How to open a checking account in Australia
Checking accounts – which are also commonly called transaction accounts or everyday banking accounts – are designed for day to day spending, and usually offer a broad range of ways to deposit, withdraw, manage and spend your money. If you’re looking to open a checking account for yourself or your business, this guide is for you.
We’ll look at some popular accounts from major Australian banks, as well as from alternative providers like Wise and Revolut, and cover how you can open an account online (and for free) as well as the features and fees you can expect to encounter. Let’s get right into it.
Which provider is best for opening a checking account?
To help paint a picture, let’s look at how a few different checking account options compare. We’ve picked Westpac and Commbank as traditional Australian banks, plus Wise and Revolut – popular account services which have a focus on low costs and multi-currency features.
|Debit Cards||Available||Available||10 AUD fee to get a card||Basic cards are free, but delivery charges may apply|
|Opening fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Fall below fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Maintenance fee||5 AUD/month – options to waive this are available||4 AUD/month – options to waive this are available||No fee||Up to 24.99 AUD/month|
|Multi-currency features||Not available||Not available||Hold 50+ currencies||Hold 27+ currencies|
|International money transfers||10 AUD online
32 AUD in branch
Exchange rates include a markup
|6 AUD online
30 AUD in branch
Exchange rates include a markup
|From 0.41%, with the Google exchange rate||0.3% – 2% depending on destination
Currency exchange uses the Google exchange rate to plan limits
|Foreign transaction fee||3%||3%||None||None|
It’s possible to find Australian checking accounts which offer easy ways to waive maintenance fees. However, traditional bank checking accounts can often have transaction fees which can be particularly high whenever you need to send or receive a payment in foreign currency, withdraw funds overseas, or spend in person or online with merchants abroad.
Digital accounts from specialists won’t necessarily be able to offer features like credit cards or overdrafts, which are usually available from regular banks – but they do often have solid multi-currency features, which can be handy if you love to travel.
Here’s a quick look at some key features of the account options we compared above.
Wise is a specialist in international payments, currency exchange and multi-currency accounts for individuals and businesses. A Wise Account offers options to hold, send and receive payments in 50+ currencies, with a linked card for easy spending and withdrawal. Currency exchange uses the Google exchange rate, with no markup.
- Hold 50+ currencies, send to 80+ countries, spend in 170+ countries with the Wise card
- No account opening charge and no maintenance fee to pay
- No minimum balance and transparent transaction charges for the services you need
- Transact online or in the Wise app for convenience
Revolut calls itself a financial super-app, with a choice of account tiers including free standard plans, and options with monthly fees – but more features available. Revolut accounts have multi-currency functionality, and linked payment cards you can use at home and abroad. Depending on your account tier, you’ll also get some mid-market currency exchange and free ATM withdrawals to set limits.
- Get a free standard account or upgrade to a fee paying tier for more features
- Hold and exchange 27+ currencies, and send payments around the world
- Accounts for children available
- Some out of hours and fair usage fees may apply, depending on the account tier you choose
Westpac has everyday banking accounts including the Choice account – which we’ve profiled in the table above. You’ll get a linked bank card, online and mobile banking features, and some opportunities to earn cashback. There are also several ways to have the maintenance fees waived, including holding a minimum deposit amount in the account.
- Large branch network for face to face service
- Lots of ways to waive maintenance fees based on personal circumstances
- Relatively low 10 AUD international transfer fee
- Foreign transaction fees apply when you spend with your card overseas
Commbank’s Everyday Smart Access Account is a good pick if you want an account with a low monthly fee and linked card. There are also options to waive the monthly fee based on your personal circumstances and how you use the account.
- Options to waive maintenance fees available
- Cashback and rewards on account spending and transactions
- Cardless cash withdrawals from ATMs
- International transfer fees waived for FJD, PGK, SBD, VUV, XPF
Can you open a checking account for free?
Yes, many major Australian banks and alternative providers offer checking accounts you can open for free. However, in some cases you’ll need to hit eligibility requirements or deposit a minimum opening amount – and transaction fees are likely to apply to some services you need to access.
