Opening a bank account in Australia
Opening your Australian bank account
It shouldn’t be too hard to find a bank, there are tons of options. You may want to check with your financial institution at home if they have a partnership with an Australian bank.
This is a non-exhaustive list of the main banks in Australia:
- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ)
- Commonwealth (CBA)
- National Australia Bank
- ING Direct
- National Australia Bank
It’s best to open your bank account within six weeks of your arrival because the process is easier than if you wait. You will need a piece of ID (your passport) and a mailing address to receive your bank card. You can use your own address in Australia if you’ve already found an apartment or a room or you can give a friend’s address, the hostel’s address, your Poste Restante address or even the bank’s own address (some banks do allow it).
Past the initial six-week period following your arrival in Australia, opening a bank account is trickier because a 100-point check applies—points are allocated to the types of proof of ID you can produce, and you must have at least 100 points of identification to be able to open an account. For instance:
- You’ll get 70 points if you can show a valid passport or a passport that expired within the past two years or a birth certificate.
- You’ll get 40 points if you can show a driver’s licence (bring your licence and an International Driving Permit if your licence isn’t in English).
- You’ll get 25 points if you have an Australian credit card.
You can see the list of other acceptable IDs here.
Save yourself the hassle of having to gather several pieces of ID and open your bank account as soon as you arrive!
Understanding the different payment methods
Unlike cash or debit/credit cards, cheques aren’t commonly used, except maybe for paying rent. However, for small jobs like fruit picking, you will probably be paid by cheque.
A few stores will offer the opportunity to cash your cheque (i.e. get cash in exchange of your cheque) for a fee.
There are three main types of bank cards in Australia: credit cards, EFTPOS cards and Visa/MasterCard debit cards.
Backpackers aren’t usually eligible to apply for a credit card, although it depends on how much money you bring to Australia and how much you make. Credit cards are often used for large purchases and to build a credit history if you’re planning to settle in Australia for more than a year and apply for a mortgage or a car loan.
The EFTPOS card is a basic, often free debit card to withdraw money from ATMs or pay in stores. However, it can’t be used to shop online or when travelling abroad.
The handiest card to have is the Visa/MasterCard debit card. It can be used for ATM withdrawals, online and in brick-and-mortar stores. You can’t go into overdraft with this kind of card, you can only spend the money you have in your account. Most of these cards have a yearly fee but your bank might waive it for the first year, which is perfect for WHV holders.
The convenient cash out system
At many supermarkets, if you pay with your debit card, you can ask for “cash out” (i.e. “cashback” in North America). The amount of your choice is added to the total purchase price of a transaction paid by debit card and you receive that amount in cash along with the purchase. For example, if your grocery bill is $20 and you want to “withdraw” $30, you ask to pay $50 and leave with your groceries and $30 in cash. This is a good way to skip ATM fees because most Australian banks charge $1 to withdraw money from an ATM that doesn’t belong to their network.
Should I open my bank account once in Australia or before leaving?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions! Some WHV holders open a bank account online before leaving—Westpac does offer this option, even though you will have to complete the identity check in person once in Australia. However, most travellers just wait until they are Down Under. After all, the process is pretty straightforward and only takes about 30 minutes.