- Apple Pay, Google Pay
- Monthly fees: $0
- No international transaction fees
- Up to 10 currencies
Foreign currency accounts
You can save on overseas ATMs, international transaction fees and foreign exchange costs with a foreign currency account. Plus, hold multiple currencies in the one account.
If you need access to multiple currencies, a foreign currency account is an easy option that can save you money in foreign exchange fees and charges. A foreign currency account, or multi-currency account, allows you to hold several different currencies at once, and switch between currencies when needed.
Which banks offer foreign currency accounts?
What is a foreign currency account?
Also known as a multi currency account, a foreign currency account is a standard Australian bank account that allows you to hold, send and receive funds in a foreign currency. These funds can either be exchanged into Australian Dollars or held in whatever currency they’re received in until you’re ready to exchange them. Foreign currency accounts can come in both business and personal versions.
How do I compare multi currency accounts?
Consider these features when choosing a foreign currency account:
- Number of currencies. Some accounts may allow you to hold 10+ different currencies, while other may only offer 2 or 3.
- Supported currencies. Check to ensure that the currencies you deal with most are available with each of the accounts you are comparing.
- Account minimum. Some banks will require that you maintain a minimum monthly balance in the account.
- Monthly account fees. Most banks are removing the monthly account keeping fee, but some still charge this, so it's worth checking before you choose an account.
- Additional fees. Read the fine print to see if you are subject to any cash handling fees for transactions. In some instances this could depend on the particular currency and the type of transaction you are making.
- Currency conversion charges. In addition to the exchange rate differences, the bank could also be charging you each time you convert your money to another currency (this is often called an international transaction fee).
- Transfer amounts. The amount you're able to transfer per transaction and per day will vary between banks.
- Transfer types. With most you are going to find that all overseas transfers are conducted as a bank to bank transfer.
- Money transfer speed. Look to see how long it takes to transfer money from your home bank to one overseas.
What currencies are available in foreign currency account?
It will depend on the account you choose as to what currencies you're able to hold. However, most will offer the following major currencies:
- Australian Dollars (AUD)
- United States Dollars (USD)
- Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
- Euro (EUR)
- Hong Kong Dollars (HKD)
- Canadian Dollars (CAD)
- Japanese Yen (JPY)
- New Zealand Dollars (NZD)
- Singapore Dollars (SGD)
- Renminbi (RMB) though currency restrictions often apply
Pros and cons of a multi-currency account
- Hold multiple currencies. You can hold multiple currencies in the one account and send and receive money directly in these currencies. This is very convenient if you do international business, are living abroad or have family overseas.
- Spend in local currency. You can use the debit card to make purchases in the local currency while you're overseas.
- Avoid international transaction fees. After you exchange the currency initially, you can deal in that currency without having to pay international transaction fees each time.
- Exchange rates. You can keep an eye on the exchange rates and convert your funds when the rates are favourable, instead of having to rely on the rate on the day of your transaction.
- Use the account locally. You can use the account as a regular bank account in Australia - no need to have two.
- Less choice. Not all banks offer foreign currency accounts, so you may not be able to open an account with your existing preferred bank.
- Not all currencies are supported. Most banks will offer the main currencies, however you'll likely to struggle to find an account that supports smaller, less common currencies.
Let's look at an example of how a mutli-currency account could be used
Let's say Matt buys stock from China and sells it in the United States. Without a foreign currency account the payment process would be a long and expensive ordeal. They would need to convert funds into Australian dollars when receiving payments from the US, and then convert this to Chinese Renminbi when they needed to purchase stock. This can come with extra fees, and would see them at more risk due to currency fluctuations when converting funds.
Since foreign currency accounts let you send and receive money in any currency, Matt could buy stock using Chinese renminbi, and receive payments from customers in US Dollars all direct into the one Australia-based bank account. Then they could decide when to convert funds into AUD when they wanted to.
*This is a fictional example, but a good way to demonstrate how a multi-currency account could be used.
What fees can I expect?
Some foreign currency accounts will charge a monthly account keeping fee, however many do not charge this anymore.
Some accounts will charge an international transaction fee, or currency conversion fee, when you initially transfer funds from one currency to another. This is often a percentage of the transaction value.
There may also be fees for depositing or withdrawing money from the account in a branch. Some institutions may offer unlimited deposits and allow a certain number of fee-free withdrawals per month, or vice versa. If you do need to pay fees for deposits or withdraws these will typically be under $10 per transaction.
If you receive many deposits each month it may be useful to find an account which offers free unlimited deposits.
How to open a foreign currency account
The process to open a multi-currency account is very similar to a regular bank account.
- Choose an account. Once you've compared your options and chosen an account, begin the online application on the bank's site.
- Verify your identity. As part of the application you'll need to verify your identity with at least 2 forms of ID, so have your passport, driver's license and/or Medicare card handy.
- Activate your account. Once your identity is verified and your account is opened, you can activate it by transferring some money from another bank account.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
The best standing desk in Australia: Our top choice of the year
If you're looking for a standing desk for the home office, the Omnidesk Ascent is our #1 choice for 2023.
Fast NBN plans are now cheaper. Is it worth switching?
It's time to sort out your NBN plan for the new year.
Save $1,583 a year by using index funds instead of active trading | Dollar Saver tip #60
Invest in an index fund instead of actively trading stocks and you not only save on time and fees, you could be earning more in returns too.
5 perks you can score by upgrading your internet this year
SPONSORED: Upgrade your internet before the end of 2023 and get ahead on your life admin! We take a look at some of the benefits of a faster internet connection.
Aussies are struggling to save money, and Gen Z blame themselves
Young Australians cite overspending as the main reason for not reaching their financial goals.
Shein IPO: How to invest in the Shein IPO
What you need to know about investing in Shein from Australia.
Best places to exchange currency in Brisbane
Your guide to currency exchange in Brisbane, including how to get the best exchange rate.
Waiting for rates to fall? Don’t bank on it, says ANZ CEO
Addressing speculation that interest rates might fall in late-2024, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott said he thought it was too optimistic.
Ask an Expert