Can You Open an Australian Bank Account Online Before You Move?
The simple answer is yes. Not only can you open a bank account in Australia, but you can do it online, several months before you move. The best part is it takes only a few minutes.
Banking for people moving to Australia.
Not intending to move to Australia? Then you're looking for an international bank like HSBC that has branches all over the world, including Australia.
International bank accounts commonly have high monthly fees and a high minimum balance requirements. But these accounts also have the benefit of being accessible internationally and usually have high interest.
One thing to consider is ATM locations, which are limited for most international banks in Australia, one of the many reasons I recommend going with an Australian-based bank.
If you're entering Australia on a tourist or visitor visa, then you'll have to visit the bank in person to set up your account.
The banks and accounts I cover below are specific for expats or migrants looking to set up residency in Australia.
Bank Accounts Available to Foreigners and Expats Moving to Australia
Bank accounts specifically for people moving to Australia are migrant bank accounts.
Most Australian-based banks will have a section on their website for migrant banking or they'll have a moving to Australia page that lists the accounts available to customers moving and outlines the application process.
When you set up one of these accounts, the bank assumes you will live in Australia within the next few months. If you're not moving to Australia, then your banking options are more limited.
Australian bank accounts for foreigners and expats are very basic.
These bank accounts aren't the best accounts in Australia, with the highest interest rates. To open one of the higher interest accounts, you need to be living in Australia and have established residency.
We had a high-interest UBank Account we loved, but that's not the only bank with high-interest savings accounts.
Excellent resources for checking out banks are CANSTAR and Rate City, but again, don't worry about that until you're in Australia.
Types of Australian bank accounts you can open online from overseas.
- Everyday Transactional Accounts: Or what is more traditionally known as a checking account, but who the heck uses checks anymore. (My mom, that's who. Yes, she's the one who holds up everyone in the express lane at the grocery store as she drags out her checkbook and starts filling it out after they have rung everything up. Drives me, and everyone else in line, nuts!)
- Savings Accounts: Similar to an everyday transactional account, but with a slightly higher interest rate. Again, for accounts with better interest rates, you'll need to wait until you've settled into life in Australia and established residency.
- Joint Accounts: If you're moving with your partner, you can enter their details on the application too, but you both will need to be present when getting your ID verified in Australia.
- International Student Accounts: These accounts have no monthly fees while you’re under 25 and you’re a full-time or part-time tertiary student at an Australian educational institution. To verify your ID, you'll need your student ID and letter of enrolment.
How to Open a Bank Account in Australia From Overseas
Simple two-step process for opening your account online.
- Fill out a form online with your moving details and contact information.
- Verify your identification and provide your tax information for all countries where you're a tax resident. I'll get into that more below.
Sounds simple, right? That's because it is, but there are a few things to be aware of before you get started.
Let's start with the online form.
Filling out the banking form when opening an account in Australia.
When filling out the form, make sure that your name matches your name as it's listed on your passport. This is important when you verify your identification.
They'll ask you what Australian visa type you'll be moving with. You won't need confirmation of visa approval when filling out the form. The reason they're asking this is to establish that you've moving and not a tourist.
The Australian date format is day first, then month, followed by year. Most forms will correct you if you enter it wrong, but just in case they don't.
You'll need your approximate arrival date. If for any reason you need to change this, simply email the bank and let them know. Many people over the past year have had to change their arrival dates. It's ok, they get it.
You do not need a residential address in Australia to open a bank account.
All the banking forms will ask if you have one or for at least the suburb and state or territory you're planning to move to.
If you have a residential address that you can use, such as a relative or friend's address that you'll be staying at, then enter it.
Most people moving to Australia don't have a residential address yet. In this case, use your current home address overseas.
Some banks ask for occupation and an annual salary. If you don't yet have a job in Australia, ballpark it for the salary. As far as occupation, pick the one that best matches what you do.
You'll need to select a branch in Australia where you'll pick up your bank cards and verify your id.
All Australian banks have a location in Martin Place. Martin Place has a train station and is very easy to get to.
If you're going to stay at a hotel in Sydney when you first arrive, then go with Martin Place or a branch close by, like Elizabeth Street or George Street.
If you're going to stay at a vacation rental, then pick a branch that is in that area. Many people choose to stay at a vacation rental near where they are thinking about living in Sydney.
Take some time to Google Map the branch location and make sure it's near your vacation rental. Sydney is an enormous city. You don't want to pick a branch that's too far away.
Also, unlike changing your arrival date, switching branches is difficult, especially if you're already in Australia and realize you picked a branch that is far outside the city center than you expected. This is because they send your bank cards directly to that branch.
