Ask LH: What’s The Best Bank Account For A New Worker?

Dear Lifehacker, Can I ask you (and Lifehacker readers) if anyone knows the best bank account to open. I am starting my first job and I am still in high school and won’t be earning huge bucks, so the less I have to pay to the banks for looking after my money the better. Thanks, Cashed-Up Noob

Dear Cashed-Up Noob,

Hope the new job goes well. Financial comparison sites such as Mozo offer useful lists of savings accounts to help you narrow down your choices, so that might be a sensible place to start.

NAB has made a big noise recently about not charging any account fees on its standard accounts, so that’s an obvious option to consider if you’re keen to use one of the ‘big four’ banks (NAB, ANZ, Westpac or Commonwealth). Credit unions often don’t have account-keeping fees either, though you’ll need to pay a membership fee on joining.

To keep fees minimal, you need to ensure that you only use ATMS that don’t charge additional fees — if there’s an ATM you expect you’ll use regularly near where you live, work or shop, that can be an influencing factor. (We’ve got a list of which financial institutions offer free access to ATMs.)

If you’re planning to save your money over an extended period, then an online-only savings account will offer a much better interest rate than a standard transactional account and generally won’t have fees. Most banks and credit unions offer an online-only option, sometimes under a different brand to their main operation. However, withdrawing cash is often restricted to transferring it into a different bank account, so this isn’t great if you’re going to want occasional EFTPOS access.

With those thoughts, I’ll turn the question over to the masses. Any good bank account suggestions for a new worker, dear readers?

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send an email to [email protected], and include ‘Ask Lifehacker’ in the subject line.


  • I like BankWest personally.. They have some great savings accounts (excellent interest rates, very hard to beat normally).

    Plus on their zero transaction account you can use any of the big 4’s atm’s + the bankwest ones and there’s no monthly fees either.

    IMO: It’s also more advantageous to have your main transaction account with the same bank as your savings account as you can transfer money without delays if needed.

    And they have an awesome mobile site too 🙂

    • I’m also a BankWest zero transaction account customer, and I can’t agree enough. This account does not incur monthly account keeping fees, gives free access to all BankWest, CBA, WestPac, NAB and ANZ branded ATMs (however private 3rd party operated ATMs still incur fees), and use of a MasterCard debit card. In my opinion for a daily transaction account, this is about as good as it gets. Also worth noting I have not incurred any charges from BankWest at any point for dishonoured direct debit or debit card transactions. If you’re expecting your account balance to be low on a regular basis, this can also be an influencing factor in choice.

      One thing Andrew forgot to mention is that to be eligible for this account, you must deposit a minimum of $2000 into the account monthly. If you’re f still in/fresh out of school, and only working part time, your monthly wage may not be sufficient.

      If you can’t meet the minimum deposit, BankWest also offer a few other transaction accounts, with no/minimal fees, however you will incur charges for use of ATMs that aren’t BankWest or CBA branded.

      The negative side of the coin with BankWest though, is that branches aren’t abundant, and as mentioned below, they don’t have chips in the their cards or PayPass. The latter though isn’t a big issue for me however.

      • Yup.. forgot to mention the dishonour fee thing too. I would often transfer most of my cash into a savings account and if a bill came in i wasn’t expecting and got withdrawn from my transaction account, bankwest will let you go -$100 before charging any sort of dishonour fee..

        I love it to bits! 🙂

  • +1 for BankWest, I switched from Commonwealth Bank about two months ago.

    Only thing I didn’t like was that there’s no chip reader or PayPass in the Debit Mastercard. But a lovely lady informed me that they are looking at doing it as they have it on some of their credit cards.

    I’ll just stick to swiping for the time being.

  • If you’re a full time student Commbank has free free accounts for students, decent interest rates in their Netbank saver accounts with no catches, and good online banking.

    • Last time I checked, all of the big 4 banks have fee free transaction accounts for students (usually FT) and those under 18 years of age.

      ANZ Access Select is $2/mth and includes half a dozen fee-free electronic transactions, and free Internet banking.

  • +1 more for bankwest, but to qualify for the zero transaction account you have to be earning $2000 a month – if this is your fist job and you’re a student then this may be hard-to-achieve.
    But, if you are going to be making this much, then it’s definitely the best option for ease of access to your money.

    Another note to make is that while NAB doesn’t charge account keeping fees or have a minimum mothly deposit requirement, there have been 2 incidences this year alone where processing for payment of wages didn’t happen due to a glitch in the system and millions of customers were financially stranded without pay for up to a week at a time.

