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It’s pretty common to need to make and receive payments in a currency other than your own. Maybe you’re a freelancer working with clients based overseas, or have an income stream such as a rental property overseas, which means you regularly receive payments in a foreign currency. If this sounds like you, then you might be considering opening a foreign currency account, also known as a multi-currency account.
St George Bank offers a few options for foreign currency accounts, including a specialist personal account and options for business owners. Each option comes with its own terms and conditions, and there will be fees to pay for some transactions made through these accounts.
If you can’t find a foreign currency account to suit your needs at St George Bank, then you why not consider switching to a specialist in international payments, like Wise. You can make international money transfers at the best available exchange rate, and with only a low, transparent fee - or get yourself a multi-currency borderless account instead, available for both private and business users. This smart new account still offers many of the advantages of the foreign currency account available on the high street, but is often cheaper to operate. More on that later.
Before we get started, a quick comparison between St George bank’s foreign currency account and Wise’s Borderless multi-currency account
|St George bank
|Who can open an account?
|Business customers¹, and under certain circumstances, personal customers
|Both businessand private customers
|Fee for incoming payments
|There’s no fee charged by Wise for receiving AUD, EUR, GBP and USD. You can’t receive the other supported currencies, yet.
|Fee for outgoing payments
|AU$20 - Business banking online, or Internet banking²
|A small fixed fee, that differs per currency.
|About the exchange rate St George says²: “Currency conversions may be effected at an exchange rate determined by us.”
|Wise uses the actual mid-market rate to convert your money
|Available in 10 currencies¹
|42 supported currencies. For AUD, EUR, GBP and USD you get your own local account details.
|AU$1,000 - or the equivalent of this amount²
|There’s no minimum balance required for any supported currency.
Let’s get started. Here’s all you need to know about opening a foreign currency account with St George Bank.
A foreign currency - or multi-currency - account allows customers to keep their balance, and make or receive payments, in a currency other than Australian dollars.
St George Bank advertise foreign currency accounts for businesses, which can be opened in any of 10 different currencies including US dollars, euros, and pounds sterling¹. There are also foreign currency accounts available for personal use, under some circumstances. These are specialist accounts, though, which means that very few details are publicly available about them. To find out more about your eligibility, and whether the personal account will suit you, you’ll need to talk to St George Bank directly. You can find the contact details you’ll need below. Or, if you would rather use a provider which is upfront about its products, you could try another service, such as Wise.
To open a personal foreign currency account with St George Bank, you’ll need to have a minimum opening and ongoing balance of at least the equivalent of AU$10,000. You may also be required to hit a minimum transaction level. There are no fees to open the account, and you can usually get the account opened in just a few days once you provide all the right documentation. There are fees, however, for transactions, which are set out below.
As we noted above, very few details about the St George Bank foreign currency account packages are publicly available. You’ll need to check with St George Bank directly, exactly what they’ll be able to offer you as part of a foreign currency account with them.
However, the foreign currency account types described online - which are for a foreign currency account offered as a treasury deposit account type - do not allow for a credit or debit card to be issued².
St George Bank has foreign currency accounts designed for personal or business use, and foreign currency term deposit accounts.
To open a foreign currency term deposit account you must make a single upfront deposit of at least - the equivalent of - AU$150,000 in the designated currency. This is then retained by the bank for a fixed period, during which you won’t be able to access or withdraw your funds without penalty².
If you’re interested in opening a personal multi-currency account with St George, you’ll need to call their customer service team, or visit your local branch, to get full details of the package they’ll offer you. Foreign currency accounts for personal use aren’t advertised on their website, as they’re subject to a minimum balance and certain eligibility criteria.
The fees outlined below are based on our research, requesting a personal foreign currency account which was deemed suitable for an Australian resident with a rental income stream in GBP. This account required a minimum balance of AU$10,000 - other foreign currency accounts listed by St George Bank might come with a higher minimum deposit amount.