Retrieving the cards and sending them to another branch will take them longer than just going to pick them up yourself.
After you submit your completed form, you'll either get redirected to a confirmation page with your new account details or get a message that the bank is reviewing your form and will be in touch shortly. Each bank has its own way of doing things.
The confirmation page most likely will have a couple of follow-up steps listed and a welcome letter pdf that you'll need to print out and present to the bank when you arrive. Make sure you save the pdf and your new account details.
The online form will take only five minutes to fill out once you have all your information ready to go.
Verifying your identification in Australia.
Unfortunately, you'll have to be in Australia to verify your id and get full access to your new account.
Most Australian-based banks do not have locations overseas that offer personal banking services. When an Australian bank has a location overseas, they usually only handle corporate accounts or larger foreign investment accounts.
The good news is that verifying your id is a simple process.
You'll need your passport and account confirmation details. Remember the pdf that you printed up or saved when you filled out your banking form? You'll need a copy of that too.
International student bank account verification requires two additional documents: student identification and enrolment letter.
They will also require you to list all the countries you file a tax return in and your tax identification numbers for each country.
So if you're moving to Australia from the US and that's the only country you currently file a tax return in, then you'll need to give the bank your Social Security number. If you're moving to Australia from the UK, then I think it's your National Insurance Number. Now, if you file taxes in both the US and UK, then you'll need to give them both numbers.
Yeah, I know, I don't like giving anyone my Social Security number either or any identification numbers, but it's the law in Australia and your account will not be active until you do.
You don't need to bring in a physical copy of a past tax return or your Social Security Card. Instead, you'll simply fill out a form declaring your country tax residency, sign and date it.
Do you need a tax file number (TNF) to open a bank account in Australia?
No, you do not need to have your Australian tax file number to open a bank account.
You will need to add your TNF to your bank accounts when you get one or you'll pay taxes on any interest earned at the non-resident tax rate.
Adding your TNF is easy to do once you have your account setup. Simply log on to your account settings and add it there.
I have a post all about getting your Australian tax file number here. It can be a little tricky because you'll need a residential mailing address to receive your information.
Ok, so the obvious question now is why bother opening an account if it won't be active until you verify your id in Australia.
Benefits of Opening a Bank Account in Australia From Overseas
The main benefit has to do with verifying your identification.
Since you're opening a migrant bank account from overseas, the bank knows you will not have all the usual documents required to open an account as a resident of Australia.
This is something you will come up against again and again. It's called the 100 Points of ID Check.
What is the 100 Points of ID Check in Australia?
I have a couple of posts that cover this in more detail and you should definitely familiarize yourself with this id check because you'll need to pass it when filling out your first rental application and when you set up your mobile accounts.
So really quick.
To pass the 100 Points ID Check you'll need one primary photo ID that will usually be equal to about 50 to 70 points. Your passport will most likely count as your primary photo ID.
Next, you'll need a secondary non-photo ID that's worth between 10 to 40 points. You can use an ID that has your photo on it, but it can't also count as both your primary and secondary. You'll need at least one of each.
Examples of secondary non-photo identification.
- Medicare Card
- Healthcare Card
- Birth Certificate
- Driver's License (Doesn't have to be an Australian driver's license.)
Please note these are examples. Every 100 Points ID Check is different.
Now the fun begins.
So the aim is to reach 100 points. If you have two secondary forms of non-photo identification plus your primary photo identification, you're usually good to go. If not, then you'll need to stack up other forms of identification until you reach 100 points.
These supplemental forms of identification are usually worth a few points each, so the more you have, the better your chances of reaching 100 points.
Examples of supplemental forms of identification.
- Australian Tax Office with name and residential address in Australia.
- Rental lease agreement.
- Utility bill with name and residential address in Australia.
- Mobile phone agreement.
- Credit Card.
- Council rates notice with residential address in Australia.
Notice a problem?
Chances are you will not have a few of these because you won't have a residential address in Australia yet.
In fact, to get your Australian Tax File Number, you'll need a local residential address. But to reach 100 points of identification for your rental application, you'll need either your bank statement or utility bill from your previous rental in Australia or council rates notice, none of which you'll have yet.
It can be pretty tricking to reach that 100 points when you first arrive in Australia.
Having your bank account already set up in Australia will help with reaching that 100 points for your first rental application and getting your mobile account set up.
Of course, the other benefits of having your account already set up is freeing up time when you arrive and having something on your moving to Australia checklist done and dusted. I love crossing something off a to-do list.
