Best banks for international students in Australia. All you need to know

Roberto Efflandrin

If you’re an international student who’s chosen to study in Australia there’s no doubt quite a few logistical things you need to work out. One of those would be how best to manage your finances.

This article is here to help out by giving you a quick introduction to some of the best banks in Australia for international students.

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Why you should have a local bank account as an international student

When moving abroad it’s generally better to open an account in the country you’re going to, rather than solely relying on one opened in the country you left. These are some of the benefits of having Australian account details while you study here.

  • Send or receive money from home
  • Receive a salary from an Australian employer easily and store it in AUD
  • Local card details to pay for items, cutting down on international transaction fees
  • Manage your finances like a local
  • Access to systems like BPAY, Pay ID and Osko

Here are the biggest banks in Australia

In Australia the four biggest banks are known as The Big Four. They are well established and have a significant customer base.

  • Commonwealth Bank (Commbank)
  • National Australia Bank (NAB)
  • Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ)
  • Westpac

Let’s take a look at each one in a little more detail, including an account they offer that could be useful to you as an international student studying in Australia.

Commbank

CommBank is the largest bank in Australia.¹ They have an extensive network of ATMs and branches across the country, some of which offer foreign language support.

The main transaction account is the Everyday Account Smart Access. As a bonus, Commbank have a version of this account that’s just for students.²

Commbank Everyday Account Smart Access for students

  • Open the student version up to 14 days before arriving in Australia or up to 3 months after arriving
  • Possible to have the Monthly Account Fee waived by showing your student ID or enrolment letter
  • Comes with a Debit Mastercard
  • Australian address isn’t required for the initial setup

To find out more about the Everyday Smart Access account or to sign up you can visit the CommBank website.

Read more: Commonwealth bank international student account. What you need to know.

NAB

NAB is one of Australia's most established banks, with a history that dates back to the early 1800’s.³ Today, it serves over 8.5 million customers and offers a range of services including personal bank accounts.

For daily spending they have the NAB Classic Banking account. Something to note is that you can’t apply to open an account until after you’ve arrived in Australia.⁴

NAB Classic Banking Account

  • No monthly account fees
  • Comes with a Visa Debit card
  • Online banking available through the NAB app and NAB Internet Banking
  • No cash withdrawal fees at over 7,000 Australian ATMs

Learn more about the NAB Classic Banking Account by heading to the account page on their website.

Read more: NAB international student account. What you need to know.

ANZ

The Australian and New Bank, ANZ for short, is one of the four biggest banks in Australia and is the biggest bank in New Zealand.⁵ It can trace its heritage back to 1835 and has a total assets of over $900 billion.

If you decide to bank with ANZ it’s likely you’d be opening an ANZ Access Advantage everyday account, but you will need to provide documents to show you’re residing in Australia.

ANZ Access Advantage

  • Comes with a Visa Debit Card
  • Opportunities to earn cash back
  • The $5 monthly account fee can be waived for full time students or people under 25

To find out more about the account or to sign up, you can visit the ANZ website.

Read more: ANZ international student account. What you need to know.

Westpac

Westpac holds the title of Australia's first bank and its oldest functioning company.⁷ As well as being one of Australia’s Big Four, it also has a significant customer base in New Zealand.

For everyday transactions there’s the Westpac Choice account. Westpac specifically suggest this account for students coming to study in Australia, with the application process being available online after you’ve arrived.⁸

Westpac Choice account

  • No account-keeping fee for full time students or people under 30
  • Part of the Global ATM Alliance
  • Comes with a Debit Mastercard
  • The app comes with a host of features including temporary card lock and cash withdrawal functions

For more information on international student banking with Westpac just take a look at their website.

Read more: Westpac international student account. The steps, fees & requirements

Other banks with student or student-friendly accounts

Aside from the Big Four banks, there are others that offer a range of services to a reasonably large customer base. Let’s take a look at three of them.

  • Suncorp Bank
  • Macquarie Bank
  • St George Bank

Suncorp Bank

Suncorp is an Australian bank that’s also one of the largest general insurers in the country.⁹ They’re a Top 50 company on the Australian Stock Exchange and employ over 13,0000 staff.

