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If you’re planning on moving to Australia, you’re probably feeling excited, but also a bit scared. Australia is an awesome country, with lots to explore. But it’s also really far away. And while it shares the same language as the US, it’s still quite different.
Thankfully, though, there’s one thing you can be sure of: opening a bank account is a straightforward process.
This guide walks through how to open a bank account in Australia, plus we’ll introduce Wise as a smart non-bank alternative you can use to hold, send, spend, receive and exchange AUD even before you even leave the US.
It used to be super easy to open an Australian bank account before you moved to Australia. However, most of the Australian big 4 banks have now withdrawn this service, so you can’t get started online before you move.
In many cases you’ll need to visit a branch even once you arrive in Australia.
One exception is Commonwealth Bank® which still has a service for online account opening for people who plan to move to Australia in the next 14 days¹. This can help you hit the ground running once you arrive, although you won’t actually be able to deposit any funds to your account until you’ve reached Australia and been verified in a branch.
If you want to arrange your move more in advance - and need access to USD and other currencies alongside AUD, you could be better off with a non-bank alternative like Wise. More on that next.
As with more or less anywhere else in the world, to open a bank account in Australia you’ll need some ID for verification.
This is an important step in securing customer accounts and complying with the law in Australia and globally.
Exactly what you need will depend a bit on your situation. Almost always though you’ll have to provide:
- Proof of an Australian residential address
- Proof of ID using a government issued photo ID such as a passport
As a US citizen or resident opening an account you may not be eligible for online opening with some Australian banks. Instead you can visit a branch to show your ID.
In this case you might be asked for extra documents, including a primary ID (usually your passport) and 2 secondary ID documents which show your full name and address.
These can include a birth certificate, Australian Medicare card or a letter from the Australian tax authorities for example.
Each bank has their own processes and their own list of accepted documents for account opening, so check carefully before you pick the right bank or provider for your needs.
If you’re interested in a more flexible way to manage your money you may like the Wise Account.
Wise isn’t a bank, it’s a Money Service Business licensed and regulated in the US and a broad range of countries globally. With Wise you can open a powerful multi-currency account online or from your phone which can hold 40+ currencies, send payments to 160+ countries, and which comes with local account details to get paid in 9 currencies - including USD and AUD.
If you’d like, you can also order your Wise card to spend in 150+ countries, with mid-market exchange rates and low, transparent fees every time.
It’s hard to say which bank is best for you, because this is largely a matter of personal preference.
That said, your best bet is probably one of the big four banks, as these have the most extensive branch and ATM networks in Australia. This is an important thing to consider for convenience, and also to make sure you’ll not be stuck paying ATM fees too often (we’ll get into that shortly). But first, let’s have a look at what Australia’s big four banks have to offer.
NAB® serves over 8.5 million customers across Australia and beyond, and has an extensive branch and ATM network for convenience.
NAB’s core everyday account is the Classic Account, which has no monthly fees and comes with a contactless visa debit card as standard.
There are also no overdraft fees or minimum deposit amounts. For personal customers, NAB also has credit cards and savings accounts, with extra services for business and corporate clients, too.
Commonwealth Bank’s main point of difference for US residents moving to Australia is that you can start the account opening process any time within the 2 weeks before you move. However, it’s important to note that you won’t actually be able to fund or use your account until you arrive and get verified.
Generally, Commonwealth Bank has accounts to suit anyone, from a standard Everyday Account, to Basic Accounts, accounts for retirees or students, and even for children.
As with the other big 4 banks we’ve highlighted, there are also extensive business and corporate services available.
As a non-Australian you can usually open an ANZ® bank account in a branch, but the online account opening service may not be available. Generally for online opening you’ll need to already have your Australian visa in your passport as well as another document like an Australian Medicare card to hand.
That said, ANZ has a good selection of account options which makes it well worth looking at. There are everyday transaction accounts which have been optimized for different customer needs, savings accounts, term deposits and more.
Westpac® offers personal, business and corporate banking services in Australia and beyond. For personal customers there’s a good range of transaction and saving account types, as well as loans, credit cards, insurance, investments, share trading and international services.
As with the other banks we’ve looked at, unfortunately you can’t open a Westpac account from the US before you travel to Australia.
Most Australian banks either don’t charge monthly fees or have a low monthly fee which is waived if you deposit at least a given amount each month.
You’ll also find basic accounts with many banks which may not offer the full range of services you’d expect, but which do keep a lid on the fees you could run into.
Other costs you should consider - bear in mind that ATM withdrawals in Australia are only free if you use your bank’s ATM machines. Making a withdrawal from another bank’s ATM will often cost you in the region of 2 AUD per transaction, and international withdrawals can cost 5 AUD or so.
Spending in foreign currencies will also usually attract a foreign transaction fee in the region of 3% which pushes up your costs whenever you shop in person or online and pay in a different currency.
Before you pick an Australian bank to open your account with, be sure to go through the individual account’s terms and conditions - and fee schedule - carefully. Use this guide to start your research, and don’t forget to look at Wise as a smart and flexible solution to manage your money in AUD, USD and more.
Sources checked on 09.12.2023
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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