Westpac Foreign Currency Account: Fees and Rates


A foreign currency account, also known as a multi-currency account, can be useful for people who have a regular cash-flow in a currency other than Australian dollars. For example, maybe you’re a freelance worker and are paid in another currency by some clients, or you’re an expat living in Australia, and you’ve got an income stream such as a rental property back home, which is paid in a different currency.

A foreign currency account from Westpac allows customers to hold their balance in a regional or global currency other than Australian dollars, and make or receive electronic payments from overseas.

If Westpac’s foreign currency account doesn’t suit your needs then you might find you’re better off with a specialist in international payments, like Wise. You might even consider a multi-currency borderless account from Wise, which comes with many of the advantages of a multi-currency account from a regular bank, but is often cheaper to operate. The borderless account is suitable for private persons, as well as businesses, and although it’s currently not yet possible to get a debit card connected to the account when you live in Australia, Wise does plan to offer that in the future as well. More on that later.

Before we get started, a quick comparison between Westpac’s foreign currency account and Wise’s Borderless multi-currency account

Who can open an account?There’s an option for both business³ and private¹ customersBoth businessand private customers
Fee for incoming paymentsAU$12There’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 paymentsAU$10 (in a foreign currency via online banking - private customer) AU$20 (in a foreign currency via online banking - corporate customer)²A small fixed fee, that differs per currency.
Exchange rateWestpac will convert your money “using Westpac’s current exchange rates”, they also say that _“no fee is charged but we may apply a spread to the interest rate quoted”_²Wise uses the actual mid-market rate to convert your money
Available currenciesThere are 15 currencies offered²42 supported currencies. For AUD, EUR, GBP and USD you get your own local account details.
Minimum balanceWestpac doesn’t state a minimum balance, but you do need to hold a positive balance in your account. Only exception to that is when there’s an agreed overdraft limit.²There’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 Westpac.

What are the benefits of having a multi-currency account?

As the name suggests, multi-currency accounts mean that customers can keep their balance in one or more different currencies, other than Australian dollars.

Westpac offers foreign currency accounts in around 15 regional and global currencies, including New Zealand dollars, Singapore dollars, Hong Kong dollars, US dollars, euros, pounds sterling, and Japanese yen. Chinese renminbi accounts are also available but come with some restrictions and conditions, due to Chinese legislation.

Westpac foreign currency accounts can be managed online, which makes them convenient, and there’s no account opening fee. There are, however, fees for many regular services, which are set out below.

One advantage to having a foreign currency account, highlighted by Westpac, is that you can control your money better, by receiving foreign payments, and only converting to AUD when market conditions are right¹. This helps to mitigate some of the risks involved in currency fluctuation. Westpac does note, however, that this is not an account designed for travellers. You can’t get an ATM card, or deposit or withdraw foreign cash using this account type².

Which cards come with the Westpac foreign currency account?

You won’t get a bank card linked to your foreign currency account from Westpac¹. To get your money, Westpac can deposit into another foreign currency account, give you a foreign currency cheque or convert it to AUD and pay it into your linked AUD account. There may be fees related to these services².

If you want an account for travelling, or need a debit card for day to day use, you’ll need to try an alternative provider.

What types of foreign currency accounts does Westpac offer?

Westpac foreign currency accounts include products designed for personal or business use, and foreign currency term deposit accounts. The business account allows for a few other perks, such as different overdraft facilities in the foreign currency³.

To open a foreign currency term deposit account you must deposit at least the equivalent of AU$50,000, for a fixed period, during which you won’t be able to access or withdraw your funds without penalty⁴.

What are the fees for a multi currency account with Westpac?

Because account terms and conditions can change from time to time, you’ll want to check the details for your own account online. The fees set out here are a general overview for guidance.

Fees are usually converted from the quoted amount in AUD, to the currency of the account, before being charged. However, if you prefer, you can also choose to pay your fees up front using dollars if you have a linked AUD account².