The fees detailed here are a guideline only.
|St George Bank foreign currency account fee²
|Search fee - account opening fee that applies to all businesses, trading names, or companies
|Outward transfer - assisted by a St George employee
|Outward transfer - Business banking online, or Internet banking
|Transfer between a personal foreign currency account, and a personal freedom account
|If you have an overdraft as part of a foreign currency business account, you'll be liable to pay interest, as set out in the overdraft terms and conditions
|International payments - SWIFT fees and charges
|If you’re making a transfer to or from an account held in a different currency, there may be additional fees which are added by intermediary banks, or the recipient’s own bank. More on that below
|International payments - exchange rate markup
|If you need to make an international payment including a currency conversion, it’s common practise for the exchange rate used to be the mid-market rate + a markup
|Other fees and charges
|There are extra charges for services such as duplicate account statements, or in the event that a cheque paid into your account is dishonoured. These are set out in the account terms and conditions
Although St George Bank list a flat fee for making payments out of your foreign currency account - or receiving money into the account, you should know that other banks might also charge you for transactions. This may be the case if a payment is made using the SWIFT system. The SWIFT network means that several banks work together to process an international transaction. Up to 3 different banks can be involved in a single transfer, and each of these intermediary or correspondent banks may also charge a fee.
Unfortunately, this means that often you can’t be sure of the fees until your international transfer has already been processed and deposited to the recipient’s bank account, as the fees that the intermediary and receiving banks charge are deducted from the amount, along the way.
The exchange rate used by St George Bank to make a transfer from your foreign currency account to an account in a different currency is also very important.
St George says about their exchange rate²: “Currency conversions may be effected at an exchange rate determined by us.”
Check that a fair exchange rate is being applied to your international money transfer, using an online currency converter. This’ll give you the real, mid-market rate for your specific currency pairing, which you can then compare to the rate your bank is offering. It’s worth doing this because many banks do not offer the real exchange rate for international money transfers. Instead, they hide their fees in the rate used, to make sure that they can profit on the transaction. This isn’t transparent, and often isn’t the best deal for customers either.
If you’re concerned about hidden fees and marked-up exchange rates, check if you can get a better deal with an alternative provider like Wise.
To get started, you’ll have to call St George Bank directly, or visit a local branch. You should check if you’re eligible for a foreign currency account for either you or your business first, and then you can get the process underway. You’ll need to provide documentation, including:
- Proof of identification, such as a passport or drivers licence
- Proof of address
- Your Tax File Number (TFN)
Keep in mind that if you want to open a foreign currency account for your business, you'll most likely need to provide additional information and/or documentation. Make sure to check with St George’s bank what information and which documents you need to provide before you start the process, so you can have everything ready when you want to open the account².
Once you have given your documents to the bank, it should take 3-5 working days to get your account up and running.
There are a few different ways you can get in touch with St George Bank if you need some help - either to open your foreign currency account, or to get advice³:
- Phone number for the foreign exchange/accounts team - 1300 665616; available Monday to Friday, 8:00-17:00 Sydney time
- Call into your local branch - find it using this handy St George Bank branch locator
- Use the Connect feature within St George’s mobile banking app to talk to someone direct
- Write to St George Bank at: St. George Bank, Locked Bag 1, Kogarah NSW 1485
So there you have it. St George Bank do offer foreign currency accounts for personal or business use, but they’re subject to eligibility criteria, and of course, there are fees for transactions.
If you’re thinking of opening a foreign currency account, then it’s smart to check not only the published costs, but also any potential hidden fees including exchange rate markups and SWIFT fees.
The minimum balance criteria and transaction costs can mean that foreign currency accounts from traditional banks are not always the best option. For cheap and safe transfers using the real exchange rate, and transparent fees with no guesswork required, you might find you’re better off using a specialist in international payments, such as Wise.
¹https://www.stgeorge.com.au/business/international (May 9, 2018)
²https://www.stgeorge.com.au/content/dam/stg/downloads/corporate/SBG_Treasury-Deposits_MulitbrandPDS.pdf (May 9, 2018)
³https://www.stgeorge.com.au/contact-us (May 14, 2018)
| This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date. |
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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