Best Banks to Opt as an International Student in Australia
An important part of your time in Australia is organizing finances. Choosing the right bank, and having a plan for withdrawing Australian Dollars can save you hassles, frustration, and money. Especially if you are arriving in Australia during the peak of the university year (March-April) or immediately before the semester starts (July-August).
Banks for International Students in Australia
There are lots of banks in Australia but the ones you will use most often are ANZ, Commonwealth Bank (CBA), Westpac (St. George), National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac. There are many others but you will only see these banks in shops or when withdrawing cash from an ATM. You will also have to choose between either a bank account with your debit card (tap & pay) or one without the tap & pay facility which is less convenient.
Most international students will have a bank account to cash their paycheque to pay their rent and living expenses.
ANZ Bank is the largest bank in Australia. If you live in Sydney, they also offer multi-currency accounts where you can choose between USD, NZD, EUR, or GBP (via the Transferwise app). The bank charges a monthly fee of $8.00 if you have less than $10,000 on your account.
When withdrawing money from the ATM with a non-ANZ card, there are two fees:
one for using another bank’s ATM, and
another one for withdrawal of foreign currency cash advances (both are charged by ANZ).
Commonwealth Bank (CBA)
The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is the largest bank in Australia and is also part of the global network of Commonwealth banks. CBA does not charge foreign currency withdrawal fees when using your debit card on their ATM, but they do charge a fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM that belongs to another bank and they charge a monthly fee of $5.00 if your account balance is below $2,000 (this amount increases with the number of items you buy on your debit card).
Westpac (St. George)
If you live in Queensland and bank with Westpac (St. George), there are no ATM fees for using their machines but they do charge fees if you use an ATM of another bank. They offer multi-currency accounts too (USD, NZD, GBP & EUR) and they also have a tap & pay debit card. There is no monthly fee but there is a one-off $10 set up fee.
Outside of St. George, Westpac offers the same features. They do not charge foreign currency withdrawal fees when using their ATM, but they do charge fees if you use another bank’s ATM and there is no monthly fee.
National Australia Bank (NAB)
NAB does not charge foreign currency withdrawal fees if you use your debit card on their ATM, but they do charge a fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM that belongs to another bank and there is no monthly fee.
The first thing to know about banks in Australia is that most of them (ANZ, St George, NAB & Westpac) are part of the worldwide network of “Westpac” banks. That means that you can use these four banks’ ATMs worldwide without paying fees (via the redi2PAY card).
As mentioned above, Westpac has a tap & pay debit card where you can make purchases in Australia and abroad by simply tapping your card onto a machine. All four banks have apps to monitor your account from your phone, transfer money between accounts and pay bills online.
All four banks have partnerships with other local banks to offer customers better deals through their “white label” bank. Benefits of Using a Bank as an International Student in Australia
Many international students studying in Australia find that they are paid wages or salaries while on their courses. Banks tend to offer this service at an attractive rate of 2% plus $3.00 per month for any overseas currency required by the student. It is advisable to take out a bank account before leaving your own country so you can get used to the different types of accounts and how to operate them.
However, if you are going on a working holiday visa, you should take out a bank account before departing your home country as banks will not offer an overseas bank account once you have left your own country.
If you arrive in Australia without a bank account, various banks offer accounts to overseas students.
Through your bank account you will be able to:
Transfer money online and over the phone;
Receive direct deposits from employers;
Make withdrawals and purchases with EFTPOS (an electronic version of a cheque);
Set up an Automatic Savings Plan (ASP) to save automatically or conveniently transfer money to another account;
Pay bills by direct debit.
Assuming that you are arriving in Australia with enough money, it is advisable to open an Australian dollar account once you arrive. You will need to provide two forms of identity (e.g. passport, credit card, and driver’s license). You may also need to provide a place of residence and income information (e.g. an employment contract).
You may want to open an Australian dollar account instead of bringing your home currency with you as it is almost impossible to exchange every country’s currency into Australian dollars or to purchase goods in shops that only accept foreign currencies such as American Dollars.
If you are studying in Australia, it is not advisable to have your home currency account. You will have to pay a fee every time money is exchanged from another country’s currency into the Australian dollar. If you are not studying in Australia but want to keep your home currency there are options available, such as HSBC bank who reserve the right to refuse an account for an overseas student who does not meet certain requirements.
Apart from the general benefits, some international students find it beneficial to pay their bills (e.g. mobile phone and electricity) using direct debit through their bank account while some like using internet banking facilities to access their accounts online.
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