Basics of banking in Australia
Opening a Bank Account
New arrivals can open a bank account during their first six weeks in Australia; with the only document needed being just a passport. If expatriates choose to open a bank account after their first six weeks in Australia, there are additional requirements to complete, such as a certified passport copy, proof of residential address, and a bank statement from the previous three months. Expats will also need to pass Australia’s 100 point' identification system, and all documents must be certified by a professional such as a teacher, doctor, lawyer or any other person of some public standing. Expats can also open an account by post.
It is common for people in Australia to have two bank accounts:
- Transaction account (Current Account) to meet regular and out-of-pocket expenses
- Savings Account for long term savings
There are various types of savings accounts that Australian banks and financial institutions offer: retirement savings accounts, deeming accounts, cash management trusts, mortgage offset accounts and savings investment bonus accounts.
Before opening an account, it is best to compare fees, interest rates and other services offered by banks, building societies and post offices, all of which provide banking services in Australia. The interest earned on transaction accounts varies between 2.25% and 3.45% on the account balance. The minimum opening balance could be as low as $1; however, you usually need to maintain a much higher balance to avoid bank fees and charges.
Banks are usually open for business from 9 or 9.30am until 4pm, Mondays to Thursdays, and from 9.30am until 5pm on Fridays, working through lunch time in cities and most towns. Some city branches function from 8am until 6pm, Mondays to Thursdays, and until 8pm on Fridays. In rural areas, banks may open for only one or two days a week. Some banks and building societies work on Saturday mornings. Extended working hours for bank branches at international airports, supermarkets and shopping centres are commonplace with some of these branches working seven days a week. Common banks in Australia include:
Electronic banking in Australian banks encompasses at least three-quarters of transactions. This includes internet banking, smart cards automatic teller machines (ATMs automated bill payment (BPAY), automated computer banking through dial-up services,) electronic funds transfer, stored debit cards, telephone banking, and touch-screen customer service terminals. Video banking services are also being established in some banks, to facilitate customer interaction with bank staff.
Credit and Debit Cards
Cash cards permit withdrawals of up to around $500 per day from ATMs 24 hours a day, seven days a week (provided they don't run out of money and you have money in your account). Reloadable ‘electronic cash' cards with a stored-value are also being introduced in Australia.
Most retailers and mail order businesses in Australia accept cash cards which are also debit cards. These are known as Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) cards and with these, you can pay any amount as long as you have money in your account or have an authorised overdraft.
Bankcard (Australia's own credit card organisation), MasterCard and Visa (and affiliates) are the most common credit cards in Australia while Diners Club, American Express and Carte Blanche charge cards are also widely accepted. All building societies, banks and many credit unions and major retailers like department and chain stores, offer their own credit cards in Australia.