    I’m with CBA – $4 a month account keeping fee for one transaction account and online savings account linked to it. No pay glitches or minimum monthly deposit limits and included access to chequeing and Debit Mastercard (seriously, the Debit Mastercard is my life). Netbank is great, too.

    • 1+

      This might sound insane but i use ING for everything now except ATMS.
      I have a savings account and a debit card from ING. No fees at all.

      Whats good is that i can go to any Aust Post to deposit cash into my account free of charge. I’m pretty sure you can do this with any other bank but im unsure if theres a fee.

  • Transaction – CBA – No account fees. You aren’t earning enough to save with Bankwest.

    Savings – Ubank USaver Reach (6.51% Until you have 5k), or USaver.

    First Home Saver – ME Bank, 23% Interest !!!

  • From starting my first job to being (virtually) retired
    I have been from Commonwealth…
    to Westpac to St George for daily banking.
    St George, ING, uBank for savings account.

    St George daily sucks the least and they have fee free accounts. And they still don’t suck even though they have been taken over by Westpac (which sucked the most of all).

    And for savings uBank is simply the best return and least fuss, also no account keeping charges.

    So I’d recommend you start with St George/uBank combo. But hey, NAB might not be bad either (they run uBank afterall).

  • with my credit union, sydney credit union, the ‘member fee’ was $1. you can choose to put in as small or as large an amount as you want, and i only pay it once. i think i even get it back when i leave. in canberra there are credit union atms everywhere so accessing them isn’t a problem.

  • Anyone paying monthly account keeping fees is paying to much…

    Look no further than the Ing Orange everyday account (debit card too)… with no fees as long as you deposit your wages into it… you can access your money from any atm in the land AND they re-imburse you the $2 atm fee everytime you withdraw $200 or more… AND they’ll pay you 50c every time you withdraw this amount or more…

    On top of that it can be linked to ING direct savings maximiser one of the oldest most competitive online savings accounts with arguably the most competitive interest rates in Aus… no more need for term deposits!

    Adios LH’ers!

  • One way to save money is to make sure you are being paid the correct wage in the first place. My current employer tried to pay me under award rates and cash in hand until I pointed out that showed it was against the law.

    Other than that, previous commenters have written good advice, and congratulations on the job!

  • Skip the banks – they are only there for the shareholders.
    Go with a Credit Union – their shareholders are their members. This is reflected in interest rates and non-existent fees.
    I have used a Credit Union exclusively for 30+ years. Missing absolutely nothing by not “belonging” to a bank (other than the right to complain about banks’ poor service)

  • ING Direct is fantastic.

    Great website too. You’ll be hard pushed to beat them as a bank.

    The fact that they don’t continually try to sell you insurance and credit cards is also a bonus.

  • If no one has mentioned it yet, you should definitely go for Bankwest’s Student Transaction account. There are no fees for the bank account, and then you can use it as the main account and THEN open up a Bankwest Telnet account AND Bankwest E-Saver account.

    I’ve been doing that for ages, and it’s good to have three levels of saving accounts. One for transactions, one for buffer money, and one for cash I won’t touch in the long term to earn lots of interest.

  • Sorry LH mods – forgot to add in my first comment. I suggested the Student Transaction account mainly because the OP mentioned he’s still in school. This is available as long as he’s studying.

    Once he’s out of school then he’ll can then switch to the other products mentioned by the other posters.

  • 100% agree with getting a student account. If you go with commbank you can get a mastercard debit card which you can then use to buy stuff on the internet.

  • I think you should go with a commbank transaction account, no account fees until your 21, and when i signed up i just had to put a deposit in of $1 to open the account. I have to say they have a great list of features, especially if you get a debit master card with the transaction account, because they have instant viewing of every transaction that comes out of the ‘credit’ option. It is really handy.

  • nthing the “go with the credit union!” thing.

    My folks signed me up for a children’s savings account at the credit union, and I’ve still got that account- with the small member fee taken out when I turned 18.

    This was really good to have when I needed 100 points of ID later on, the bank account helps add points to things like birth certificate, etc.

    If you’re opening a bank account for a child, make sure it is a child account at a credit union- my friend’s grandad opened a regular account for her, and all the fees emptied it!

  • Look into the credit unions or NAB. They are all apart of the second largest ATM network in Australia including RediATM, NAB and BOQ ATMs.

  • I’d like to point out that CBA has no fees for students until the age of 21 (and if you’re still a student past then).
    I’m 17, have the debit mastercard with a chip and pay pass. I pay zero fees and CBA atms are everywhere.

    From a kid who’s dad’s a CEO of a CU, I would suggest the CBA account for students.

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