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Money matters

Introductory Snapshot

It's easy for visitors to Australia to access money. There are automated teller machines (ATMs) in most Australian towns and all cities, as well as banks that will cash travellers cheques. The Australian dollar has become increasingly competitive against major international currencies like the US dollar and the euro, so the country is a less economical destination than it used to be. That said, daily living costs such as food and accommodation are still fairly inexpensive. The biggest cost in any trip to Australia if you want to see a lot of the country will be transport, simply because it's such a huge place.


Banking services in Australia are extremely competitive. More than 20 local and numerous international banks are represented in Australia and all major banks have many branches in each city and regional centre. Major banks in Australia include the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB) and St George. Normal trading hours are 9:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday and 9:00am to 5:00pm on Fridays. Most banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, however some institutions are opening for short periods on Saturday mornings.

Establishing bank accounts

Opening a local bank account relatively simple for overseas students. It is recommended you open an bank account within six weeks of arrival. Simply present your passport and provide the bank with a postal address. The bank will then open an account for you and send you an ATM card allowing you to access your money.

After six weeks most banks require you to provide more identification, such as a passport, a birth certificate or an international driving licence with photo. Some banks will waiver monthly account fees if you provide proof of enrolment as a full time tertiary student.

It is recommended you visit the website of the bank where you want to open your account for more details.

Banking ombudsman

The Australian Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman assists individuals and small businesses to resolve complaints concerning all financial services provided by banks.

For example there may be an instance where you see that money has been withdrawn from your bank account without your consent. In this case it may be necessary to talk to the banking ombudsman to resolve the issue.

Free interpreter services are available.

For more information on the banking ombudsman visit www.fos.org.au or call 1300 780 808.

ATMs, Eftpos & Credit Cards

Branches of the ANZ, Commonwealth, National, Westpac and affiliated banks are found all over Australia, and many provide 24-hour automated teller machines (ATMs). Most ATMs accept cards issued by other banks and are linked to international networks. Most shopping centres have automatic teller machines (ATMs). These can be used for deposits and withdrawals 24 hours a day.

Eftpos (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) is a convenient service that many Australian businesses have embraced. It means you can use your bank card (credit or debit) to pay directly for services or purchases, and often withdraw cash as well.

Credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted for everything, including getting cash advances over the counter at banks and from many ATMs. Charge cards such as Diners Club and American Express (Amex) are not as widely accepted.

Currency & Exchanging Money

Australia uses a dollars and cents system of decimal currency with 100 cents in a dollar. The bank notes in use are $5 (purple), $10 (blue), $20 (orange), $50 (yellow) and $100 (green). Coins used are silver 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents, and gold $1 and $2 coins. Australian currency is the only legal tender in Australia.

Changing foreign currency or travellers cheques (see following) is usually no problem at banks throughout Australia or at licensed money-changers such as Travelex or Amex in cities and major towns.

Transferring money

Money can be transferred to Australia by bank drafts or cheques and telegraphic transfer (TT). Bank drafts from overseas will take a few days to arrive and can take up to 10 working days to clear through an Australian bank. Telegraphic transfers usually take shorter time, but cost more.

Taxes & Refunds

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a flat 10% tax on all goods and services – accommodation, eating out, transport, books, furniture, clothing etc. There are exceptions, however, such as basic foods (milk, bread, fruits and vegetables). International air and sea travel to/from Australia is GST-free, as is domestic air travel when purchased outside Australia by non-residents.

If you purchase new or second-hand goods with a total minimum value of $300 from any one supplier no more than 30 days before you leave Australia, under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), you are entitled to a refund of any GST paid. For more details, contact the Australian Customs Service on 1300 363 263 or 02 6275 6666 or you can visit the website at: www.customs.gov.au

Travellers Cheques

The convenience of internationally linked credit and debit card facilities in Australia means that travellers cheques are not used much. Nevertheless, Amex, Thomas Cook and other well-known international brands of travellers cheques are easily exchanged. You need to present your passport for identification when cashing travellers cheques.

For security, record the numbers of your travellers cheques and keep these numbers in a separate location from the cheques themselves.

Shopping Etiquette

Bargaining is not the norm in Australia, unless you're at a second-hand market or buy a whole new wardrobe from one store, in which case it probably wouldn't hurt to ask for a small discount.

Tipping is becoming more common in Australia, particularly in cafes and restaurants in the bigger cities; a 10% tip is usual. However, you won't cause offence if you don't tip. Taxi drivers are always grateful if you leave the change.

Australia For Free

There are plenty of activities that cost nothing or next to nothing for those on a budget. Appreciate Australia's stunning natural beauty and native animals with walks through its pristine national parks – there are more than 500. Enjoy endless walks along endless beaches; go people watching at fantastic markets; learn about Australia's art and heritage at excellent free galleries and museums (see the Culture section); or attend some typically Australian festivals, like the surf life-saving competitions on beaches all around the country during summer. The list of free or cheap things to do is endless, so there's no need to let a student budget come between you and good times.

Working while you study

People granted student visas on or after 26 April 2008 will receive permission to work with their visa grant. If your student visa was granted before 26 April 2008 however, you can still apply separately to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) for permission to work once you have started your course in Australia.

Permission to work allows you to work up to 20 hours a week on a casual basis during course time and full-time during vacation periods. Family members can also work up to 20 hours a week throughout the year. In the case of students who have commenced a masters or doctorate course, family members can work unlimited hours. Students and their family members must not undertake work until the student has commenced their course of study in Australia. For further information please visit the Working while you study in Australia page.


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