How to open a bank account in Australia as a British expat?

Gert Svaiko

If you’re planning to move to Australia, you’re bound to feel nervous as well as excited. It’s a fantastic country, with a laid-back lifestyle, friendly people and beautiful natural scenery. But it’s also very far away from the UK, which can make moving a complicated business.

One of the first things you’ll need to look into is opening a bank account in Australia. This will be essential for paying bills and rent, receiving income and much more.

But how easy is it? Read on to find out everything you need to know, including info on costs, banks and the process of getting your new account set up.

We’ll even give you the lowdown on a handy alternative to a bank account from the money services provider Wise, the Wise account, which you can use to manage your money in the UK, Australia and worldwide in 40+ currencies.


Table of contents

Do you need a bank account in Australia?

It isn’t absolutely essential or even a legal requirement to have an Australian bank account. You might even be able to manage without one. Remember that there are also multi-currency alternatives available such as the Wise account.

However, you might find that day-to-day life in Australia is a bit of a headache if you don’t have any kind of bank account.

You might find it difficult to pay bills, taxes, rent and other day-to-day expenses, along with receiving your salary if you’re working or your pension if you’re retired.

Things like signing up for a mobile phone contract and getting a mortgage can also be trickier. And if you’re studying in Australia, receiving student loan payments could be an issue without a bank account.

Can you use your UK bank account in Australia?

Whether or not you can carry on using your UK account while moving to Australia all depends on your bank.

Major UK banks such as Barclays will not let you keep your UK current account while living overseas.¹ This is to do with post-Brexit regulations, which require banks to have separate authorisation in every EEA country they operate in.

There are a few exceptions to this. You may be able to keep your account if you’re only moving abroad for less than 6 months and plan to return to the UK, or if you’re a UK Crown employee

Not all UK banks take this position, however. International bank Santander says it will continue to service existing accounts when the holder moves abroad.² So if you’re already a customer, you should in theory be able to continue using your account in Australia - although it could be worth checking with the bank first.

If you want to open a new account with Santander though, you’ll need to be a UK resident.²

There is potentially a major drawback to using your UK account in Australia. It will be denominated in GBP, but you’ll be spending and making payments in AUD. This means you could lose out to currency exchange fees and rates.

So, it could be a better idea to close down your UK account and get a fresh start with an Australian bank.

📚 Read more: Can you keep your UK bank account when moving abroad?

Can you open a bank account in Australia as a British expat?

Yes, there are no restrictions in Australia which prevent British citizens from opening a bank account. Most of the major banks offer their accounts to anyone, even those who are in the country on a visa

In some cases, you may even be able to start your application online, before you’ve even moved to Australia.³

Can you open an account as an international student?

Australian banks do offer accounts to international students arriving in the country to study. Some make it pretty easy too, such as CommBank which lets you open an Everyday Account up to 14 days before you arrive - and waives the monthly account fee for under 30s.⁴

Other banks such as Westpac offer a dedicated account for students, which also have no monthly fee if you’re under 30 or studying full-time.⁵

📚 Read more: How to get an Australian student visa: UK student’s guide

What documents do you need to open a bank account in Australia?

When it comes to documentation, Australian banks use a points system.

There’s a given list of documents, and each is assigned a set number of points. In order to open a bank account, you’ll need to present a number of documents that add up to 100 points.⁶ This is a government-adopted personal identification system, designed to combat fraud.

It sounds confusing, but it’s actually very simple in practice. All you need to do is provide enough documents to hit the 100 points total. Here’s the list:⁶

  • Primary documents - 70 points
  • Secondary (photograph and name) - 40 points
  • Secondary (must include name and address) - 35 points
  • Secondary (must include name and signature/date of birth) - 25 points.

You can only provide one document from each category (so for example, two documents from the 70 points list wouldn’t be accepted).

Primary documents - 70 points⁶

Examples of the accepted primary ID documents include:

  • Current UK or foreign passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Citizenship certificate.

Secondary (photograph and name) - 40 points⁶

On the list of accepted secondary documents worth 40 points are the following:

  • Drivers licence issued by an Australian State or territory
  • Licence or permit issued under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or Territory government
  • Identification card issued to a public employee
  • Identification card issued by the Commonwealth
  • Identification card issued to a student at a tertiary education institution

Secondary (must include name and address) - 35 points⁶

On the list of documents worth 35 points are the following:

  • A document held by a cash dealer giving security over your property
  • Council rates notice
  • Land Titles Office record
  • Document from your current employer or previous employer within the last two years
  • Evidence of a mortgage.

Secondary (must include name and signature/date of birth) - 25 points⁶

Lastly, there are documents worth 25 points each:

  • Marriage certificate (for maiden name only)
  • Credit card
  • Foreign driver licence
  • Medicare card
  • EFTPOS card
  • Record of primary, secondary or tertiary education institution attended by you within the last 10 years
  • Record of professional or trade association of which you are a member.


How to open an Australian bank account as a non-resident?

The process of how to open an Australian bank account for non-residents depends on both the particular bank, and the account itself.

But to give you an idea of what’s involved, here's how to apply for the CommBank Everyday Account Smart Access:⁷

  1. Go to the bank’s website to check the details of the account and your eligibility
  2. Click ‘Open account’
  3. Complete the short application form
  4. Upload your ID documents if requested - you might also need to provide details of your visa and your address in Australia.
  5. Visit a branch once you arrive in Australia to verify your ID in person and to collect your debit card.
  6. Your new bank account is open and ready to use right away.

Can you open an Australian bank account online as an expat from the UK?

It is possible to open an Australian bank account from the UK before you arrive. Just pick a bank and do it online. Depending on the bank and whether you’re a new or existing customer, you should be able to choose an account, fill in your details and upload your ID documents.

