Banking will be a vital part of your life in Australia, so it's important that you understand the Australian banking system and know how to set up and maintain your finances.
Having an Australian bank account will ensure that you have easy access to your money to pay for your accommodation, tuition fees and living expenses, and will allow your employer to deposit pay into your account if you choose to work. It is important that you are aware of the following banking information:
Banks in Australia
There are four major banks in Australia:
There are also a number of smaller banks, including Adelaide Bank, Bank of Queensland, Bank of Melbourne, Bankwest, Bank SA, Bendigo Bank, St George Bank, ME Bank and Suncorp Bank.
Opening a bank account in Australia
Moving to Australia can be a very busy time, so it is best to organise your account before you arrive so you can access your money straight away.
The process is usually as follows:
If you would prefer to wait until you are in Australia before opening a bank account, you should do so within six weeks of arrival. You will need to visit a bank to provide staff with your details and show them your passport as proof of identity. They will then send you an account card in the mail.
As an international student, many banks will offer you a special student account that does not charge monthly account fees. You may also be allocated an international student banker who you can contact with any queries, and many banks will try to find a banker who speaks your language.
Types of bank accounts
It is a good idea to set up a transaction account for everyday banking (paying for goods and depositing income, for example) and a high-interest savings account for storing your savings. You may also wish to open additional accounts to divide your money for specific purposes (such as paying rent or saving for travel). Some transaction accounts give you the option of using additional services such as a personal cheque books, these are commonly known as cheque accounts.
Other account types include credit accounts and credit debit accounts. See EFTPOS and other payment methods
for more information about the transactions you can make with these accounts.
Ten things to look for when selecting a bank in Australia:
- Are there any application fees?
- Can you open an online savings account before you arrive so you can earn interest on the funds you send to Australia?
- Are you provided with a personal banker? If so, does your banker speak your language?
- Are you eligible for a student account that does not charge monthly account fees?
- Is there a minimum opening deposit required at the time of opening an account and a minimum balance you are required to maintain?
- Can you transfer money to Australia with your foreign exchange provider of choice when setting up an account?
- Does the account include a Visa or MasterCard debit card at no extra cost, so you can shop online with your own money?
- Does your bank have a national network of branches?
- Does your bank have a large number of ATMs?
- Do the bank's ATMs provide access in multiple languages?
Australia,s currency is the Australian dollar (AUD). There are bank notes for $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100; gold-coloured coins for $1 and $2; and silver-coloured coins for 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. Prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents when you pay (for example, $2.93 rounds to $2.95).
Bank opening hours in Australia
Banks are usually open during business hours from 9.30 am to 4 pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30 am to 5 pm on Fridays. Some banks and branches may stay open longer or open on weekends. Bank branches allow you to transfer money, open accounts, cash travellers cheques, order bank cheques and exchange currency, among other financial services. Automatic teller machines
and telephone and internet banking
(see below) allow you to make some transactions after hours.
Automatic teller machines (ATMs)
ATMs are available throughout Australia, allowing you to withdraw cash, check your funds and, in some cases, make deposits. Note that fees generally apply when withdrawing funds from another bank's ATM (usually around AUD$2) and when using international cards.
Telephone and internet banking in Australia
Telephone and internet banking enables you to manage your account, transfer funds between accounts and make payments without entering the bank branch. To use telephone and internet banking services, you will need to register with your bank.
EFTPOS and other payment methods
There are a number of payment methods available in Australia in addition to cash:
- EFTPOS (linked to a transaction account): EFTPOS allows you to pay for items electronically using your bank debit card and a PIN number to access money from your transaction account. It is available at most stores and restaurants. You can also withdraw cash through EFTPOS at some stores (including supermarkets and petrol stations).
- Credit cards (linked to a credit account): Credit cards allow you to make purchases and pay for them at a later time, usually with interest. Credit cards are accepted for most payments in Australia, in stores, restaurants, online and over the phone. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard and American Express.
- Credit debit cards (linked to a credit debit account): Visa or MasterCard debit cards allow you to use money in your own account to pay for items through both EFTPOS and credit systems. They act in the same way as a credit card (allowing you to make payments online, over the phone and in places where EFTPOS is not accepted), but use your own money rather than credit.
- Cheques (linked to a transaction account): Some people request a personal cheque book in addition to a debit card to make purchases using money from their transaction account. Cheques are accepted for payment in some circumstances, typically for larger payments such as a rental bond for accommodation. If you do not have a personal cheque book, you can still make a cheque payment using money from your transaction account by going into a bank branch and requesting a bank cheque.