Banking in Australia
We recommend that you open an Australian bank account prior to leaving for Australia so that you can transfer your home accounts and credit history to Australia, and more importantly so that you have access to funds upon arrival without being charged high bank fees to draw money from overseas.You will also need an Australian bank account for your employers to pay your salary into.
It is often a good idea to open an account 6 to 9 months before you leave for Australia as this gives you time to take advantage of the best currency exchange rates.
The bigger banks in Australia, commonly known as the “Big 4” are ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac.
There are also a number of smaller Australian owned regional banks such as Suncorp Metway Limited (Suncorp), Bank of Queensland (BOQ), Bankwest (owned by Commonwealth Bank), AMP, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank (subsidiary of Westpac), Bank of Melbourne (owned by Westpac), Macquarie Bank, and Members Equity (ME) Bank.
Then there are a number of foreign owned subsidiary banks usually with limited number of branches: Bank of China (Australia) Limited, Citigroup (Citibank), HSBC, and Investec Bank.
International banks with office or branch presence in Australia or foreign owned subsidiary banks may have limited branch access, for example HSBC only has 32 branches Australia-wide and only 1 in South Australia, so it may be a good idea to have an account with one of the major Australian banks in the long run for ease of access.
The Big 4 banks have their Migrant Banking service which allow you to open an account from overseas for deposits only, from between 3 to 12 months prior to your arrival in Australia. After you arrive in Australia and are formally identified in person at a branch, you can access funds in the account. There are no fees to switch banks so we advise that you choose one that offers what you need initially and then shop around for what suits you in the long run.
Opening an Australian bank account from overseas
In general, the process to open an Australian bank account from overseas is:
- Once you have chosen the bank to open an account with, log onto their Migrant Banking page; there is usually an online account application form to complete.
- Choose the account that best suits your needs and a savings account that maximises interest earned if you would like.
- You will receive an email confirming your bank account details and in some cases a letter from the bank as well as instructions on how to activate the account for withdrawals on your arrival in Australia.
- At this point your account has been opened for deposits only, meaning that you can transfer funds into it with no limit on how much you need to transfer.
- You will not be able to make any withdrawals or transfer funds out of your account until you are identified in person at a branch in Australia.
- Some banks provide limited internet banking access so you can check when your transfer has arrived in your account and view your account balance.
- Make an appointment with the bank for in-person identification within 6 weeks of your arrival in order to fully activate your account. You will need to present the ID that you used to open your account online, usually your passport. If you wait longer, you may be required to provide additional forms of identification such as lease contract, driver license, Medicare card, etc.
- After completing the ID checks your account will be activated for full access including withdrawals etc.
Provide your Tax File Number (TFN) to your bank as soon as you have it so that you receive the full amount of the interest earnings in your account (you will still need to declare these earnings as income tax). If you do not provide your TFN to the bank, the bank may have to withhold an amount from your interest earnings (this is called Withholding Tax or WHT) and send it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). WHT is calculated using the top tax margin plus Medicare levy, which is 46.5% (or 48.5% until 30 June 2017 as per current plan for the “Temporary Budget Repair levy”). If you’re a non-resident, the WHT rate is 10%. WHT applies to accounts that earn over $120 interest for adults and $420 for children per financial year on a prorata basis.
International money transfers
If you need to make international money transfers, alternatives to banks such as HiFX may provide more competitive currency exchange and lower fees. Please note that you need to do your own research before committing to using any financial institution.
If you are in Australia on permanent resident or long term work visa (e.g. 457) and have regular, verifiable income, you may be eligible to apply for an Australian credit card.
There are choices of:
- Low interest rate cards
- Low fee cards
- Rewards cards
- Frequent flyer cards
- Premium cards
www.canstar.com.au provides great resources on credit cards that are in the market, what to look for when choosing a card, glossary of terms, and a comparison tool to ease you through navigating amongst the various choices.
Building up a good credit history in Australia is important if you plan to take up a loan in the future. A good credit history is a way to assure lenders of your reliability to pay back the loan.
Credit history may take the form of:
- Utility accounts payment history e.g. electricity, gas, mobile phone, internet
- Bank account showing regular income and no overdue fees
- Regular job or job contract
- Proof of a long term residential address (usually more than 3 years)
- Credit cards payment history
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Sterling Healthcare Resourcing
The content of this website is written and owned by Sterling Healthcare Resourcing Pty Ltd, an Australian-owned healthcare recruitment agency which specialises in permanent and locum job placements of Australian and international doctors. This website contains information that serves as a general guide to living and working in Australia.