You should find it really straightforward to open your new bank account online, although it depends of course on the bank.

Most of the ‘big four’ Australian banks have tailored migrant banking facilities that make it possible to open a bank account online before you arrive, or at least start the process. The exception is NAB, which has recently changed its processes and now requires new arrivals to visit a branch to open an account in person.⁸

However, there’s an important thing to remember. As a new arrival applying from outside the country, you’ll usually need to go to your local branch in person with your ID and any other documentation once you arrive in Australia. Until you do this, you may not be able to make full use of your new account.

📚 Read more: How to start a business in Australia?

Best Australian bank accounts for expats

If you’re starting your search for a an Australian bank account, here are a few of the major banks to consider:


The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) serves over 8.5 million retail and business customers worldwide.⁹ As you’d expect, it has a wide network of branches and ATMs across Australia.

One of the best everyday accounts for expats here is ANZ Plus, the bank’s new digital-only account. You can open it using just your smartphone, by downloading the ANZ Plus mobile app. And it has no monthly fees.¹⁰

There’s also the ANZ Access Advantage account, available to Australian residents, students and new arrivals too. It comes with an ANZ Visa debit card, internet banking and mobile banking through the ANZ app. There’s a monthly account fee, but this is waived for monthly deposits over a certain amount.¹¹

As an expat though, you may not be able to open this account online - you’ll need to make an appointment at a local branch.


The National Australian Bank (NAB) is one of the largest banks in Australia. It has around 8.5 million customers across Australia and worldwide.¹²

The main account type on offer is the NAB Classic Banking account, which has no monthly fees and comes with a contactless visa debit card as standard. There are also no overdraft fees or ATM withdrawal fees at over 4,000 ATMs nationwide.⁸

The Classic Banking account is available for students and for new arrivals. You can’t apply for it in advance however, so you’ll need to wait until you arrive and then visit a branch with your ID documents.⁸

Commonwealth Bank (CommBank)

Commonwealth Bank, or CommBank, serves around 15.9 million customers worldwide.¹³

CommBank offers two main accounts for new arrivals to Australia.

The first is the Everyday Account Smart Access, a day-to-day current account offering fee-free ATM withdrawals, banking through the CommBank app and no monthly account fees for the first year. You can open the account up to 14 days before your arrival in Australia, and you don’t need a local address to apply.⁷

The second option is the Everyday Account Smart Access for Students. This offers nearly all of the same features, but with no monthly fees for as long as you’re studying.⁷


One of Australia’s oldest banks, Westpac has a sizable network of branches and ATMs across the country.

The main everyday account on offer here is Westpac Choice, available for everyone from students to new arrivals. It comes with a Debit Mastercard, mobile and internet banking and cardless ATM withdrawals.¹⁴

There’s a monthly fee, but this is waived for students and New to Australia customers (for the first year) and for customers depositing a certain amount each month.¹⁴

Other banks and alternatives worth looking into

There are also a number of neobanks and alternatives available in Australia, such as:

  • Revolut
  • Up Bank
  • Alex Bank (only offers savings accounts, not current accounts).

Other alternatives worth looking into are providers like Wise, which doesn’t have a banking licence in Australia but offers many of the same features as a bank account. This includes sending and receiving money.

What are the banking fees and costs in Australia?

Just like in the UK, there are some fees and costs to look out for when banking in Australia.

These vary between banks, and you should always check the small print before signing up for an account. But here’s a roundup of what to expect:

Transaction/fee typeTypical fee
Current account - monthly fee$0 - $5 AUD¹¹
ATM cash withdrawalUsually free (at your bank’s ATMs)
Getting a debit cardUsually free
Domestic payments (i.e. within Australia)Usually free
International payments (i.e. to the UK from Australia)$0-$30 AUD depending on currency¹⁵

Is there a free Australian bank account for non-residents?

The great thing about the Australian banking scene is that many current accounts are available for no monthly fee. These include the ANZ Plus account and the NAB Classic Banking account.

In some cases though, you’ll need to meet certain conditions to avoid the fee, such as being under 30, a student or paying in a minimum amount per month.

And remember that most accounts will also have some additional fees, so it’s worth checking all the details out before signing up.

Wise – An international alternative to a bank account

Need to send money back home to the UK from Australia? Or cover moving costs before you go Down Under? It’s good to know there’s an alternative to using your bank, one that could even work out cheaper.

Open a Wise account and you can send money worldwide in over 40 currencies (including in GBP and AUD) for just a small, transparent fee. Better still, you’ll get the fair mid-market exchange rate with every transaction. This could make your transfer as cheap as possible and just as secure and reliable as a bank.

A Wise account is also handy to have as an expat, as it helps you avoid expensive bank fees when sending money abroad. You can use it to spend like a local in Australia and over 150 countries worldwide without hidden fees using your Wise card or connecting your Wise card to Google Pay or Apple Pay.

And you can open an account in advance of your move to Australia, so you’re not left without a payment method while you’re waiting for your new bank account to be opened.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Sources used:

  1. Barclays - Living outside the UK
  2. Santander - Brexit and Santander
  3. The Currency Shop - How to open a bank account in Australia from overseas
  4. CommBank - 8 tips for international students going to Australia
  5. Westpac - Student bank account and debit card
  6. Finder - 100 points of ID to open a bank account
  7. CommBank - Open an Australian bank account
  8. NAB - Moving to Australia
  9. ANZ - Our company
  10. ANZ - New to Australia
  11. ANZ - Access Advantage
  12. NAB - About us
  13. CommBank - Our company
  14. Westpac - Everyday bank account for new arrivals
  15. Westpac - Personal banking fees and charges

Sources last checked on date: 11-Mar-2024

*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.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location