyone has an account with a bank, credit union or building society to receive pay or basic benefits, take out cash and pay bills. Banks call these savings accounts but they are really 'spending' or transaction accounts because you pay different fees depending on how and when you take out your money.

The trick is to find a transaction account that costs you less in fees and suits your everyday spending habits. Here are some things to think about when choosing a transaction account.

Compare fees and charges

Different accounts charge different fees.Your bank may charge you:

  • Monthly account keeping fees
  • ATM fees (for your bank's ATMs and even more for using another bank's ATMs)
  • Phone banking fees
  • EFTPOS fees
  • Internet banking fees
  • Branch fees

Smart tip

Only keep the money you need to cover your everyday costs in your transaction account. Put the rest of your money in a savings account and watch your savings grow with the extra interest.

Think about how you like to access your money and then find the account that offers the lowest fees for your preferred method. For example, if you like to withdraw small amounts of money from an ATM, you need an account that has very low or no ATM fees.

Find a basic bank account

Some financial institutions offer basic bank accounts with:

  • No account keeping fees
  • Free monthly statements
  • No minimum deposit amounts
  • No overdrawn fees

You can find which financial institutions offer these basic bank accounts on the Australian Bankers' Association's Affordable Banking website.

Interest charged on overdraft

Check the fees charged if you withdraw more money than is in your transaction account. This is called going into overdraft. You could be charged a set fee for each transaction you make when you go into overdraft, or you could be charged interest on the amount that goes into overdraft. Sometimes, both penalties may apply.

Banks usually charge higher fees and interest rates for overdrafts than for personal loans. It is important to keep up to date with your account balance to make sure you have enough money for bills and for automatic payments like direct debits. See overdrafts for more information.

Read our case study on transaction accounts where twin sisters Genevieve and Caitlin have very different ways of using their transaction accounts.

Important

If your bank account is overdrawn and you receive Centrelink payments your bank is not allowed to take anymore than 10% of your fortnightly payment  to recover the debt. If your bank is taking more than 10% find out what you can do about your overdrawn accounts on the Department of Human Services website.

Use a debit card instead of a credit card

You may have seen advertisements for debit cards that are offered through your bank account. These cards let you pay for things over the phone or on the internet with your own money. Previously, you could only pay this way with a credit card which can be much more expensive. For more information see debit cards.

Keep your bank account safe

Never tell your PIN or account code to anyone, including a friend or family member. Don't record it on your card or with something you keep with your card. If you do either of these and there is an unauthorised transaction on your account you won't have any right to get your money back.  Most unauthorised transactions happen because a person gave someone else their PIN or code. For more information see unauthorised transactions on your bank account.

It is also not a good idea to use your birth date or a recognisable part of your name as your PIN, because this makes it easy for others to guess.

Check your bank statement for your transaction account every month to make sure your bank is charging you correctly and that there are no unauthorised fees or transactions

If there is a transaction that you did not make, contact your bank, credit union or building society immediately. See how to complain for more information.

Cardless cash

Some banks let you withdraw money at an ATM without a card. To do this, you usually need to log in to your banking app on your smartphone and select the option to receive a cash code. You'll then receive a unique code by text message, and may also receive a personal identification number (PIN) by separate text message if required by your bank. Then, you simply find an appropriate ATM and use the code to collect your cash.

You only have a short period of time to get to an ATM before the code expires. The code will also expire as soon as you withdraw your money.

If you don't have a banking app you may be able to use this system by calling your bank and identifying yourself. You can also use it to give cash to someone else such as a family member or close friend, by giving them the code.

Banks regularly offer new accounts with more competitive features. You should look closely at the fees and features of these new accounts and consider switching bank accounts if you find an account that's better suited to your needs.


Related links


Last updated: 24 Oct 2018