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If you’re planning on living in Australia, whether temporarily or on an Australian permanent residency basis, your finances will be one of the first things you’ll need to organise.

Here’s what you need to know about Australia’s currency and banking system, including opening a bank account and doing international money transfers.

Australia’s currency (AUD)

The Australian decimal system using dollars and cents was implemented in 1966, and currently comes in the following denominations:

  • Polymer notes – $5 (light purple), $10 (blue), $20 (orange), $50 (gold) and $100 (green).
  • Coins – 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c pieces which are silver. $1 and $2 gold coins.

One and two cent copper coins were phased out in 1992, while $1 and $2 notes were replaced by gold coins in the 1980s.

If you go shopping using AUD cash, the cost of your goods will be rounded to the nearest five cents – so $1.68 will be charged as $1.70. If you pay by electronic transfer however, the exact amount is likely to be charged.

Banking in Australia

Australia has four major big banks, these being the ANZ, NAB, Westpac, and the Commonwealth Bank (CBA). There are also a number of smaller banks, as well as building societies and credit unions. Banks and financial institutions are regulated by  the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). The Australian Government guarantees bank deposits of up to $250,000.

Opening a bank account

Some Australian banks will allow you to open a bank account up to three months before your arrival, using online forms and identity documents. Once you land, you will need to attend the branch where your bank account is held to provide your original or certified documents, and to activate your account.

Types of accounts include transaction (everyday) accounts, cheque accounts, and savings and investment accounts. When opening an account, it’s important to check your bank’s fees, interest rates, and other terms and conditions.

To open an account you will need 100 points of ID. Recommendations for this include original or certified copies of your visa, passport or national ID card, your driver’s licence and birth certificate, and a citizenship certificate if you have one.

When you open an account, you should be issued with a debit card and a four-digit personal identification number (PIN). You can use your card at ATMs to withdraw cash, check your balance or transfer funds between your accounts, or to shop at stores which accept EFTPOS. You may also have the option of using PayPass or Tap and Go to pay for goods, without using your PIN. However, these ‘contactless payments’ are limited to $100.

If you register for internet banking, you will be issued with a secure login and password. You can use online banking to pay bills using BPay (an instant bill payment system), transfer funds, check your balance, view statements and just generally manage your accounts.

Salary deposits

Most Australian employers pay their employees through electronic transfer directly to their bank accounts. You will need to provide your employer with your account details, which includes the:

  • BSB number: A six-digit number that denotes the banking institution, the state, and branch number where your account is held.
  • Account number: The number issued by your bank, which will vary in length depending which bank you use.

International transfers

Should you wish to send money overseas in AUD or another currency from your bank account, there are a couple of ways to do so:

  • Using your online banking system – for this you will need to know the recipient’s IBAN or international bank account number and the bank’s SWIFT code.
  • International bank draft – a guaranteed cheque obtained from your bank which you would then need to send by mail overseas.

Security matters

It’s important to keep your financial details as secure as possible. Tips include:

  • Keep your PIN and online banking details confidential.
  • Avoid writing down your PIN if you can – try to memorise it instead.
  • If you use a mobile banking app, take particular care with your mobile device – such as by setting a password to unlock it.
  • If you discover unauthorised transactions report them immediately to your bank.

It’s also important to be aware that if you receive an email from your bank asking for details or inviting you to click on a link, it’s likely to be a scam.

For more information on immigration to Australia feel free to contact one of our registered migration agents.

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