1. Foreign Currency
Australia doesn’t have a limit on foreign currency that can be brought in to the country, but amounts of $10,000 or more must be declared on arrival. For forms and further information, visit the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) website.
Most Australian banks buy and sell foreign currency. If your transaction involves a large amount, you need to notify the bank a few days ahead, as they don’t usually keep large amounts of foreign currency or Australian dollars in stock.
Travellers’ cheques are widely accepted in all major international currencies. The exchange commission varies from bank to bank and it is wise to check and compare before proceeding with a transaction. Calculate the total amount you will receive (a combination of the exchange rate and the processing fee).
You can also transfer money into Australia and exchange cash or travellers cheques through foreign currency exchange services. Find out if the company you would like to use is approved by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
For more general information about finances in Australia – including many useful guides, resources and publications, visit the ASIC consumer website FIDO
You can see what Australian Money (notes and coins) looks like on the Reserve Bank of Australia website.
2. Major Banks
The Reserve Bank of Australia is an active participant in financial markets, manages Australia’s foreign reserves, issues Australian currency notes and serves as the banker to the Australian Government. The information provided by the Reserve Bank includes statistics – for example, on interest rates, exchange rates and money and credit growth – and a range of publications on its operations and research.
Some of the major Australian banks are:
These ‘big four’ have branches in all cities and large towns throughout the country, and have representation overseas. In addition to the ‘big four’ there are other regional, city and state banks and international banks. Visit the Yellow Pages or True Local to find more – including some financial institutions that specialise just in savings accounts or home loans.
You can also find most of the banks in Australia through the Members Link on theAustralian Bankers Association website.
3. Financial Services Information
A range of financial services information can be found on the Financial Services Institute of Australasia website
Understanding Money is an Australian Government website that is well worth a look. Infochoice allows you to compare interest rates and features of many Australian financial products – including savings accounts, credit cards, loans, business finance, investments etc and you can check credit cards at Credit Card Compare.
Consumer websites also produce various resources – see the Credit and Debt section of the Consumer Affairs Victoria website and the Credit, Debt and Banking section of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for some excellent guides.
Banks are often keen to attract newcomers and migrants as their customers, so it is worth visiting their websites to see what they offer to the general public and private bank customers. Interactive user tools are also a common feature and can be used before you arrive in Australia. Some banks also offer special publications for specific newcomers – like international students or business migrants etc
Spend some time on research and then decide on what is it that you want to do and who would provide the best service for you.
Alternatively, discuss your needs with a relocation services professional who can make some basic banking recommendations.
For more complex requirements, seek the services of a qualified financial adviser. They should be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and also a member of their national body (Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) or the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) and have Professional Indemnity Insurance. They should be able to prepare a plan for you in writing for a fee, provide relevant product disclosure statements and advise on any commissions that they will receive for giving you their advice. Whilst you may save yourself some fees by doing all of the research yourself, you may save yourself a lot of time and effort by seeking professional advice (which is even better if you have been recommended to this person by someone you trust as being particularly careful about these matters).
4. Opening Accounts and Services
You will need 100 points of identification to open a bank account (if you are a new arrival, your passport will usually suffice).
You may also find that your previous credit rating will not transfer to Australia so it may be difficult to obtain a new credit card (or only be able to get one with a low credit limit). Some banks offer debit Visa/MasterCards so that you can still have a credit card but these use your savings account balances.
As Australia has a much smaller population than many countries, you may be surprised at the cost of banking and financial services. There are many fees for accounts and services so it is worth shopping around to find the best products to do what you want. Some people accustomed to using cheques will find that these are not widely accepted and that the accounts are expensive to have.
EFTPOS Machines (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) are common at many stores but it is still worthwhile carrying cash, in various denomination notes and coins, for use in public transport ticket machines, some cafes and restaurants etc. If you regularly use ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines), there is sometimes a fee if you use it more than a certain number of times per month (and they are usually restricted to $50 and $20 notes).
5. General Recommendations
Seek the advice of people you meet and find out how they chose their financial services and products.
Choose a financial institution that will meet either set needs or multiple needs depending on whether you want to keep all of your banking in one location or several.
Most Australian consumers have a transaction account that they can access using a card and Personal Identification Number (PIN) via Automatic Teller Machines, Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sale (EFTPOS) terminals inside shops or over the counter at bank branches.
These accounts often provide internet banking facilities and some banks let you access other financial institutions accounts via your internet banking service with them. If you use another bank’s ATM there is usually an additional cost.
Seek the advice of workmates, neighbours or friends for the location of your nearest banking provider. Your local Community Information Service or Migrant Information Centre (contact your Local Council for details) may provide a directory of local banking resources or help you open a bank account.
If you cannot solve banking problems with the financial institution you are dealing with, as a last resort, you can seek assistance from the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman.
Links on this Banking page
Association of Financial Advisers (AFA)
Australian Bankers Association
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Credit Card Compare
Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA)
Financial Services Institute of Australasia
National Australia Bank
Reserve Bank of Australia
Reserve Bank of Australia Notes in Circulation
Westpac Banking Corporation