Best Bank Accounts

A Savvy look at the best bank accounts in Australia, comparing features and bringing you up-to-date comparison information.

Last updated on May 3rd, 2022 at 05:10 pm by Cate Cook

Compare and find the best bank accounts in Australia

If you’re researching your options for a new bank account, you’ve come to the right place!  Look at all the account features available and find out how to narrow down your choice by comparing your options with Savvy.  Savvy presents clear and easy-to-understand bank account comparison information so you have the figures you need to make great decisions.

How do I find the best bank account?

There’s no general bank account that will suit all people at all times.  Finding the most appropriate bank account is a matter of narrowing down your choice by deciding which features are most important to your personal financial needs.

Banks and financial institutions bundle together features which appeal to one certain demographic.  For example, a student account may offer fee-free international transfers and reduced fees for using international ATMs.  This is because the banks know that students tend to travel and that there are thousands of international students in Australia who need bank accounts to carry out international transfers.  For this reason, when you’re searching for a bank account, start by clarifying what type of bank customer you are, because this will determine which type of bank account is best for your needs. Options include:

  • Young people under 25 – look for kids, junior or youth accounts which offer no fees and bonus interest to children if they meet certain savings conditions
  • Students – select student accounts which make banking cheaper internationally, with reduced or no fees for using ATMs overseas
  • Businesses – specific bank accounts for small businesses feature accounting tools and more frequent statements to make a high volume of transactions easier to reconcile.  The best bank account for your business will depend to a large extent on how big your company is. 
  • Pensioners – savings bonuses, reduced fees and free ATM access are some of the specific features available with pensioner accounts
  • Couples – joint bank accounts can be a great way of combining finances with your partner or spouse – and you can choose between one to sign, or both to sign options. Compare joint bank accounts with Savvy to find a joint account that suits all of your needs.
 

Compare features

Next, decide if you need a transaction account or a savings account. This is a relatively simple choice; it’s just a matter of whether you want an account to manage your everyday banking needs such as shopping and paying bills, or somewhere to park your funds as you save up for larger financial goals such as a new car or an overseas holiday.

Features to compare with transaction accounts:

  • Fees – look for the lowest fees and be aware that account-keeping monthly fees are becoming a thing of the past. Fee-free accounts are offered to kids, students, pensioners and others with special deals, so choose a low or no-fee account option
  • Access – does your bank or building society have a mobile app which is compatible with your phone and smart watch? Can you include any existing linked credit or debit cards into your digital wallet for tap and go pay options? Are there sufficient ATMs in your neighbourhood for you to use?
  • Conditions – make sure there are no hidden limits or restrictions on the number or dollar value of transactions you’re able to make per month. Check out any fees for using overseas ATMs if you travel frequently.
  • Automation – does your account offer a round up option, automatic transfers to your savings or offset account if your everyday account reaches a certain limit (called account sweeping) and direct debits to pay your utility bills automatically?
  • Ease of use – does your transaction account have a super simple online interface and intuitive software to make your online banking easy and fun? Gone are the days when online bank accounts were hard to use and complex
 

Features to compare with savings accounts:

  • Interest rate – first and foremost, compare the interest that your savings will generate. Some accounts offer a bonus interest rate if a certain deposit condition is met, such as an additional 1.5% if at least $1,000 is deposited into the account each month
  • Compounding frequency – this means how often the interest earned on your savings is paid to you, with the more frequent compounding the better. Standard savings accounts usually award interest monthly, but term deposits may only pay it at the end of the deposit period, or every three or six months
  • Fees – the lower the better, of course. Look for special conditions such as no fees charged if the account balance is higher than the previous month.  Beware of fine print traps such as a $5 fee charged for each withdrawal over three withdrawals per month from your savings account
  • Offset linking – can your savings account be linked to your home loan so that any money you have in your savings accounts offsets the principal of your home loan? For example, if your home loan is $350,000, but you have $50,000 in your offset savings account, then you’re only charged interest on $300,000 of your home loan, reducing your interest bill.

