Settlement Guide

How to open a bank account in Australia

Source: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Here’s what you need to know about opening a bank account in Australia.

When you move to Australia, one of the first things you'll need to sort out is a bank account. From organising accommodation, to getting paid by your employer, having an Australian bank account is essential to make these everyday tasks easier. 

“A lot of companies don’t deal in cash and they require payments at certain times,” says former banker James Wakim.

“It is an element of convenience that you can do it from home, rather than physically attend the place, so the vast majority – I’d say 80 to 90 per cent of all payments are done outside of cash and on that basis you do need a bank account.”

The banks

The big banks are implicated in ASIC’s review
The four big banks. (AAP)

Four large banks dominate banking in Australia (ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth, NAB), but there are also many smaller banks offering financial services. The bank system is very regulated by the government.

On top of a transactions account, you can also open other types of accounts like a savings account or a term deposit, where you get small rewards for saving money.

Banks want more account holders, so they will usually make it easy for you to open an account. If you’re not comfortable talking finances in English, they can help you.

“You find a refugee from Africa can go into any bank and if they cannot understand any English, we either get a NAATI translator or someone in that bank that can speak your language,” explains business consultant Mariangela Stagnitti, who has thirty years of banking experience dealing with new migrants.

How does it work?

Woman and man shaking hand
CC0 Creative Commons

You can open an account online or by visiting a bank branch in person.

You’ll need at least two pieces of identification, which should total 100 points or more. Here’s how the points system work:

  • Birth Certificate
    Citizenship Certificate

70 points

  • Drivers Licence (full / probationary / learner)

40 points

  • Any card on which your name appears:
    Medicare card
    Library Card
    Union Card

25 points

  • Documents on which your name and address appear:
    Car registration
    Utility bill
    Rental receipts

25 points

For example, you could show your passport plus your driver's license - OR - your passport plus your Medicare card and an Internet bill.

You can still open an account if you’re on a working-holiday visa, a student visa or another type of temporary visa. You don’t need to be a permanent resident or citizen.

What you get

You’ll get a bank card with a four-digit Personal Identification Number – called PIN – which is needed to withdraw money from an Automatic Teller Machine, called ATM, or is required when you make big purchases.

You shouldn’t share the PIN with anybody as you risk getting your money stolen.

Shop around for your bank

Woman at a computer
CC0 Creative Commons
CC0 Creative Commons

It’s worth taking the time to have a look around to see what bank fits your need the best.

One might have an easier to navigate banking system, another one might offer better service in person and another one might have better saving plans.

Think about what works best for you. Ask your friends, family and community what bank they use and if they would recommend it.