Service requiredWestpac foreign currency account fee²
Outward telegraphic transfer in a foreign currency, arranged online$10
Outward telegraphic transfer in a foreign currency, arranged via corporate online$20
Outward telegraphic transfer in AUD, arranged online$20
Outward transfer arranged via a branch - in AUD or a foreign currency$32
Inward telegraphic transfer - in AUD or foreign currency$12
Issue foreign currency draft$28
Credit balance fees for wholesale clientsWestpac may charge extra for wholesale accounts with a high balance. Here is what they say about it: _“Some foreign currencies have very low or negative interest rates. Westpac may from time to time charge a credit balance fee reflecting Westpac’s cost of funds for those currencies. A credit balance fee will only be charged where Westpac has determined that you are a wholesale client under the Corporations Act.”_¹⁺²
Interest ratesAt the time of researching, interest is payable only to customers with a positive balance on an account held in New Zealand dollars. Interest rates can change frequently and are published online¹
International payments - SWIFT fees and chargesIf 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 markupIf 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 chargesDuplicate account statements - $7.50 per page²

If you’re planning on using your foreign currency account to make and receive payments crossing international borders, then you should know that it’s not only Westpac which could charge you for transactions. If a payment is made using the SWIFT system, there may be other charges added by intermediary or correspondent banks. Here’s what Westpac say about it in their international payment FAQ section⁵:

“Charges could be levied (but not limited to) payment banks, corresponding banks, intermediary banks or the beneficiary's financial institution.

We don't have any control over the fees that these institutions might charge except for US Dollar payments which will cost USD $25.00.”

This means that often, you can’t be sure of the fees until your international transfer has already been processed and deposited to the receiving account. Scary.

Finally, check out the exchange rate that will be used when you’re sending money from your Westpac foreign currency account, to an account in a different currency. Sadly banks do not always convert your money using the real exchange rate. Instead, they can add a markup, which is effectively their profit for the transaction.

To find out if your bank is using a fair exchange rate for your international money transfer, use an online currency converter to see the real, mid-market rate. You can then easily compare it with the rate your bank is offering.

And if you don’t like what you see, check if you can get a better deal with an alternative provider like Wise, which always uses the real exchange rate for international transfers.

How to apply for a Westpac foreign currency account?

If you already have an AUD account with Westpac, you can apply for a Westpac foreign currency account by logging into your online banking. It should be quite straightforward to do - Westpac claim it’ll only take you 10 minutes.

Otherwise you can either apply online, and have any ID documents needed verified online, or call into your local branch, and show the originals there.

You can expect to be asked for the following:

  • Proof of identification, such as a passport or drivers licence
  • Proof of address (you need to have an address in Australia to open a foreign currency account)
  • Your Tax File Number (TFN), or any foreign tax details which might be relevant

When you want to open a foreign currency account for your business, make sure to have all relevant information for your company ready, such as:

  • Registration number
  • Business registration document(s)
  • Details of either the directors, owners or partners of the business
  • Details of all signatories (people who will operate the account)

Westpac also says that they may complete a search to verify the above information, and they'll charge a fee for this.²

How can I get in touch with Westpac?

There are a few different ways you can get in touch with Westpac if you need some help - either to open your foreign currency account, or to get advice²:

  • Phone number for general queries - 132 032
  • Call into your local branch - find it using this handy Westpac branch locator
  • Contact your Westpac relationship manager
  • Write to: GPO Box 3433, Sydney NSW 2001
  • Email: online@westpac.com.au

All of the multi-currency accounts available come with different eligibility criteria, benefits and costs. Finding the right one for your needs is important - and will require a bit of research upfront.

Check the published costs, but it pays to also be aware of any potential hidden fees including exchange rate markups and SWIFT fees, if you’ll be making international transfers from the account.

When you take these extra charges into consideration, foreign currency accounts from traditional banks are not always the best option. If you want 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.westpac.com.au/personal-banking/bank-accounts/foreign-currency-account/?pid=iwc%3Afx%3Afca-cons-int1706%3A000429%3Aper_sec (May 14, 2018)

²https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/cb/foreigncurrencyaccount.pdf (May 14, 2018)

³https://www.westpac.com.au/business-banking/bank-accounts/foreign-currency-account/ (May 14, 2018)

⁴https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/bb/foreign-currency-td-terms-conditions.pdf (May 14, 2018)

⁵https://www.westpac.com.au/faq/international-payment-fees/?searchsource=search-results&kw=SWIFT%20fees&rank=4 (May 14, 2018)

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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.

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