Banking in Australia

by Barclays Wealth International on April 14, 2010

Your guide to expatriate banking services in Australia

Australia, located in the southern hemisphere, is the world’s sixth largest nation by area (and the only one that spans an entire continent) and has a population of about 22 million people. The Australian economy is strong, with a per capita income on a par with the major Western economies. During the 1990s, Australia had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies according to the OECDs (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development).

Australia emerged relatively unscathed from the global financial crisis of 2009, largely because of a high demand for its exports, Chinese investment, a healthy financial sector and fiscal and monetary stimulus from the Australian government. As a direct response to the global ‘credit crunch’, Australia has seen a recent tightening of its monetary policy.

The Australian banking system is highly sophisticated, and offers a full range of financial services to Australian residents and visitors to Australia. The official currency in circulation is the Australian dollar (AUD), and as of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately 1.80 Australian dollars to £1 GBP (pound sterling).

Australian banks

Central bank – Australia

  • Reserve Bank of Australia

Major Commercial banks in Australia

  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ)
  • Bank of Queensland
  • Bank of Western Australia (BankWest)
  • Bendigo Bank
  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • Macquarie Bank
  • National Australia Bank
  • St George Bank
  • Westpac Banking Corporation

Foreign banks in Australia

  • Bank of Cyprus Australia
  • Bank of New Zealand
  • Barclays
  • BNP Paribas
  • Deutsche Bank
  • HSBC
  • Laiki Bank (Australia)

Bank opening times in Australia

Banking hours in Australia are very similar to the UK, with most local banks opening between 9.30am to 4pm (Monday to Thursday) and 9.30am to 5pm on Fridays.

Some city branches open from 8am until 6pm (Mondays to Thursdays), staying open until 8pm on Fridays, and some banks and building societies open on Saturday mornings. In rural areas, banks may only open for business on one or two days a week.

Bank branches located in international airports, supermarkets and shopping centres often offer extended opening hours, and in many cases are open seven days a week.

Banking services in Australia

Australian banks are leaders in online banking, and more than half of all the country’s bank transactions are electronic. The development of technology, such as video telephone banking will soon enable customers to conduct their financial matters remotely but face-to-face, and in the future, Australian banks are likely to have even fewer branches, with almost all banking transactions expected be completed online or by phone in the next few years.

Other ways of banking

Building societies in Australia are similar to their UK counterparts, although not as common in Australia as in the UK. Around 3 million people are customers of the Australian building societies, and their assets of around $13 billion held on deposit equate to approximately 5 per cent of the total financial services market.

GiroPost is a banking service offered at over 3,000 Australia Post outlets, in association with around 10 banks and dozens of credit unions.

The main types of bank account in Australia

Banking in Australia has many similarities with the major European countries. Most Australian banks offer a choice of facilities, allowing you to operate your account online, by telephone and in branch. More recently, a number of banks now offer full mobile banking facilities, to cater for customers living in more remote areas.

Common account types include;

  • Current accounts, commonly referred to as transaction accounts, provide customers with debit card facilities (with ATM access) and a cheque book, as well as access to branch and telephone banking services. Typically pay low rates of interest, but offer easy access to funds held on deposit.
  • Savings accounts – offer lower interest rates, with some restrictions on withdrawals and access to funds
  • Deposit accounts – offer higher rates of interest, but typically offer limited access to funds held on deposit.

Depending on the account and the issuing bank, you may receive a debit/ATM card, a chequebook or even a credit card, with a savings or deposit account. Bank statements are usually issued on monthly or quarterly, with interest calculated daily and paid quarterly.

Opening a bank account when you arrive in Australia

If you are emigrating to Australia, you can open a bank account with just your passport as a means of identification, providing that you do so within six weeks of arrival.

If you are not an Australian resident, you will have to pay a withholding tax of 10 per cent on any income you earn on bank deposits in Australia. This tax will be deducted at source by your bank.

Opening a bank account before you arrive in Australia

You can open a local account by post before you leave for Australia. You will need to include a certified photocopy of the main pages of your passport, including your visa (if applicable). It must be certified by a professional person (such as a doctor, lawyer or teacher), and you may also be required to provide a copy of your driving licence.

Another option is to open an international bank account, which will give you access to a wide range of secure international banking services, including online savings account and offshore banking options, as well as money transfer facilities and international online banking.

These services can be used by clients who will be living and working in Australia, and also when travelling between international locations.

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