Living in Australia? Just immigrated to Australia? Well, don’t stumble around ill-prepared for the banking world that will become an integral part of your day to day life in this country!

Understanding the banking of Australia before you get set up is vital in how you’ll go forward in maintaining your finances in this well developed and competitive system.

Banking information 101: Australia's major banks

Australia is dominated by 4 major banks. First in line is Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, more familiarly known as ANZ, which is the third largest bank as per market cap in Australia. ANZ was established in 1951 and are currently operating out of 34 other nations.

Next, we have the Commonwealth Bank of Australia established in 1911, Westpac Banking Corporation, (more commonly known as just “Westpac”). Westpac was established in 1982, has the largest branch network and is the second largest bank by Assets in Australia.

Lastly, to complete the list of Top 4, we have the largest of the financial institutions in Australia, namely National Australia Bank (NAB). In 2014 they even held the rank of the 21st largest bank by market cap in the world!!

Small Australian banks & credit unions

As with most countries, there will always be a list of top ranking and elite banking institutions, but don’t forget the “small folk!” There are a number of smaller banks, usually regional banks, including the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Suncorp Metway, Bank of Queensland, Bank of Melbourne, Bankwest, St George Bank, etc. A regional bank is a depository institution i.e. a Credit Union as an example, operating in one region of a country, and is customarily larger than community banks, but smaller than your money centre banks.

Enough of the history, let’s get to the good stuff!

Opening up your very own bank account in Australia can be a daunting task, but don’t fret! Make sure to get it up and running before your estimated time of arrival in the country to safeguard you of any unnecessary delays from unknowns and ultimately leaving you in a high-and-dry situation. Give yourself a period of approximately 3 months and you should be well within the safety zone for your application approval. When opening an account you can also benefit from additional service like credit cards, overdraft services or quick loans

Here are a few easy steps to follow in order to get this done seamlessly:

  • GO ONLINE and find the online application form for registering with the bank of choice. Most banks will allow you to do this, if not, you will need to further investigate how to go about registering before you get into the country. Make sure you have your passport and visa information close by for this part of the process, as they will need to have valid proof that you are able to enter the country.
  • YOUR APPLICATION will go through the motions and once it’s been processed, you will receive a notification stating such so that you can go ahead and start moving your money over into your newly approved “Aussie” account. Some banks don’t even charge account fees for the first 12 months if you’re immigrating and have made use of their online application form.
  • SO, YOU’VE ARRIVED, you made it and now you need to actually make your way over to the bank you registered with and flash your passport at one of the consultants in order to get approval for accessing your money. You’ll be issued with a debit card for all your future transactions and that’s it!

There’s no harm in only opening a bank account once you have arrived in the country if you so choose. All it means is that you should get this done within 5-6 weeks of your arrival. The only difference with this process of getting a bank account registered is that you won’t get your card straight away, it’ll arrive in the mail.

What to consider when choosing a bank in Australia 

  • Since you’re opening an account, are you required to pay application fees?
  • Will you have the option to start earning interest on a savings account that you open before even arriving in the country?
  • Are there multilingual personal bankers?
  • Does the bank in question have any opening and closing balance requirements?
  • Will you receive a Visa or MasterCard card at no extra cost? Or will there be additional fees required for this?
  • How widely covered is this bank from a networking point of view? How many branches do they have?
  • Are ATM’s  easily accessible around the country? Are they easy to use?

How to choose a bank account package

As an individual new to the country, let’s say, it’s pretty clear you would require a day to day banking account as you did in the country your emigrated from and if you had a savings account, then you should consider creating one of those in Australia too. There’s no rule book on which types of accounts you should be opening, it’s a matter of lifestyle and preference. Going by what you had before you arrived or planned on arriving is a pretty good start!

Australian currency & foreign exchange 

Australians transact with the Australian Dollar (AUD) and it's the 5th most traded currency in the world! You’ll often hear the terms “buck”, “dough” or “Aussie” when Australians are referring to money. The most popular Australian exchange rate is the USD to AUD rate and the currency is known as a commodity currency, due to its material exporting.

The symbol for Australian currency is the Dollar and the Cent. You’ll find bank notes for $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100, as well as coins for $1 and $2, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. 

Online mobile banking in Australia

This works in exactly the same fashion as you're used to if you have ever done online banking or telephone banking. The same rules apply when applying for this form of banking as well. Make sure to speak to an agent at the bank in order to get yourself set up! It's far easier to transact online than going into banks and it's just generally very handy to have this facility available to you.

Ways to pay for your goods in Australia 

  • EFTPOS (linked to a transaction account): EFTPOS is your standard Electronic fund transfers (EFT). However, with EFTPOS you can pay electronically for any of your goods in store at a point of sale.
  • Credit cards (linked to a credit account): Credit cards is a product we’re all familiar with, these are the cards we use for the purchase of goods when we don’t have all money available in our debit cards. It’s useful for large purchases that you can pay off over time, albeit with an interest rate attached, but still, it’s a handy card to have in anyone’s wallet for those rainy days and is accepted everywhere.
  • Credit, debit cards (linked to a credit, debit account): This is your standard Visa or Mastercard for swiping for transactions with your own money, not credit. If you’re familiar with using debit cards, they work in the same manner. Handy when EFTPOS isn’t available. You can also enjoy making quick and easy contactless payments
  • Cheques (linked to a transaction account): Are people still using these? While you may laugh, the answer, in fact, is yes! Not as often as they used to, but certainly for large payments and business transactions. They aren’t always accepted and at most places you will have problems paying with cheques, but there are companies that will accept them and in some cases you need them for large and business transactions.