New website helps banking customers save money

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29/07/2013

15th July 2013 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes the launch of a new website by the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) which could help members of the public save up to $750 per annum.
 
Launched today, the ‘Affordable Banking’ website (www.affordablebanking.info) lists all basic bank accounts offered in Australia by retail ABA member banks. The website includes the account names, a list of features and a direct link to the financial institutions offering the accounts.
 
Carmel Franklin, Chair of FCA, describes the website as an excellent initiative to help link low-income Australians with cost-effective, basic bank account products. “Competition in the banking sector has increased over the past few years and we know that several institutions offer basic transaction accounts that have features such as no account-keeping fees, no overdrawn fees and no minimum deposit amounts,” she said. “Enabling consumers to find that information, though, can be difficult. The new ‘Affordable Banking’ website lists the identified basic bank accounts in one easy-to-read table and provides customers with eligibility criteria so that they can review the accounts and choose one to suit their needs.”
 
To be listed on the ‘Affordable Banking’ website, the ABA advises that the accounts have the following features:
 

  • no account keeping fees;
  •  free account statements (monthly or frequency as selected); 
  • no minimum deposit amounts;
  •  the ability to set up and cancel direct debits; 
  • no overdrawn fees;
  •  ability to access a debit card at no extra cost; 
  • free and unlimited transactions through all of the following banking channels – branch, telephone banking, Internet and mobile banking5, EFTPOS, and bank-owned and networked automatic teller machines (ATMs) across Australia.[1]
 
 
“According to recent research[2], an average of forty transactions per month can cost account-holders between zero to $750 per annum depending on the product they choose, with an average cost of approximately $168 per annum,’ said Ms Franklin. “While that average cost of $168 may not seem significant to well-off salary earners, to those on a low income it potentially represents nutritious food on the table, schoolbooks for their children or perhaps a visit to the dentist. If the ‘Affordable Banking’ website can help to connect struggling households to a fee-free transaction account, it can make a real difference to their cost of living.”
 
Ms Franklin wants consumers to be proactive. “We encourage people to check their bank statements to see what fees they are being charged,” she said. “Ask your bank how to avoid these and if it is not possible, consider switching to a bank where you can avoid the fees.”
 
Consumers should also take advantage of Australian banking reforms, introduced in July 2012, that take the hassle out of changing bank accounts. “Last year the federal government introduced some Australian banking reforms to make the process of switching bank accounts, including switching any automatic debits or credits, very easy,” said Ms Franklin. “If consumers do decide to switch, they can simply sign an authority form to allow the financial institution to do all the time-consuming organisational work for them.” 
  
Ms Franklin said the new ‘Affordable Banking’ website builds on the ABA’s focus to help struggling Australians manage their financial commitments, complementing the financial hardship package recently developed by Australia’s banks in consultation with consumer and community groups. “Real change in terms of financial literacy and consumer education and protection can only come about with a truly collaborative approach between community and consumer organisations, corporations and government,” she said. “In this instance the banking industry has listened to feedback from community and consumer groups in relation to more information being needed about basic bank accounts and they have responded in an effective way.”
 
 
For further comment please contact:
 
Carmel Franklin
Chair, FCA
02 6257 1788
 
 
 
If you are experiencing financial difficulty you can speak to a free, independent financial counsellor by ringing 1800 007 007.


[1] If customers choose to use ATMs which are not operated by their bank or not part of a networked arrangement in Australia, the customer may have to pay an ATM direct charge (“ATM fee”) to the ATM operator to complete their transaction.
[2] CANSTAR deposit account research and ratings, 2013