Do You Have to Open Your Bank Account Before You Move?
Absolutely not. You can set up a bank account when you're in Australia without having to pass the 100 Points of ID Check as long as you open an account that is specifically for people moving and you do it online.
So if you walk into a bank in person and you haven't started the process online beforehand, then you'll need to pass the 100 Points of ID Check.
Most Australian banks also have a cutoff that they'll allow you to open a migrant bank account. Each bank is different, but it's usually within a month or six weeks after you arrive.
How Soon Before Moving Can You Open a Bank Account in Australia?
Each bank in Australia differs as far as when you can open your account. The timeframe ranges from 12 to three months.
I've yet to hear of anyone opening their account 12 months before they move. Most people moving usually open their account about a month before their arrival date.
What Are the Fees for Opening an Australian Bank Account Online From Overseas?
Australian banks that allow people to open an account before moving do not charge any monthly fees until the account verification or after a specified period, like 12 months.
Australian banks charge monthly fees if the minimum monthly deposit is maintained. The fees are pretty low, around $5 to $4 a month. The minimum monthly deposit is usually $2,000.
There are no monthly fees for international student accounts as long as you're under a certain age, usually under 25 years of age, and continue to be enrolled in an Australian university or qualifying education program.
If you're an international student and above the age cutoff, then you'll need to either maintain the minimum monthly deposit of $2,000 or verify enrolment at a qualifying Australian education institute to have the fees waived.
Other fees to pay attention to are international transfer fees and ATM fees.
International transfer fees are different for every bank, ranging from $35 to $11 per transfer. That for the bank in Australia receiving the transfer. Many banks will charge a sending fee also, so you end up getting hit on both sides when you transfer money from bank to bank.
I highly recommend that you DO NOT transfer money to Australia with your bank. Not just because of the stupid fees, but because of the horrible exchange rate you'll get with a bank to bank transfer and the markup on the exchange that is baked in the transfer.
I have a whole post on transferring money here with a special offer for SMG readers.
Many banks in Australia have agreements with each other, allowing their customers to make withdrawals from other Australian-based bank ATMs with no fees. These agreements are between Australian banks and not international banks or foreign banks.
Don't forget to check on banking and credit card fees from back home.
Before you move, check with your bank back home on any ATM fees they charge for overseas withdrawals.
Also, be sure to check on any foreign transaction fees from your credit cards.
Moving your banking completely over to Australia will take time. Keeping your current bank accounts and credit cards active is something to consider, especially if you have any trailing payments, like that student loan that seems like it will be with you for the rest of your life.
You might also want to keep your bank accounts active back home, at least until after you file your first tax return from overseas. Making a payment or getting your refund is easy when it's through a local bank and you'll sidestep all the international transfer fees I mentioned.
Transferring Money Into Your Bank Account in Australia
As of right now, you won't be able to transfer money to your new Australian bank account until you have given the bank your tax information for each country you're a tax resident.
This is a fairly new law and banks are working on a way to collect this information from you from overseas so that you'll be able to transfer funds before you arrive. But as of right now, banks in Australia that allow non-residents to open accounts haven't sorted this out.
Again, having your bank account and credit cards from back home still active will get you through until you can transfer money to your new account in Australia. Check on any foreign transaction fees and ATM fees.
Transfer money fast with Wise.
One option for transferring money fast is Wise, which can take less than a day for popular currency exchanges like USD to AUD or GBP to AUD.
I haven't used Wise personally, but I hear about it from almost everyone moving to Australia. Their multi-currency accounts are very popular with Digital Nomads.
Wise also has debit cards. You can load up a Wise debit card with several currencies. Watch out for their ATM fees, especially if you're planning on withdrawing large sums of cash.
Wise charges a nominal fee plus a variable fee of 0.35% – 0.42% with every currency exchange, but their exchange rates are very good, so it's worth checking out.
One thing that Wise doesn't do as well as a forex broker like OFX is locking in an exchange rate.
I would recommend contacting a forex broker when transferring sizable sums. Timing is everything with exchange rates and being able to lock in a rate can make a big difference.
What you need to transfer money to your new bank account.
To transfer money to your bank account in Australia, you'll need to provide either Wise or OFX:
- Name of Bank
- Bank BIC/SWIFT code
- BSB (bank, state, branch) and account number
- Branch name and address
- Your full name (no initials) and street address (cannot be a post office box)
Minimum Age for Opening a Bank Account in Australia
Most Australian banks require you to be over 18 years old, although some accept applications for as young as 14 years old.