If you’re moving to Australia, you’ll need to have access to cash when you arrive. Here are six steps you should take when opening a bank account in Australia as a foreigner.
1. Sort out your finances before you leave for Australia
Rather than wait until you arrive to Australia, sorting out your finances before you leave for the land Down Under can save you a lot of stress in the long run. You won’t have to worry about finances when you get there and can concentrate on getting adjusted and exploring your new home. Many banks offer handy migration programs to help new Australians sort out their finances before they arrive.
Must read: Wait, I’m coming to Australia for a holiday and want to open a bank account there. Is that possible?
The simple answer to this question is: Yes. Non-resident accounts (for tourists and visitors) do exist with certain banks, for example, the big four: Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac. Contact your desired bank directly with the details of your situation to discuss your options and see what they can offer you as a non-resident.
2. Decide which type of account you’ll open
Customers of Australian banks can choose from a wide range of account options, including:
- Everyday transaction accounts. As the name suggests, these common bank accounts are used for all your daily transactions. These are equivalent to checking accounts in the US. You can deposit and withdraw money whenever you like, allowing you to take care of any purchases or expenses that may arise.
- Savings accounts. These accounts are very similar to transaction accounts but offer you a higher interest rate to help you boost your savings balance. You can sometimes even take advantage of bonus interest rates if you deposit a certain amount into your account on a regular basis, so it’s worth comparing what offers are available. Savings accounts typically let you access your funds whenever you wish and can be linked to your transaction account.
- Credit card accounts. Credit cards in Australia work the same as they do overseas, allowing you access to funds that might not otherwise be readily available. It’s worth researching what options are available as some cards come with low rates and low annual fees, while others offer reward programs to help you make the most of your spending.
- Foreign currency accounts. Typically offered by many of the larger banks, these accounts are designed for those who are still receiving some form of income in another currency. A foreign currency account lets you keep funds in another currency to take advantage of fluctuating exchange rates.
- Joint accounts. If you’re considering opening an account with your spouse or business partner, joint bank accounts are an option. These accounts allow anyone linked to them to make deposits and withdrawals.
- Term deposits. These are similar equivalent to certificate of deposits in the US. But the difference is that you’re not able to access your funds while they are held in a term deposit. Instead, your funds are locked up in the account for a fixed period of time and once the account has reached maturity, you have access to the initial deposit and all the interest it has earned.
Think about your needs, then decide which account you’d like to open.
3. Choose your bank
When choosing your bank consider the following:
- Rates and charges. The rates and fees your bank charges can have a big impact on your financial situation. Keep an eye out for application fees, withdrawal fees, monthly service fees and annual fees.
- Currency conversion fees and international money transfer (IMT) fees. Some banks will charge you expensive fees for transferring foreign currency and for IMT. These fees quickly add up, so look for a bank that charges minimal fees.
- Minimum deposits. Some banks require you to make a minimum deposit in order to open an account. Others will require you to make regular deposits of a certain amount to ensure that your account remains active.
- Eligibility criteria for certain accounts. You’ll typically need to be 18 years or older to open most Australian bank accounts. Other eligibility requirements may include Australian citizenship or permanent residency, a good credit rating and a minimum annual income.
- Option to set up account before you leave. Some banks won’t allow you to set up an account before you arrive to Australia. Because it’s much more efficient to sort out your finances before you set sail for Australia, look for a bank that will let you set up an account well before you leave home.
- Your current bank is tied to your Australian bank. Sometimes the bank you’re with, in your country of origin, may have a relationship with an Australian bank or even have their own branch in Australia. If they do, they might have a migration process in place which can make the financial transaction smoother.
4. Gather your documents
Although it may vary by bank, here’s a list of the documents you need when opening a bank account as a foreigner in Australia:
- Date you plan on arriving to Australia
- Employment details
- Government-issued ID
- 100 points of identification (if opening an account at least six weeks after arrival)
5. Open your account
How you’ll open your new Australian bank account depends on when you apply:
Applying for a bank account BEFORE you arrive
Australian banks make it fast and simple to apply for an account online. You can easily research the features offered by competing accounts before you make your decision on which financial institution to bank with. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements and provide any information and documentation that the bank requests.
Once you arrive in Australia, you’ll need to:
- Visit your bank for identification purposes. Most banks will request your details online to apply but will require you to physically produce identification at a local branch for you to activate your account.
- Forms of ID you may have to bring include your passport, as well as your plane ticket or copy of the bank’s account-opening letter.
- Once you’ve been positively identified, you can access your funds and you’ll receive a debit card and PIN.
Applying for a bank account WHEN you arrive
If you decide to apply for a bank account when you arrive to Australia, then it’s still worth it to compare your bank options online.
When applying for an account at a local branch, you’ll need to provide 100 points of identification, which may be made up of a valid passport, birth certificate, Australian driver’s license, or details of your Australian residential address.
Opening a bank account more than six weeks after arriving in Australia
Some people may not need to open a bank account until more than six weeks after arriving in Australia. It’s absolutely fine to take this approach, but keep in mind that you’ll probably need to supply more forms of identification than you would have had you opened an account earlier. This may include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, driver’s license, or perhaps a credit card from your country of origin.
6. Fund your Australian bank account
Once you’ve opened an Australian bank account, you may want to transfer funds from accounts in your home country to your new account. This is known as an international money transfer (IMT) and there are a couple of ways you can go about this: through your bank or via an independent company.
Transferring money overseas
If you need to transfer money overseas, shop around for the best exchange rate and the lowest fees. The fees and charges applied can vary on the institution you use and how you make the transfer. For example, an IMT made via a branch may attract a higher processing fee than one made via online banking. Some institutions will also charge a receiving fee at the other end, so keep an eye out for any hidden charges that may apply.
