Banking in Australia is efficient, convenient, and extremely safe. Branches with tellers and stand-alone ATMs are widespread and can be found almost anywhere. Internet banking is extremely popular in Melbourne, with different banks offering varying degrees of services online.
Recent years have seen banks making a strong push towards online services. Some banks have begun charging fees to speak with a teller in person, in an attempt to encourage their customers to adopt a self-service approach to banking. The convenience factor of these self-service systems can be high if you are comfortable dealing with non-human banking mechanisms, but have been known to cause problems in situations where face-to-face communication or explanation from a real-live human is needed.
Bank branches hours are usually 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday, although some close earlier. Some banks (Bendigo Bank and ANZ) are open on Saturday mornings, which is hugely convenient when you work during business hours and have a transaction that cannot be taken care of over the phone.
In and around the city, ATMs are widespread. If you use an ATM that is not operated by your bank (Competing Bank’s ATMs or independent ATMs), you will be charged $2-$3.
Electronic Fund Transfer at Point of Sale is widely used throughout Australia and supported by all banks and millions of merchants. This system allows you to pay for goods with a card directly linked to your savings or checking account, and a PIN. Like debit systems in other countries, EFTPOS incurs no extra fee (although merchants may set a minimum sale limit, usually around $10), and allows you to take cash out in addition to your purchase price.
Depending on your bank, international transfers may be initiated through your online banking service, or you may be required to visit a branch in person. International transfers usually cost $20-$50 to execute, and are often subject to exchange rates slightly below that days rates (by about 2 cents). International transfers are likely to receive some fee on the receiving country’s side, by institutional intermediary banks handling the transfer.
For some expats, it is simpler to connect their new bank account with an existing Paypal, Moneybookers or similar e-wallet account as this allows later flexibility when moving funds.
It is usually much more convenient for an expat to open an account with one of The Big Four Banks (see list below). However, if you are more impressed with the community feel of Co-Ops and local Credit Unions, you will probably find the fees are much lower and the service is more personal.
A Co-Op or Credit Union is as safe as a larger bank, but you will probably be able to shortcut problems with accruing the right amount of ID points and other regulatory snags by using the larger options.
The four major banks in Australia are:
- ANZ http://www.anz.com.au
- NAB http://www.nab.com.au
- Westpac http://www.westpac.com.au
- Commonwealth Bank of Australia http://www.cba.com.au
Although there are branches of foreign banks (including Bank of America, Barclays and Bank of China) in Australia, most of these are found in Sydney, and deal specifically with investment banking.