Changing banks in Australia is a hassle, but here’s a before and after story that might help persuade you to make the effort to switch.
Without calling them out by name, let’s just say we were with a large, national Australian bank (perhaps we can call them nAb for short 😉). We had our mortgage with them along with a savings offset account and a credit card we paid off in full each month. They were our bank from late 2013 to late 2023.
Their mobile app was reasonable and they eventually came to the party and supported Apple Pay (despite pushing hard to avoid it for a while). We didn’t love their interest rate rises or fees (see below) but we didn’t think our overall experience could be much better anywhere else, banks are banks after all.
When interest rates dropped, our big bank was slow to update its mortgage rates. When interest rates rose, they were quick to update their mortgage rates and they gave us no notice. The only way to find out about rate rises was to regularly log in and check through all the transactions for a routine looking transaction with a message like “Your interest rate is w% from xx/yy/zz”. Looking back, in a period where official interest rates rose by 3.5%, our mortgage rate went up by 4.69%. When I complained about the excessive rate rises with no clear notice, they told me that according to their general terms, they only need to disclose interest rate rises in a newspaper(!!!) and on our statements (which they only issue every 6 months). Not cool.
In theory we had low-fee (maybe even fee-free) accounts but in practice we got slugged regularly. Even after they abolished the $30 fee for overdrawn accounts, they found other ways to extract their pound of flesh and keep their record profits growing:
To add insult to injury, rather than send a message saying “your scheduled transfer is about to fail due to insufficient funds”, they would wait until the next day and send a message saying “your credit card payment is late”! They have the messaging infrastructure but it’s like they deliberately choose what messages to send to maximise customer fees and bank profits. 🤦♂️
Back in 2018 I signed up with a “neobank” called Up. They added a number of clever features over time like virtual cards, “round-ups”, savers, auto-splitting and more but when I signed up (during their closed beta) they didn’t offer joint accounts and they didn’t offer home loans. I basically only used them for their fee-free overseas transactions and for Apple Pay (until our main bank finally caved and added support in mid-2019).
Up steadily improved over the subsequent 5 years and when I took a look at them again in 2023 they had added a unique take on joint accounts (you can add a “Player 2” and have a mixture of individual and joint accounts) plus they offer a home loan with no fees and a very attractive interest rate. With those two blockers removed I checked with my wife (“Whatever makes sense to you dear”) and then took the plunge.
I sent my wife a link to join and a few minutes later I received an invite to be her “Player 2”, she had already signed up, verified her identity, opened a personal account and figured out how to invite me to open a joint account. I accepted and within seconds we had a new joint savings account and new virtual debit cards linked to that account. We then made a joint application to refinance our mortgage and the whole process was shockingly easy! It was all done online (mostly on my phone) and the only slight hiccough we encountered during the process was having to cancel our home insurance and get it re-issued in both our names.
I thought I was going to talk about rates and fees (which are both significantly better with Up) but it turns out the biggest difference I’ve noticed since we switched in October is around communication. That may sound a little nebulous but there’s been lots of little things like:
Thanks to the proactive communication, I don’t have to worry about sneaky rate rises, surprise fees or dodgy transactions. I can now rely on my bank to be honest, up-front and transparent. It’s a really refreshing change!
I realise Up might not be suitable for everyone. Their offering suits us but our banking is quite straight forward. One thing that might be a deal breaker for some is that, as a neobank, they don’t have any branches. If you still deal with cash you’ll have to bank it at a post office. On the other hand, these days there’s more post offices than there are bank branches so maybe that’s not such a big deal?
They also don’t offer credit cards. For the time being we’ve kept our big bank credit card as a back-up in case we ever have problems with our Up debit cards but we haven’t used it in over a month and I suspect we’ll cancel it, probably the next time our old bank charges us an annual fee and we remember we still have it.
So, if neither of those are dealbreakers and you’re sick of your big bank, I encourage you to investigate Up (Aussies only sorry). If you decide to join, use my referral code and we will both get a $10 bonus. Or just sign up without it.
You don’t even have to go all-in straight away. I was a member for 5 years before we switched (almost) all our banking.