With all the banks to choose from in Australia, it can be daunting to select the right one that will help you along the road to financial security.

Be it for lending purposes, saving, investments or mortgages, there are a wide variety of banks with an even wider variety of available services. We’ve compiled a list of, not only the top banks operating in Australia, but the services they offer, and what to keep an eye out for when making your selection.

The big four; ready to serve your needs

In Australia, there is a common misconception about which banks are your go-to: the big four. These are the four largest banks in Australia, Westpac, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and NAB.

They are indeed the four largest banks, but the misconception lies in that they operate differently than other banks, due to their size. This is not so. All banks in Australia operate under the same rules and regulations, as is dictated by law.

These regulations mean that all banks govern themselves under the same rules, and generally offer similar rates to each other, bar a few exceptions of more special deals and cheap rates. Banks like HSBC, UBank and CUA are all perfectly respectable and responsible banks make use of.

The first step towards picking your bank

There are many factors to consider when deciding which bank you should be using. Reliability and ease of use are of paramount importance. Picking a bank that will give you the convenience you need is the first step.

Nobody wants to use a bank that makes their life difficult, so taking a look at reviews about ease of use is always a good start. Is there a branch nearby? If so, will you have ready access to your account and assistance at any point, meaning 24-hour service? Will the staff give you friendly and helpful service?

Asking the right questions

These are all important questions. The best way to answer them is to do your homework, look into various reviews and opinions online and between you and your friends or loved ones.

The best way to discern whether or not a bank’s services suit you and your needs is to experience them first hand.

Going into a local branch of a bank you are considering working with and talking to a manager or another employee about not only what the bank has on offer for you, but why you should be banking with them is a good start to the process.

The way the employee treats you and answers your questions will be a good indicator of whether or not dealing with them will be a pleasant endeavour in future.

What you need in an account

Aside from the pleasantries in service that one desires in a bank, there is a need for effective service delivery. This should be present in not only what they can offer you in an account, but in the accessibility of this account as a whole.

A good, basic bank account should have the following:

  • Security – Knowing that your money is safe and sound in your account is the most important thing. Nobody wants to lose money because of poor bank security.
  • Ease of deposit – having a physical location or an ATM with deposit functions near to your residence is a necessity, as even in the digital age we need to deposit a cheque or cash on occasion.
  • Fees – Bank charges can be a killer, especially if you are in a lower income bracket and need the money that your bank may be charging you monthly. Always check to see that your bank is not charging you unnecessary fees. Low to non-existent bank fees are always to be sought after, as bank fees that drain your account are an absolute no-no.
  • ATM fees – occasionally banks charge withdrawal and deposit fees, which can be excessive if you are banking with the wrong establishment. Look for a bank that forgoes these fees, or keeps them lower than other banks. Low fees, as with the fees mentioned above, are what you need to be keeping an eye out for. You shouldn’t have to be paying a fortune to move your money around.
  • Interest rates – good interest rates make or break the viability of a bank account. The rates you pay with your credit card and the rates you receive on your actual account should always be as positive as they can. A good interest rate is often the first thing you should be searching for. This can be a huge benefit and can grow your money or cost you less than other banks when taking out a loan.
  • Minimum balance requirements – Most banks have a requirement of a minimum balance they need you to have in your account at all times to keep it operational. All banks make use of this requirement, and one should always make sure that the minimum is an amount that is affordable and that they are comfortable keeping in their/depositing every month.

If you feel that your selection of banks ticks these boxes, it’s time to work down the shortlist by taking a look at what your proudly Aussie bank can do for you.

What your bank does to benefit you and your pocket

This is a tertiary but still vastly important factor to look at. The benefits Australian banks have on offer for their clients can be wonderful, or absolutely pointless.

Figuring out which benefits you legitimately need and want are where you will need to place focus. Generally, things you should be looking for are simple things but will make all the difference.

Most banks offer a rewards program in which you earn points, some of which can be redeemed for essentials such as food, fuel and other useful supplies.

Other banks have reward programs that include discounts on selected products, saving you in the long run if the service or company these rewards correspond with is one you use often.

Other simpler benefits include more flexible overdraft options, or maybe lower fees for dedicated clients or specific account holders. All of these benefits can make a huge difference to your monthly budget.

Find a bank that makes your money work for you

This is the bottom line. Banks have thousands, if not millions of customers that they serve. What one should put first is a bank that sees them as more than a number, or just another client.

A bank should be looking out for their customers, tailor-making each account, personal loan and experience for every unique person receiving their services.

Finding a bank that goes the extra mile for you can be difficult, but will ultimately benefit you in the long run. When they do what they do to help you save money and to help your money grow they’ve served their purpose.

Following these steps and keeping open communication with your banking service provider can lead you to a positive, and fulfilling banking experience.