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How to compare and find the best transaction account

We all need everyday transaction accounts, so how can you make sure you choose one that suits your need?

Everyone needs at least one: a transaction account that serves the everyday purposes of having your salary deposited, spending money, taking out cash at the ATM and paying bills.

So what’s the best way to find a good one that fits into your life?

What is a transaction account?

Transaction accounts are basic bank accounts available to Australian residents, usually over 16 years of age. It’s used for everyday transactions and expenses, as well as payments to other accounts. Most people have their salary paid in to this account.

The less you pay in fees, the better

The first thing to look for in a transaction account is low – or, preferably no – ongoing fees. If there are fees involved, the account should have additional features and benefits that are useful to you.

Fees charged on transaction accounts can include:

  • monthly account-keeping fees
  • ATM fees (for using your own bank’s ATMs)
  • EFTPOS fees
  • phone banking fees
  • electronic transaction fees
  • fees for a cash withdrawal inside a branch
  • foreign transaction fees
  • overdrawn account fees

It’s worth keeping an eye on the statements of your existing transaction account, to see if there are any fees you’re paying each month. If there are, you could try shopping around to find an account that won’t charge you to access your money.

Interest rates are worth a look

Many people look at the interest rate on their savings account, but may not do the same with their transaction account. Your interest rate can offer a small increase on your money, so it’s worth comparing.

What happens if you go into overdraft?

It can happen to almost anyone : just before payday hits, you might overspend slightly and take your transaction account into the negative (where the account allows an overdraft).

This can incur a penalty – perhaps a set fee each time you go into overdraft; or you might be charged interest on the amount you’ve overspent, or sometimes both. Try to keep your account in the positive, but it’s also handy to know what charges you’ll be up for if you do go into overdraft.

The ways you spend money

Times have changed, and the ways we spend money have changed too. You might use your debit card, shop online, use an app like Google Wallet or Apple Pay, or pay your bills via BPAY, or take out cash to spend.

Look at whether a transaction account you’re considering supports – and simplifies – these spending methods before signing on. For example, if you regularly take out cash to help manage your budget, look for an account that allows you plenty of free or low-fee ATM withdrawals.

Transactions and deposits

Your ‘free’ transactions may be limited with some accounts, so it’s good to know how many are available to you before you start incurring ATM fees or other withdrawal and transaction fees.

Some transaction accounts offer the incentive of zero fees for minimum monthly deposits which may be worth investigating.

There are lots of comparison websites where you can compare transaction accounts, their fees and interest rates. This can give you an idea of what each account offers, however Money Smart recommends going directly to suppliers for more details when you’re doing a comparison.

Australian Unity's Transaction Account is high in features and low in charges, ready for your everyday banking needs.

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Important information

Fees, charges and lending criteria apply and product terms and conditions available on application. Please refer to Terms of Use before applying for any product.

Any advice does not take into account your personal needs and financial circumstances and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you and read the relevant terms and conditions (including Terms of Use), any Product Disclosure Statement (if applicable) and Financial Services Guide before acquiring any product.