Generally, you’ll have a couple of clear options if you want to open an Australian transaction account to manage your money on a daily basis: traditional banks, or digital services and specialist providers.
Traditional banks can be a good option if you prefer a face to face service, or if you need to deposit cash to your account. However, checking accounts from regular banks can come with some surprisingly high transaction fees, especially when you’re sending or spending in a foreign currency.
Specialist online account providers don’t have a branch network. Instead you’ll transact online or through an app, which can be convenient and mean you have an intuitive 24/7 service right from your phone. Different digital account services have their own features and fees, which can be lower than traditional banks thanks to their lower overheads.
What do I need to open a checking account in Australia?
All financial service providers in Australia are obliged to complete certain verification checks before they offer an account to a new customer. One important requirement is that banks must verify customers’ identity and address. While different services have their own rules, this usually means you’ll need:
- Proof of address – such as a passport or driving licence
- Proof of address – such as a utility bill in your name
You may also need additional paperwork depending on the account type. If you’re opening a student account, you’ll have to prove your student status for example.
How to open a checking account
If you’re an Australian resident with a full set of ID and address documents, you’ll often be able to open your account online. Alternatively you’ll have the option of popping into a local branch if you choose an account with a traditional bank.
In most cases the process to open a checking account includes the following steps:
- Confirm and gather the documents needed for the specific account you’ve picked
- Check if you’ll need to make a minimum deposit at the time you open your account
- Complete the account application online or in branch
- Show your paperwork in person, or upload images if you’re opening online
- The bank or provider will complete verification – this may be instant or take a day or two
- You’ll be given or posted your account materials, including a debit card if you’ve chosen to get one
- Your account is ready to use
Opening a business checking account
If you’re looking for an account for your Australian registered business, you’ll also be able to choose between checking accounts from traditional banks, digital challenger banks, and specialist providers like Wise and Revolut.
Which suits you best will depend a lot on the transaction types you need to make. If you’ll be depositing cash, for example, a highstreet bank may be the best bet – while customers looking for extensive low cost international services may benefit from a specialist digital account instead.
If you need an account for your business, a bank isn’t your only option. If you prefer to manage your business finances digitally, a specialist service like Wise could give you all you need – plus low cost international transactions and some business friendly perks.
Wise Business accounts are opened online or in the Wise app, with a one off low fee, and no ongoing charges. You’ll be able to hold 50+ currencies and get paid from 30+ countries with local bank details. As well as all the Wise features available to personal customers, you can make batch payments, make bookkeeping easy with Xero integrations, and add team members to your account with multi-user access and permissions settings.
What are the costs for opening a checking account?
In most cases you won’t pay a fee to open an Australian checking account. However, there are usually transaction charges to pay, which can include:
- Account maintenance fees
- ATM withdrawal fees
- International payment charges
- Foreign transaction fees
- Service fees for paper statements
- Account closure fees
Can I open a checking account in Australia from abroad?
To open an Australian checking account with a regular bank you’ll usually need to have an Australian address – which can prove tricky if you’re not in the country yet. Even if you’re using one of the newcomer services available from major Australian banks – which let you start the account opening process before you move to the country – you won’t be able to get full feature access until you arrive and present your local address details.
However, there are alternatives. Specialist account services which offer local Australian bank details, and ways to hold, send, receive and spend dollars can help. Check out the Wise Account as a good option you can open with your local address details from most countries around the world, which provides you AUD bank details and easy ways to manage your money in dollars, even if you’re not in Australia yet.
Opening an Australian checking account for yourself or your business shouldn’t be too tricky. However, as account features and fees vary widely, you’ll need to shop around to make sure you’re picking the account that works best for your specific needs.
Compare checking accounts from traditional banks, as well as from neobanks and digital account providers, to find an Australian checking account which suits your needs.
- Can I open a checking account without going to the bank?
If you have an Australian proof of address and ID you can often open a bank account online or in the bank’s app without needing to call in. Specialist digital services like Wise and Revolut also offer ways to get AUD accounts without needing to stand in line in a physical bank branch.
- Can I open a bank account for free?
You can usually open Australian checking accounts for free, but there may be maintenance fees and charges for the transactions you need to make.