02.Comparing transaction accounts
Many new transaction accounts profiled offer a way to pay no monthly fees; of the major banks, ANZ and Commonwealth have yet to introduce an account with an avoidable monthly fee for standard customers (though like most banks, they offer low-cost basic accounts for pensioners and other low income groups).
ANZ’s Access Select account charges $2 per month in return for six “free” electronic transactions; Access Advantage has a $5 monthly fee, with unlimited withdrawals from the bank’s own ATMs, phone and internet banking, branch, cheque and EFTPOS access. CBA’s standard transaction accounts have $4 and $6 monthly fees.
Some accounts have specific conditions to waive the monthly fee - commonly, to make a regular monthly deposit of at least $2000. Some institutions go further, charging nothing for certain “everyday” transactions. Holders of such accounts can make an unlimited number of the following transaction types, without paying any fee:
- ATM transactions at the bank’s own network
- Branch cash deposits and withdrawals
- Cheque facility
- Direct credits and debits
- “Pay anyone” internet transactions
Even with the best accounts, not all services are free and interest usually isn’t paid – extra savings are often best directed elsewhere. A major expense is using “foreign” ATMs – those belonging to another bank or network. Approximately 40% of withdrawals are from such machines, and all those $2 transactions add up to about $640 million per year. The simplest way to avoid those fees is to stick your own bank’s machines wherever possible. Also, all accounts charge fees to use your debit card for cash withdrawals and purchases when overseas. And while most providers continue to apply penalty fees, our Best Buys lead the pack on that measure.