Fee-free accounts switch announced

It’s been a tough few years for many Australians financially, even those who would consider themselves well off. For those who aren’t well off it’s been tougher still, so any financial relief coming their way is welcome. And one bank, Westpac, has taken proactive steps towards providing such relief via fee-free accounts.

Last week, Westpac announced a plan to assist some of its more vulnerable customers by switching them to fee-free accounts. In a media release, the bank said it would move nearly all customers who received an Australian government benefit payment.

As well as having no account-keeping fees, these accounts will include other features, the bank announced. Among those features would be a dynamic CVC (card verification code) for added security. Customers who would prefer to keep their existing account will be able to do so, the bank said.

Westpac consumer chief executive Jason Yetton said the move was among several initiatives aimed at assisting financially challenged customers.

“We have taken a considered approach to working through our offer for customers receiving government payments to ensure the majority have access to a low-cost account,” he said. “We recognise there is more work to do to support Indigenous customers and we will continue to place a high priority on improving our services.”

While Westpac’s initiative may seem relatively insignificant to some, it can make a big difference to others. Savings of even a few dollars can have a positive knock-on effect for those receiving Centrelink benefits. It can be the difference between having enough or insufficient funds in a bank account for a scheduled direct debit. If there’s not enough in the account, further fees may be charged, exacerbating an already precarious financial position.

Are other major banks switching customers to fee-free accounts?

Although the other major banks haven’t publicly announced taking similar action, they do offer fee-free accounts to customers. The structure and conditions vary from bank to bank, so it’s worth checking what your bank has to offer.

ANZ Bank: The ANZ has a basic, fee-free account named, appropriately, ANZ Access Basic. This account is available to Australian residents who hold an eligible Concession or Health Care card. It has no monthly account keeping fee and comes with a Visa debit card.

This account also comes with guaranteed reimbursement of unauthorised transactions (subject to conditions). The downside? No interest is payable on these accounts. However, with rates still historically relatively low, any interest earned, had it been an option, would likely be cancelled out by a single fee.

Commonwealth Bank: CommBank offers eligible customers their Streamline Basic account. This account features unlimited free and electronic withdrawals and no overdraw or dishonour fees. It also has no account keeping fees but, like the ANZ Access Basic account, does not earn any interest. It is available to holders of a Commonwealth Seniors Health card, Pensioner Concession card or Health Care card. 

NAB: The National Australia Bank’s Classic Banking account provides similar benefits without requiring you to have a government-issued concession card. As long as you are at least 14 years old and Australian resident, you are eligible to apply. Like the other three of the Big Four, NAB’s Classic Banking option is a fee-free account. That includes monthly account fees, withdrawal fees, transaction fees and overdrawn fees.

Making the switch

While Westpac is being proactive in switching customers, other banks’ customers seeking fee-free accounts may have to be proactive themselves. The good news is the process at each bank appears, on the surface at least, to be straightforward. 

Follow the appropriate link above to see if you qualify. Alternatively, drop into your local branch – if you’re lucky enough to still have one.

Does your bank account charge fees? Were you aware of its fee-free account options? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Will you have bank account access if your partner dies?

Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. When our Westpac bank closed, I knew then they did not care about anybody. It was about profits only. We now have to drive 60 klm’s to access our bank. In years to come we will not be able to do this. So it will be goodbye to Westpac once our accounts have gained the interest.
    We have a life account which no longer exists, they continually asked us to change this account so we did not get the high interest we still get today. I refused. So shut all your banks Westpac, you won’t have anymore customers. Your loss. If they think they can entice people to stay with them they are mistaken. God help the staff being sacked. God help the people who will lose all their money to scammers.

  2. We have been with Bendigo Bank for a number of years. They offered us a retirement account with no fees and interest. They are very quick to pick up scams and close down cards. Recently had activity not picked up and it was refunded a few weeks after I reported it. Extremely happy with them. They are not closing down but moving into areas where the Big Four move out and still make profit!

  3. The Westpac group (Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne & BankSA) have all had ‘Concession’ accounts for many years. I have a Retirement Access Plus account which pays me monthly interest. The Concession accounts don’t pay interest, and never have. They wanted me to transfer to a concession account, and I won’t have any of it, and I’ve let them know ‘thanks, but no, thanks’.

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