Suncorp offer a few different types of everyday account, so as a student the Everyday Options Account is one worth considering.¹⁰

Suncorp Everyday Options Account

  • No monthly account fees
  • Able to open and personalise up to 9 sub accounts
  • Comes with a Visa Debit card that has 0% currency conversion fees
  • BPAY or direct debits can be taken straight from a sub account

See their website for more on the Suncorp Everyday Options Account.

Macquarie Bank

Macquarie is a multi-awarding winning bank that offers personal banking and loan services to Australian customers.¹¹ For everyday spending you’d need their Transaction account, but an Australian residential address is required to open it.

Macquarie Transaction account

  • No fees for international purchases or overseas cash withdrawals
  • Once you’re in Australia the account setup can be done online
  • Comes with a Debit Mastercard
  • No monthly account fees

If the Macquarie account intrigues you, you can head to their website to find out more.

St. George Bank

Part of the Westpac Group, St. George Bank is another award winning Australian bank.¹² It’s primarily known for its retail and business banking products, but also offers personal bankings services.

For young adults and students they recommend the St. George Complete Freedom account, which is for everyday transactions.¹³

St. George Complete Freedom account

  • No account keeping fees
  • Part of the Global ATM Alliance
  • Standard 3% foreign currency conversion fee
  • Comes with a Visa Debit Card provided you have an Australian residential address

To find out a bit more about what St. George has to offer, take a quick look at their website.

What to look for in a student bank account?

There are a number of things to consider when selecting which student bank account is right for you.

Fees

What the fees are can be a significant factor when choosing a bank. Try looking for a provider that either has no monthly account fee or will waive the fee for students who can prove they’re currently studying.

Since you're coming from overseas, an account with low fees for international transfers and currency conversions is also ideal. It’s an added bonus if foreign currency cash withdrawals are cheap, as it means you could use your Australian card if you go home for a visit.

Account benefits

Depending on the bank there might be some benefits or perks to opening an account with them. Some offer cashback, while others have the option to lock in an interest rate or have certain fees waived.

Something that you’ll no doubt want is access to a debit card for daily spending. Whether it's a Visa or Mastercard will vary depending on the bank. A feature that’s handy for security purposes is the ability to lock and unlock the card using an app.

Opening an account

What you need to open an account will vary slightly between banks. As an international student, it’s generally easier if you can find a bank that will let you fully or partially set up an account before you arrive in Australia. Bonus points if you don’t need to provide an Australian residential address during the initial application..

Account management

Having different ways to manage your account is a matter of convenience more than anything else. Most Australian banks offer phone, internet, app and in person banking. If you want access to a physical bank branch it is worth checking which ones are close to the area you’re intending to move to.

Wise Account for students

The Wise Account is suitable for international students, especially if they need to make international transfers frequently to and from their home country.

You can use a Wise Account to easily pay tuition fees while saving money on currency conversions as Wise uses the mid-market rate, just like the one you see on Google.

With the Wise Account, you can get your own local AUD account details (with other popular currency account details too). This makes it easy to be sent money from home, or convert and send your money back home as well.

You can also order your own Wise debit card to be linked to your account, so you can spend your hard earned cash anywhere Visa is accepted.

Wise can also be used to send and be sent money internationally, at the mid-market rate and with low fees shown upfront.

Join over 16 million customers currently using Wise. It’ll only take a few minutes to register and see what’s inside.

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Sources:

  1. Commbank - Moving to Australia
  2. Commbank - Opening an Australian bank account
  3. NAB - About us
  4. NAB - Banking for new arrivals
  5. ANZ - About ANZ
  6. ANZ - ANZ Access Advantage
  7. Westpac - About us
  8. Westpac - International Student Bank Account
  9. Suncorp - About us
  10. Suncorp - Everyday Options Account
  11. Macquarie - Transaction account
  12. St George - About us
  13. St George - Everyday Account + Visa Debit Card for Young Adults & Students

Sources checked on: 6 October 2023


Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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