Currency and banking


The Australian currency is decimal, with the basic unit of one dollar equivalent to equalling 100 cents. Coins come in $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c units, while notes come in $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 denominations.

The notes are different colours and increase in size according to value. When shopping, your purchases will be rounded to the nearest 5c.

Opening a bank account

Before you leave your home country

Did you know that you can open a bank account with the Pulse Credit Union, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or the Westpac Bank before you leave home? We recommend you do this, as it means with just your passport as identification you can withdraw funds as soon as you arrive in Australia, rather than carry around large amounts of cash, which can be risky.

Once you open a bank account with either the Pulse Credit Union, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or the Westpac Bank you can transfer funds from overseas to be ready for you when you arrive. Note that you need to be 100% sure that you are coming to Australia, as you can only access these funds once you have arrived and have provided identification.

You can also open a bank account with the National Australia Bank (NAB) before you leave your country. Please note that whilst the NAB has Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) on Melbourne campus, there is no physical branch there, so you will need to first attend a branch off campus with your passport to activate your account fully so you can withdraw your money. Note also, if you have a card with China Union Pay access you will be able to withdraw funds from any NAB ATM without paying a withdrawal fee.

After you arrive in Australia

You should open a bank account within six weeks of your arrival, as you usually need only your passport as identification. If you apply for a bank account more than six weeks after you arrive, you will need to take photographic identification into the bank, including your passport. You are required to show 100 points of identification (e.g. passport = 60 points, Student ID = 20 points, credit card = 20 points).

Banks and Credit Unions

Credit unions in Australia are institutions that hold a banking licence and are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in the same manner as banks and building societies are.

The main difference between a credit union and a bank is that credit union members are both customers and owners. Since credit unions do not have external shareholders, all profits are reinvested into the credit union, providing more personal service, priority to member interests and fewer fees.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), EFTPOS & Credit Cards

Money can be withdrawn from Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) 24-hours a day. There is usually a daily withdrawal limit of around A$800 – A$1000.

We advise you only carry as much cash as necessary for a few days at a time. You may want to consider using your bank card to pay directly at the shops. EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) is more convenient and also allows you to withdraw cash at the point of purchase as well.

Major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard) are widely accepted to pay for products and services in Australia.

Opening hours

Banks are generally open Monday to Thursday 9.30am-4pm and Friday 9.30am-5pm (closed on the weekends and public holidays).

Useful banking information

There are some practical tips to help you choose a bank account that suits your needs, and use it efficiently, e.g. minimise bank fees. Smarter Banking provides some strategies to help you save your money, use electronic banking to save time and money, and plan your finance. You can also minimise banking fees by checking the fine print of any terms and conditions attached to your account (e.g. transaction costs - check the number of free transactions per month, or any charges for using other banks' ATMs).

Ask about student accounts which attract much lower account-keeping fees. Some banks will exempt students from fees for the duration of their course. You will need to show your Student Card or letter of offer.

Living costs in Australia

To help you plan your finances, you may want to know more about the cost of living in Australia, check out our estimated living costs.