Managing your bank accounts

Putting your money into a bank account doesn't mean you can forget about it. It's your money so you should make sure it is being looked after in the way you want.

There are lots of different bank accounts so make sure the one you have is right for you. If it's not, think about switching. You could save money in fees and charges.

1. Types of accounts

2. Using your account

3. Online and mobile phone banking

4. Government guarantee on deposits

5. What you can expect from banks

6. Make a complaint about your bank

Types of accounts

Here are different types of bank accounts available and what you should check before you sign up for one:

1. Transaction accounts - Basic savings accounts used to pay bills.

2. Savings accounts - Bank accounts that grow your savings faster.

3. Joint accounts - One account that has two names on it.

Using your account

These webpages explain how you can use your account in different ways and how this affects the fees you pay:

1. Direct debits - Automatic bill payments from your account.

2. Different ways to pay - Explains how paying by cheque, EFTPOS, online, credit, cash and lay-by changes the fees you'll pay.

3. Unauthorised and mistaken transactions - What to do if you find a mistake on your bank account.

4. Contactless cards - Paying with a tap or wave of your card at a store.

5. Switching bank accounts - How to switch accounts if you are not happy.

Online and mobile phone banking

Banking online or from your mobile phone or tablet is a convenient way to access your bank account if you want to pay bills, check your account balance or transfer funds. Here are some things you should consider before using this service.

Compare BPAY fees

Many stores and businesses allow you to make payments online through your bank. This is called BPAY. Banks may charge you a fee for each bill you pay using BPAY. Find out from your bank how much this is per bill, and then compare it with other bank accounts to make sure you get the best deal. You usually can't get a chargebackif you made a BPAY payment using a credit card. A chargeback is when a transaction can be reversed in some cases where the merchant or shop does not provide you with the goods you paid for.

Check the BSB

If you transfer money to other people or companies through online or mobile banking, you should double check that the BSB number (which stands for Bank State Branch) and account numbers are correct. To check the BSB you can use the Australian Payments Clearing Association's Search BSB tool. If you do use the wrong BSB or account number see mistaken transactions for more information on how to get your money back.

Only use secure networks

To prevent fraud and identity theft when using online or mobile banking, never use public computers or free wireless hotspots. When you access your bank accounts make sure you completely log out. Always check your credit card and bank statements for unauthorised or mistaken transactions.

Secure your phone

Some mobile banking services offer to text you account updates. If your phone is lost or stolen someone can easily access your account information by reading your messages.

You can secure your phone by:

1. Treating it like a wallet and keeping it with you at all times

2. Using a PIN or password to lock it

3. Deleting account updates as soon as you receive them

4. Not saving passwords on your phone

Any message you receive from a bank that asks you to click on a link is most likely a scam. Always type in your bank's website yourself rather than following links

Government guarantee on deposits

The Australian Government has guaranteed deposits up to $250,000 in Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs) such as your bank, building society or credit union. This means that this money is guaranteed if anything happens to the ADI.

The cap applies per person and per ADI. So if you have $250,000 with one ADI and $250,000 with another, then both of your deposits are guaranteed. If you have more than $250,000 with one ADI then only up to $250,000 is guaranteed.

Some ADIs operate multiple brands or may offer deposit accounts under more than one brand name. However, they are still part of the same ADI. The guarantee covers deposits per ADI, not per brand name. For example, if you have multiple deposit accounts with brands that are owned by the same ADI, the guarantee will only apply to $250,000 of these funds in total. If this concerns you, make sure you know who the ADI is that you bank with.

In the case of joint accounts, each account holder is entitled to an individual guarantee up to $250,000.

The guarantee applies to all ADIs incorporated in Australia, including Australian-owned banks, foreign subsidiary banks, building societies and credit unions. To check which banks are covered by the guarantee see the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority's list of ADIs.

The types of accounts covered by the guarantee are: savings accounts; call accounts; term deposits; current accounts; cheque accounts; debit card accounts; transaction accounts; personal basic accounts; cash management accounts; farm management deposits; pensioner deeming accounts; mortgage offset accounts, either 100 per cent or partial offset that are separate deposit accounts; trustee accounts; retirement savings accounts; and first home saver accounts that are deposit accounts.

For more details see APRA's FAQ: Authorised Deposit-taking Financial Claims Scheme.

If you see this seal on letters or brochures relating to your account, you'll know that your account is covered by the guarantee.

This is an example only - you may see it in other colours. Your financial institution does not have to use or display the seal. If it chooses not to display it, that doesn't mean your account is not guaranteed.

See the ASIC website for the rules on how the seal can be used.

If you are not sure whether your account is guaranteed, ask your financial institution.

What you can expect from banks

The Code of Banking Practice and the Mutual Banking Code of Practice set out the standards you can expect when dealing with a bank, credit union and building society, including rules about:

1. Fees and charges and other terms and conditions

2. Privacy and confidentiality

3. Account statements

4. Direct debits

5. Chargebacks on credit cards

6. Debt collection

7. Complaints handling

8. Lost or stolen cards

For more information about these codes and to download copies, visit the codes of practice webpage on the ASIC website.

Make a complaint about your bank

If you are having problems with your bank here's information on how to complain.

If you have entered into a bank account contract after 1 July 2010 and it is found to be unfair, the Australian Consumer Law protects you. To find out more see ASIC's webpage on the Australian consumer law - unfair contract terms.

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