Remember, all of these different features vary between accounts and the type of bank you choose, so the best way to find the bank account that’s just right for you is to use Savvy to compare bank accounts so you’ve got side-by-side account information to help you select and choose the one most suited to your needs.

What’s the best type of financial institution for me to open an account with?

Banks

Banking in Australia used to be dominated by what’s known as the Big Four Australian banks: Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and NAB.  These banks had thousands of branches all over the country, and mainly serviced customers face-to-face.  However, a variety of banks outside the Big Four have emerged, giving customers more options to choose from.

Banks still have high street branches, although their numbers have greatly reduced in the past 10 years as online institutions have grown in popularity.  They generally offer the widest range of financial solutions, from transaction and savings accounts to home and personal loans, home, contents and car insurance and business loans and investing.  Their online banking sites are usually highly efficient and well-structured, although their fees tend to be higher than those of other institutions.

Building societies and credit unions

Building societies and credit unions are not run to make a profit, but rather to service the needs of their members. The range of products they offer may be smaller, but their customer service is more personal.  They can offer higher interest rates for your savings and lower fees for your transaction accounts, as they don’t have any shareholders to pay.  They may not have many (if any) shop-front stores to visit, but they also boast suitable online infrastructure.

Online banks

Online banks don’t have any bricks and mortar shopfronts to visit; they exist purely digitally.  Some are offshoots of the Big Four: for example, UBank is in NAB’s online banking division.  However, others have grown out of building societies or credit unions.  For example, the Queensland Police Credit Union became QBank.  They again offer a smaller range of financial products but tend to offer more personal service and very competitive bank accounts and interest rates.

Digital and neobanks

Other smaller banks and recently-opened neobanks (also known as digital banks) are not affiliated with any of the traditional banks.  They began to emerge in late 2018 after legislative changes in the banking sector.  They offer super low fees, high interest rates for savings and innovative new ways of managing your money.

For example, some neobanks offer predictive budgeting, where the app predicts when your regular bills will come in and how much approximately they’ll be for and works out a monthly budget for you.  They can also offer rounding up (where each transaction is rounded up to a specified amount), such as to the nearest dollar where the difference is automatically transferred into a savings account.

 

Frequently asked questions about bank accounts

Are smaller online banks just as safe as the Big Four?

Yes – all banks in Australia are regulated by the same authority and covered by the same government guarantee in case they should fail. The government guarantees savings up to $250,000 per person per Authorised Deposit-Taking Institution (ADI).  It’s worth noting that if you have your savings invested in one of the big four banks and also in one of their subsidiaries, you’ll only be covered for one amount of $250,000, not two.

Are cashback offers worthwhile when opening a new bank account?

Yes – cashback offers are used as an incentive by some banks and financial institutions to persuade new customers to switch banks.  They can be as high as $1,000 cash or include free subscriptions to TV services or other such incentives.  However, you must ensure the account attached to the cashback offer suits all your banking needs; don’t pick out an account just because of its cashback offer.  Compare your options with Savvy before signing up for tempting offers.

How do I choose the best bank account for my child?

Children’s and kids’ bank accounts are often fee-free, and savings accounts can offer bonus interest if certain conditions are met, such as at least $10 or $50 is deposited each month.  Compare all the usual features such as interest rate on savings and fees charged before making your final choice.

Are round up accounts worth it?

The days of slipping small coins into a piggy bank or glass jar by the front door are long gone for many.  However, round up accounts are the digital equivalent.  Reserve Bank of Australia data shows the average person makes 17 purchases a month using a card, so if each of those purchases represented a round up of 25 cents, an additional $4.25 would be transferred into your savings account per month.  Of course, if you increase the round up figure to $2 or even $5, your savings will grow much faster.  

Should I have my transaction and savings account with the same institution?

It can make life easier if you wish to make frequent transactions between your transaction account, your savings account and perhaps your mortgage offset account.  However, inter-bank transfers usually only take one day or overnight (or are instant if your bank uses the Osko transfer system), so splitting your accounts between various institutions could be worthwhile to get the best accounts for all your financial needs.