Setting up a bank account in Australia is actually quite easy. You can do it when you arrive but it is best if you can do this before you leave your own country. After all, you may need to have funds available when you arrive and may experience difficulties accessing it from your origin country’s bank account, depending on the time of day or day of the week.
Once you’ve set up your bank account, you can make international money transfers into it and it will also prevent you from having to carry unsafe quantities of real cash through airports.
Any person carrying currency of AUD $10,000 or more into (or out of) the country must legally declare it to Customs and Border Protection, using an international currency transfer report form. This will often mean longer delays in making your way through Customs. Also, consider the consequences of losing your bag or having someone take yours by mistake, either from the baggage carousel or the overhead lockers on board the aircraft. Setting up a bank account before you arrive makes complete sense!
In Australia, there are four major banking organisations: Commonwealth Bank of Australia; ANZ; NAB (National Australia Bank) and Westpac. There are many other banks, credit unions and building societies that all provide the same services but may operate slightly differently. It may be best to start with a bank account from one of ‘the Big Four’, as they are called, because their relationships with overseas banks are longer established and there are usually fewer complications as a result.
Your new Australian bank account will be identified by:
All Australian banks offer Internet banking so that you can transfer funds between accounts, pay someone without having to go to the bank, pay bills, receive money from others, check your balance, download statements and much more. In Australia, the trend is away from in-branch service and banks encourage their customers to use their online services.
In general, Australian banks are open from Monday to Thursday 9.30am to 4pm and on Fridays from 9.30am to 5pm, although some branches do open on Saturdays. There are numerous days throughout the year when banks are closed. These are known as ‘public holidays’ (sometimes known as ‘bank holidays’ in other countries).
There are bills you may have to pay as soon as you arrive in Australia, or perhaps even before you arrive. By paying them straight from your bank account in Australia, you will avoid paying international banking fees. Here are some bills you might need to pay:
Most of the time, employers will pay your wages directly into your bank account. The old days of cash in a pay packet are long gone and if an employer is paying you what’s called “cash in the hand”, beware. In Australia, you must pay tax on every dollar you earn. It is against the law to accept cash that has not been accounted for by you or your employer. If you are paid in cash then you must ask for a pay slip so that you can prove that you were paid legitimately if asked by authorities to demonstrate proof.
This is also to protect your interests as there have been cases of employers seeking to pay international visitors or new Australian residents cash so that they can get away with paying much less than they are supposed to. Earn your pay and get paid for the work you do. Don’t settle for dishonest employers who could get themselves – and you – into trouble with the Australian Taxation Office.
Australia is one of only a few countries that allows customers to open a bank account from their own country. The process is simple and only takes around ten minutes. You can do this as early as three months before your arrival date. Your Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) card and debit card will be delivered to your nominated Australian location so when you arrive, you can collect it.
If you’ve already arrived in Australia and haven’t opened your bank account yet, it is best to do so within the first six weeks of your arrival. In that period, you will only need your passport as identification. Later, you will have to provide additional identification documents to open or activate an account.
Ok, so if six weeks has already passed and you want to open an Australian bank account, you will need to provide 100 points of identification. Various types of documents are worth more or fewer points and include passport, birth certificate and student ID card.
Banking in Australia, including Internet banking, is quite safe. Some banks even offer 24-hour banking facilities which you can access by swiping your ATM card. You can withdraw cash, deposit cash, coins and cheques and conduct several other transaction types.
The fees and charges are different between banks and even between account types. You may have to pay a $2 fee to use an ATM that is not owned by the bank you use. Your banking customer service representative will be able to explain all fees, charges and account limitations.
Something that is noticeably different about banking in Australia is that our banks are open and welcoming environments, some even with concierges that direct you to the appropriate assistant. The opening hours are reliable and there are no machine gun-wielding military personnel guarding the premises, as is the case in many overseas countries.
Keep your money safe in a bank account. Australia is a customer-friendly nation with excellent banking facilities to protect and help grow your money.