Ready to Go to Australia
You will soon become an expert at international banking transactions. Regardless of how much spending money you plan to bring, you will at some point want quick access to your funds. You will also want to protect your money against loss. This section covers your banking options.
There is no single, complete way to manage your money, but we find that a combination of services meets the needs of most students.
The Australian unit of currency is the Australian dollar, which we abbreviate as $A. You can check today's rate by visiting this exchange rate currency calculator.
Cash and ATMs
The easiest way to handle your money is with an American ATM card. The advantage to using your card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. You should check with the issuer to make sure your numerical PIN number will work abroad. You can only draw from a primary (usually checking) account. Cirrus and Plus is are typically accepted at any major bank in Australia (ie, Westpac, Commonwealth, NAB). Australian banks typically charge a fee for the use of their ATMs, but check with your home bank to see if they have a partner bank that you may use with withdraw funds from without a fee (ie. Bank of America is partnered with Westpac).
Disadvantages Also Exist
American ATM cards are difficult to replace quickly if lost or stolen. Take your American ATM card with you, but it is advisable to always have another source of money.
Travelers checks can be helpful in case your wallet is lost or stolen, or for an initial monetary amount on opening a British bank account, but are not recommended for everyday use.
You can use credit cards in Australia for everything from drawing cash to buying dinner.
While Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express for purchases, American Express offers its card holders some very useful financial services. Check with each company before you depart.
With an AmEx card and your passport, you can go into any American Express office and write a personal check in U.S. funds using your checkbook from your checking account back home. You will receive a portion of your funds in local currency and can purchase travelers checks with the rest. This is the simplest way for your family to transfer money to you in Australia.
Visa and MasterCard
Both cards are widely accepted at shops throughout Australia. You may also draw cash at participating banks; be aware, however, that interest accrues from the first day. Check with your issuing bank for further information.
Drawbacks to Plastic
Even with careful planning and strict adherence to a budget, it is frighteningly easy to overspend. Finance charges can add up quickly if you extend payment on goods or take out cash advances.
Obtaining a Major Credit Card
The card you present overseas must be in your own name as given on your passport. At a cardholder's request (your family), most major lenders will issue a dependent's card.
Australian Bank Accounts
You will have the ability to open a bank account on campus at your Australian university. To do this, you will need:
- your passport
- driver's license
- Australian student ID
You will be able to deposit personal checks into this account. The bank on your campus may be able to accept wire transfers for a nominal fee (you should verify this upon arrival). Bank hours are generally from 9:30 - 4:00 Monday through Thursday and 9:30 through 5:00 Friday.
In An Emergency
When the program is in session, our Melbourne office makes emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home. If you find yourself in dire straits while traveling outside Australia, the State Department can help your family transfer money back to you (provided you are a US citizen). To do this, your family must wire money through Western Union or their bank, or send a cashier's check or money order to the State Department in Washington, DC. A trust account is established and a telegram is sent to the appropriate US embassy or consulate overseas, authorizing next workday disbursement to you. The State Department fees for this service range from $15-$40.
For further information about this service, check the State Department's website.