How to open a bank account in Australia: Your full guide [2022]

Planning to relocate to Australia? Or maybe you’ve already arrived and need an account to manage your money in AUD while you’re there?

If you’re relocating you’ll be able to get an account with a traditional bank in Australia – but you won’t be able to complete the application process until you actually arrive. That means regular banks may not be the best choice if you want to use your account before you land, or if you’re looking for a non-resident account to manage AUD payments. The good news is that there are some alternative options available.

This guide will take a look at the account opening process for traditional banks, and how non-resident accounts from modern alternatives like Wise or Revolut compare.

Go to Wise Go to Revolut

What documents do I need?

Some big Australian banks let you start the process to apply for an account before you arrive in Australia if you’re coming to live, work, or study. Eligibility requirements will still apply. For example, you’ll need to plan to move within a fixed period of time, and you may not be able to open an account if you don’t plan to stay in Australia long term. This means that tourists and people in the country on working holiday visas may be excluded.

Once you arrive in Australia you’ll need to complete the account opening process by providing your paperwork in a branch, and checking all your information is up to date.

The documents you need to open a bank account in Australia will depend on the specific bank and account you select. You can expect to be asked for:

  • Proof of identity (like a passport or ID card)
  • An Australian residential address
  • Your Tax identification number (TIN) for any country where you’re a tax resident

If you want an account you can use before you physically arrive in Australia – or if you don’t meet the eligibility requirements for a traditional bank – you may be able to get an AUD account through a specialist provider. More on that below.

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

Specialist services like Wise or Revolut offer multi-currency accounts which allow you to hold, receive, send and spend AUD – even if you don’t have an Australian address yet.

Open your account online or in the provider’s app, using your documents and proof of address from your home country. Because services like Wise or Revolut exist to help people who live an international lifestyle, documents from a range of countries can be accepted. Depending on the specific account you select you could get your own AUD bank details in just a few simple steps, an international debit card, low cost cross currency payments and more.

Go to Wise Go to Revolut

How to open a bank account in Australia

If you’re starting your application online before you move to Australia, you’ll need to complete the online form before heading to a branch on arrival in the country. Gather all the paperwork you need, and present this at a branch once you’ve moved and know your Australian residential address and tax number.

Can I open a bank account in Australia before arrival?

Start the account application process before you move to Australia, and visit a branch once you arrive to get your debit card and present all your documents. Different banks have different rules for this option – you can open a Commbank account if you’re moving within 3 months, or an NAB account if you plan to move sometime in the next year, for example.

Traditional banks may let you start your account application before arriving, but your account won’t work properly until you get to Australia yourself. If you need an account you can use to transact in AUD before you relocate, you might be better off with a specialist like Wise or Revolut. More on that coming up in a moment.

Which account is best in Australia for foreigners?

You’ll have plenty of options for a bank account once you’re in Australia. And depending on your preference, you could even start your application before you move. However, your account won’t work in full until you can get to a bank branch and update your details, including giving an Australian residential address.

Good alternatives include specialist financial technology companies. These allow you to open an account in full, online and without requiring an Australian residential address – they also tend to be cheaper and more flexible than traditional banks.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Service Wise Revolut Commbank* NAB*
Currencies covered 54 currencies including INR and AUD 27 currencies including INR and AUD AUD AUD
Eligibility Residents of a range of countries Residents of a range of countries People moving to Australia within 3 months People moving to Australia within 12 months, not on working holiday visa
Open before you arrive in Australia Yes Yes Start application 3 months before moving Start application 12 months before moving
Open online Yes Yes Start online; complete in branch Start online; complete in branch
Maintenance fee $0 Up to A$24.99/month A$4/month, waived for the first year $0
International transfers Low fee, varies by currency Fee varies by currency and payment value A$6 for most online transfers A$10 for most online transfers

*Commbank account profiled – Everyday Account Smart Access, which is recommended for people moving to Australia. NAB account profiled is the NAB Classic Banking Account – customers relocating to Australia can start to open this account online prior to arrival.

Traditional Australian banks could be a good option if you’re already in Australia with a local residential address. If not, you may be better off with an online specialist provider. Specialists often provide more flexible multi-currency accounts which are cheaper and easier to open.

Wise

11+ million customers from all around the world trust Wise to help them save when they send money overseas, and for cheap and convenient multi-currency accounts. You can open a Wise account using proof of address documents from your home country, to get local AUD bank details and start to receive, send and exchange Australian dollars right away.

In fact, with the Wise multi-currency account you can hold and manage 50+ currencies, get a linked international debit card, and local bank details for 10 currencies including AUD. That means you can get paid easily through local transfers, with no fees, from around 30 countries. And to help you save, Wise currency exchange always uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markups.

Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. You just pay a low, transparent fee for the services you use.

Eligibility: Apply with proof of address from your home country – or once you arrive in Australia. Full details of availability by location available on the Wise website.

