If you’re planning to move to Australia, you’re bound to feel a little 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 so far away, which makes moving a complicated business.
One of the first things you’ll need to do before arrival in Australia is to open a bank account. This will be essential for paying bills and rent, receiving income and much more.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through opening a bank account in Australia. This includes 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 traditional bank, the Wise multi-currency account.
So, let’s get started.
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 points¹. This is a government-adopted personal identification system, designed to combat fraud.
It sounds confusing, but it’s actually very simple in practice. In many cases, you’ll only need to provide just one primary photographic ID document. For example, one of the following²:
- Your Australian or foreign passport
- Your Australian or foreign photo driving licence
- A national identity card from your home country.
If you don’t have this, you’ll need to provide one form of primary non-photographic ID document such as²:
- Australian or foreign birth certificate
- Citizenship certificate from your home country
Plus, one of the following secondary ID documents²:
- Recent utility bill
- Paper driving licence
- Current tenancy or lease agreement
- Notice from the Australian Taxation office
- Medicare card
- Australian marriage certificate
- ID card from an Australian higher education institute.
If you can wait a little longer, you can apply for a new bank account with just your passport up to 6 weeks¹ after arrival in Australia.
You don’t have to wait until you’re physically present in Australia to open a bank account. 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. At NAB, its Classic Banking account can apparently be opened in as little as 5-10 minutes.
However, there’s an important thing to remember. As a new arrival applying from outside the country, you’ll 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.
If you’ve not yet moved to Australia, you should be able to open your new bank account from the UK. You can do it all online, apart from some final ID checks in person once you arrive.
The ‘big four’ Australian banks - ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac - all have tailored migrant banking facilities that make it possible to open a bank account online before you arrive.
For example, at Commonwealth Bank, you can apply for an everyday account up to three months before you arrive in Australia⁴. At NAB, you can do it up to 12 months in advance⁵.
However, you’ll need to check whether these ‘new to Australia’ accounts are still open to new customers, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions⁶ imposed at the time.
Before we start looking at Australian banks, here’s a thought. What if you don’t actually need a traditional bank account at all?
The Wise multi-currency account is the perfect alternative for expats, travellers and anyone who regularly manages their money across borders. With a Wise multi-currency account, you can send and receive money worldwide for tiny fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate.
You can manage your money in 50+ currencies, spend on an international debit card in 200 countries and receive payments like a local in 10 currencies.
There’s no monthly fee or subscription!
It’s hard to say which bank is best for you, because this is largely a matter of personal preference. Whether you’re a student, a professional or a business, most banks have broadly similar products. Most current accounts are straightforward to open, but often have low interest rates and not many perks.
However, as an expat or new arrival from the UK, your best option is to choose one of Australia’s major banks, as these have the most extensive branch and ATM networks in the country.
Banks such as ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac also offer dedicated accounts for new arrivals, which are easier to apply for and can help you hit the ground running. We’ll look at each of these ‘big four’ banks in a little more detail next.
The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) has around 400 branches⁷ and 900 ATMs⁸ throughout Australia. It serves over 8.5 million personal, retail and business customers worldwide⁹.
The main bank account on offer at ANZ is the Access Advantage account¹⁰, 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 students¹¹ and for monthly deposits over a certain amount.
If you’re moving to Australia, you can apply for the ANZ Access Advantage account online before you arrive¹².
ANZ also has a full range of accounts and services for business customers.
The National Australian Bank (NAB) is one of the largest banks in Australia. It has around 9 million customers¹³ across Australia, New Zealand and worldwide. It has nearly 550 branches¹⁴ and more than 900 ATMs¹⁵ across Australia.
The main account type on offer is the NAB Classic Banking account¹⁶, which has no monthly fees and comes with a contactless visa debit card as standard. There are also no overdraft fees, ATM withdrawal fees or minimum deposit amounts.
The Classic account is available for students (NAB doesn’t offer a separate account specifically for students) and for new arrivals. This means you can apply from overseas, up to 12 months before you arrive in Australia¹⁷.
NAB also has two business bank accounts to choose from, depending on the size of your business.
Commonwealth Bank, or CommBank, serves around 15.9 million customers¹⁸ worldwide. In Australia, there are around 20 CommBank branches and over 100 ATMs¹⁹.
CommBank offers two main accounts for new arrivals to Australia. The first is the Everyday Account Smart Access²⁰, 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 three months before (or after) you arrive in Australia.
The second 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.
There are also two CommBank business accounts to choose from, depending on the size of your business.
One of Australia’s oldest banks, Westpac has around 800 branches²¹ and over 3,000 ATMs²² across the country.
The main everyday account on offer here is Westpac Choice²³, available for everyone from students to new arrivals. It comes with a Debit Mastercard, mobile and internet banking and cardless ATM withdrawals. 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.
There are also a number of business transaction accounts to choose from at Westpac, depending on the needs of your business.
There are many other banks in Australia, aside from the big four. Here are a few others to check out:
- Bank of Queensland
- Bendigo Bank
- AMP Bank
- Account fees - and whether you can meet monthly deposit limits
- Charges for other services, such as using ATMs and international transactions
- Ease of opening the account - can you open it online, and before you even arrive in Australia?
- Number of branches and ATMs - your chosen bank needs to be convenient to access
- Internet and mobile banking - if you prefer to bank on the move, look for an account which can be managed with a mobile banking app.
Most Australian banks either charge no monthly fee for everyday accounts, or a fee that is waived if you deposit around $2,000 AUD²⁴ or more every month.
It’s usually free to use your bank’s ATMs, but other ATM operators may charge their own fee. If you use an ATM overseas, there will nearly always be fees to pay. For example, at NAB, there’s a fee of $5 AUD per withdrawal²⁵ for using an overseas ATM.
If you go overdrawn, you can usually (although not always) expect a fee. For example, NAB’s Classic Banking account doesn’t charge overdrawn fees¹⁶, whereas a fee of $15 AUD will apply at CommBank²⁴.
On top of these fees, there will also be charges for international transfers. Banks tend to charge high fees to send money overseas, and even add a costly mark-up to the exchange rate. This could make it expensive if you need to send money between Australia and the UK.
Luckily, there’s a better alternative available. Send money internationally with Wise and you’ll only pay a small, transparent transfer fee. Better still, you’ll always get the real, mid-market rate, with no markup or margin added on top.
And that’s pretty much it - everything you need to know on how to open a bank account in Australia.
As long as you have all your documents ready, you should find it relatively straightforward. You can apply online for most bank accounts, then simply pop into a branch to verify your ID once you land Down Under.
Sources used for this article:
- Internations - opening a bank account in Australia
- Westpac - identification documents
- NAB - Classic Banking account
- CommBank - migrant banking
- NAB - open a bank account online
- Westpac - account opening affected by COVID-19
- MPA Mag - number of ANZ branches
- mortgagebusiness.com.au - number of ANZ ATMs
- ANZ - number of ANZ customers
- ANZ - Access Advantage account
- ANZ - student banking
- ANZ - Access Advantage for new arrivals
- NAB - number of NAB customers
- mortgagebusiness.com.au - number of NAB branches
- iTnews - number of NAB ATMs
- NAB - transaction accounts
- NAB - Classic account for new arrivals
- CommBank - number of CommBank customers
- CommBank - number of CommBank branches and ATMs
- CommBank - accounts for new arrivals
- DailyMail - number of Westpac branches
- Westpac - number of Westpac ATMs
- Westpac - Choice account
- CommBank - Everyday account rates & fees
- NAB - overseas ATM fee
Sources checked on 12-Nov-2021.
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.
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