Transferring money to an Australian bank account
To transfer funds internationally to an Australian account, you’ll need to obtain certain details about your Australian account and bank. This usually includes:
- The bank’s SWIFT/BIC (Bank Identifier Code) and IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
- The address of the bank where you opened the account.
- Your Australian account’s BSB (Bank/Branch) number and your account number.
All these can easily be obtained by contacting the bank you’ve opened your account with.
Compare international money transfer companies
Currency and conversion rates
The Australian system of currency came into existence in 1966, replacing the British system of pence, shillings and pounds. Each Australian Dollar is divided into 100 cents.
In terms of money, you’ll soon come across Australia’s brightly colored notes. You can get notes in $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 form. In terms of coins, you can find $2 and $1 coins in gold, plus 50-cent, 20-cent, 10-cent and five-cent pieces in silver. When taking out money from an ATM, most machines dispense only $20 and $50 notes, although some will also dispense $100 notes.
As exchange rates obviously fluctuate regularly, it’s worth looking into the conversion rates when it suits you. You can obtain these rates from your bank or xe.com.
Australian banks with migration programs
The following banks offer migration programs for new Australians:
|ANZ||ANZ aims to make the financial transition to Australia as hassle-free as possible. It can help you set up a bank account before you leave your country of origin, either online or through one of its regional contacts in your country.|
- Over 800 branches
- Over 2,700 ATMs
- Can transfer money before you arrive in Australia
- Complimentary personalized banking advice
- Bilingual personal bankers
|Commonwealth Bank||Commonwealth Bank’s migration program allows you to open an account quickly and easily online up to three months before you arrive in Australia. There are two account types to choose from: one for those who want to live and work here, and one for students.|
- Over 1,000 branches
- Over 4,000 ATMs
- Largest ATM and branch network in Australia
- Transfer money before you arrive
- Visit a branch to activate your account
|Westpac||Westpac has almost 200 years of experience helping Australians with their banking needs and it has dedicated migrant banking specialists to help make your financial transition easier.|
- Over 1,200 branches
- Over 2,800 ATMs
- Don’t need to supply Australian address when applying online
- Can open account up to 12 months before arrival
- No monthly service fee for 12 months
- Unlimited transactions at Westpac branches
|Bankwest||Established in 1895, Bankwest has migrant banking specialists to help look after the financial aspects of your move. You can apply for an everyday or savings account online, then deposit funds and monitor your balance online.|
- Over 80 branches
- Over 3,500 ATMs
- Can open account up to 12 months before arriving in Australia
|NAB||NAB aims to make it as easy as possible to open a bank account before you arrive in Australia. It has a dedicated migrant banking team to provide the financial knowledge you need for a smooth transition.|
- Over 900 branches
- Over 920 ATMs
- Can open account up to 12 months before arriving in Australia
- Assigned a named banker who understands migrant financial needs
- Offers migrant accounts with no application or maintenance fees and no minimum deposit
|Citibank||If you’re already a Citibank customer in your home country, the bank can set up your Australian account(s) before you leave.|
- Over 4,000 branches
- Over 20,000 ATMs
- Great option for those who already bank with Citi
- Provides information on finding the right visa, studying in Australia and investing in Australia
Banking in Australia: What you need to know
Dealing with the currency and banking system of a new country can be confusing and sometimes daunting, so read on to discover the ins and outs of banking in Australia.
How to access your funds
There are around 29,000 ATMs across Australia at which you can complete banking transactions. However, remember that you may be charged a small fee if you use an ATM that is not owned by your bank or financial institution.
In today’s world, a huge number of your banking needs can be managed online. This includes everyday transactions, direct debits, scheduled payments, paying bills and much more. All Australian banks provide their own internet banking systems.
Bank fees to be aware of in Australia
When comparing banks, it’s worth checking what fees and charges come with your account. With this in mind, make sure you’re aware of any hidden fees attached to your account. These fees can include:
- Fees for using an ATM not owned by your bank
- Transaction fees for EFTPOS or online transactions
- Monthly account-keeping fees
- Annual fees
- Overdraft fees if you overdraw your account balance
- Foreign exchange fees
How term deposits work
A term deposit is a type of account that lets you boost your savings balance. It offers a higher rate of interest than transaction accounts, allowing you to earn more interest over time. A term deposit works as follows: you deposit money into an account for an agreed-upon period of time, but you are unable to access those funds until the term ends. Once that happens, you can access your initial deposit and the interest you have earned on it.
A wide variety of banks, credit unions and other financial institutions offer term deposits. They can typically be applied for quickly and easily online, and most will have a minimum deposit limit.
Banks that issue credit cards for temporary residents
If you’re a temporary resident of Australia, perhaps on a 457 working visa or another visa, it may be harder to access credit. However, it is still possible to get a credit card from the following companies:
- HSBC. In order to qualify for a credit card from this global bank, you’ll need to earn over $50,000 each year and be contracted to work in Australia for at least two years.
- Commonwealth Bank. This bank offers its credit cards to temporary residents of Australia, but you’ll need to be on a visa valid for longer than six months.
- ANZ. People who hold a temporary residence visa that’s valid for longer than four years can apply for ANZ credit cards. People on 457 or tourist visas are not allowed to apply.
- Westpac. Westpac offers both a Migrant Credit Card and a Student Visa Credit Card to temporary residents. You must be on a 457 visa to apply for a Migrant Card or on a student visa to get a Student Card.
- NAB. You’ll need a 457 visa, an income of more than $50,000 per year and at least three months of banking history with NAB to apply for a card from this bank.
- American Express. People who have long-term working visas are typically eligible to apply for cards from American Express.
Using a credit card in Australia