Is it safe? Wise is regulated by ASIC, holds an Australian Financial Services License and is overseen by global bodies around the world.

Go to Wise

Revolut

Financial technology company Revolut offers a range of accounts you can use to hold, exchange and send 27 currencies including AUD. Different Revolut account tiers are available, including free plans and options with monthly charges which come with higher levels of fee free transactions and more perks.

Depending on the account you choose you’ll be able to get some fee free currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate, and extras like budgeting and savings tools, lounge access and travel perks. If you’re from an eligible country, apply for your Revolut account before you travel to Australia to get an account that can handle AUD before you even arrive.

Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to A$24.99/month.

Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.

Is it safe? In Australia, Revolut is regulated by ASIC, and holds an Australian Financial Services License.

Go to Revolut

Commbank

Commbank states that it helps more people moving to Australia than any other bank. You can apply for an account online if you’re moving to Australia within the next 3 months. However, you won’t have full account access until you arrive in the country and visit a branch to show your documents and get verified. At this point you’ll also need to provide an Australian residential address.

Commbank also has a good range of other online resources designed to help people who are relocating to the country.

Account types: Full range of accounts available, specific accounts recommended for people moving to Australia to work or study are Everyday Account Smart Access and Everyday Account Smart Access for Students

Eligibility: Customers moving to Australia to work or study within the next 3 months

Is it safe? Yes. Commbank is a large and trusted bank which holds an Australian Financial Services License and an Australian Credit License.

NAB

NAB also offers a service to allow people moving to Australia to start the account opening process in advance. You can apply if you’re moving within the next 12 months and are coming to the country on a full visa or permit – not as a tourist or on a working holiday. The NAB Classic Banking Account is recommended, and comes with no monthly fees, no overdrawn fees and free ATM withdrawals from 7,000 ATMs around Australia.

When you arrive in Australia you’ll need to visit a branch to show your documents, update your details and get your debit card issued.

Account types: Full range of accounts – NAB Classic Banking is the account recommended for people moving to Australia.

Eligibility: Customers moving to Australia to live, work or study within the next 12 months

Is it safe? Yes. NAB is fully registered, regulated and holds an Australian Financial Services License and an Australian Credit License.

What are the costs?

Australian banks offer a broad range of account products – and the types of fee you pay can vary a lot depending on the product you choose. It’s worth shopping around a bit to find an account that really suits you – be sure to check out the terms and conditions and look out for fees including:

  • Monthly maintenance fees – or fall below fees
  • International payment fees
  • Foreign transaction fees when spending or withdrawing with your card
  • Overdraft fees
  • Credit card costs including cash advances and interest
  • Account dormancy or early closure fees

As well as looking at the costs of traditional bank accounts, compare some specialist providers which may offer lower transaction fees, and a more intuitive user experience through online and in-app services.

Tips for transferring money

Sending an international transfer with an Australian bank can come with a confusing array of fees and a markup on the exchange rate applied. Before you move your money, check out these tips:

  • Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
  • Check the costs if you’re sending an international payment in AUD – the transfer fee is often higher
  • Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to see the transfer fee which will apply
  • Check if there are third party fees – these usually depend on the country and currency you’re sending to. Your bank may cover the costs. If not you could have the recipient pay, or choose to pay them yourself

Instead of sending your payment with your regular bank you might be better off sending your transfer with a specialist service like Wise.

Conclusion

While Australian banks are very willing to help people moving to the country to open an account, you won’t actually be able to use it until you arrive and visit a branch with all of your paperwork. This can be a problem if you need to be able to send or receive AUD payments before you travel – or if you’re looking for a non-resident account option.

Instead you could be better off with a multi-currency account with a specialist online service like Wise or Revolut. Get your account using your proof of address documents from your home country, with an easy in-app or online application and verification process. You’re likely to also benefit from lower fees and better exchange rates compared to a regular bank.

Go to Wise Go to Revolut

FAQ:

1. Can a foreigner open an account in Australia?

If you’re already a legal resident of Australia, or if you’re planning on relocating shortly you’ll be able to open a bank account in Australia. However, you won’t be able to use your account properly without presenting your documents in a branch – which means non-resident foreigners may struggle. If that sounds like you, you might find it easier to get set up with an online account with a specialist provider.

2. How much do I need to open a bank account in Australia?

Some bank accounts in Australia have minimum deposit and minimum balance requirements. Others, including specialist services, may be completely free to open with no minimum  balance – compare a few providers to get the best deal for your needs.

Can I open an Australian bank account online?

Some traditional Australian banks let you start the account application process online, but you’ll still usually have to visit a branch to complete verification checks. Instead, choose a specialist provider to open your account from home on your laptop or mobile device, with a more flexible verification process.

Can I open a bank account in Australia before landing?

You won’t usually be able to get a regular bank account until you can prove your legal residence in Australia. Specialist services like Wise or Revolut may be a better choice because they can accept international proof of address documents when you open your account.

By Ileana Ionescu Updated March 29th, 2022