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Opening an Australian Bank Account from Overseas

How to Open an Australian Bank Account

Open an Australian Bank Account

One of the really important tasks that you will need to do as part of your move is to open an Australian bank account as there is no bank in the world that can transfer your current bank account(s) or credit history to Australia. The international banks who have offices or branches in Australia will also require you to open a new bank account that is based (or domiciled) in Australia. All the international banks, if they do have branches in Australia, they will not have very many; and this can be an issue if you need to go into a branch for any reason. For example, HSBC has only 32 branches Australia-wide and only one in South Australia. It will therefore pay off in the long run to open an account with one of the major Australian banks for ease of access when you first arrive as you will be able to move to any other bank for free at any stage after you arrive if you are not getting the service you expect from the bank you initially choose. It is also advisable to open an account as soon as you arrive in Australia as you will need to provide banking details to an employer so they can pay you and to be able to pay local bills without your overseas bank charging you fees for international transfers.

Bank Account Services for Migrants Australian Banks for Migrants Compared (click on the red text to the left for a comprehensive comparison of the bank account services offered by the four biggest banks in Australia and the one link for Commonwealth Bank at the bottom of the popup where you can open your bank account online no more than 2 weeks before you arrive in Australia.)

The four biggest retail banks (the “Big 4”) in Australia in alphabetical order are: ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac and we would recommend that you choose one of these four initially. There are a number of smaller Australian owned regional banks too and the largest of these include: Police & Nurses Limited (trading as P&N Bank), Suncorp Metway Limited (Suncorp), Bank of Queensland (BOQ), Bankwest (which is owned by Commonwealth Bank), AMP, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank (subsidiaries of Westpac), HSBC, Bank of Melbourne (owned by Westpac), Macquarie Bank, Members Equity Bank (ME Bank).

There are also a number of foreign owned subsidiary banks in Australia with a very limited number of branches: Bank of China (Australia) Limited, Citigroup (Citibank), HSBC Bank, Investec Bank.

Over the years, each of the “Big 4” has had various strategies to attract the retail banking of new migrants and each has a bank account opening service that allows you to open an account from overseas for deposits only and once you arrive in Australia and are formally identified (in person at a branch with your passport) you can access funds in the account and collect debit card(s) or arrange for them to be ordered where your bank does not pre-order them for you.

Recently, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and NAB have decided to focus their customer acquisition mainly on affluent migrants and have shifted their Migrant Banking segments into their Premier or Private Banking business units, relying on customers to serve themselves via the branch network. In our opinion this is not an ideal solution for someone new to Australia and we would suggest that you open an account that you feel best suits your needs for your initial arrival and then shop around for the best personal service or consider one of the smaller banks when you arrive. There is no fee to switch banks and the process can generally proceed smoothly when you are here.

Migrant Banking

As mentioned above, only Commonwealth Bank has an account opening process that allows someone to open an account from overseas from 14 days before you arrive in Australia.

The Process to Open an Australian Bank Account from overseas:

  • Log onto the Commonwealth Bank migrant banking website.
  • Complete on-line bank account application form.
  • Choose the best account that you feel best suits your needs.
  • You will receive an email confirming your bank account details and in some cases a letter from the bank as well as instructions on how to activate the account for withdrawals on your arrival in Australia.
  • At this point your account has been opened for deposits only, meaning that you can transfer funds into it with no limit on how much you need to transfer.
  • You will not be able to make any withdrawals or transfer funds out of your account until you are identified at a branch in Australia – some exceptions do apply, so check with your bank if you need access to your account before arrival to check if this is possible.
  • Before you arrive you may need to make an appointment with the bank branch to identify yourself and ensure that your debit card is available for collection.
  • Remember to let the bank know if you change arrival cities so your debit card(s) can be transferred to the new city for you to collect (where they offer card pre-ordering).
  • Within 6 weeks of your arrival in Australia you need to be identified in person with the passport you used to open the account.
  • The bank will activate your account for withdrawals (remove the debit restriction).
  • They will also give you your new debit card (where they pre-order them) and help you set up internet banking.
  • If you already have a job in Australia, and depending on your visa type, you can apply or a credit card.
  • Click on the table below for a summary and comparison between the Big 4 banks’ migrant banking services and the links to their migrant banking websites:

    Bank Account Services for Migrants Bank Account Services for Migrants

    Click to Continue to the next section (Transferring Money).

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