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Money transfers: A guide for international students

Studying in Australia? Here's how money transfers work, and how you can send and receive money while studying in Australia.

What you need to know:

  • It's easy to set up a local bank account once you arrive in Australia with a student visa and a local address. But most banks won't let you open an account before you arrive.
  • Students can send and receive money internationally via a bank transfer or an international money transfer.
  • Bank transfers can be secure and convenient, but typically slower and more expensive than money transfers. Compare transfer fees and exchange rates before sending money.

Opening an Australian bank account as an international student

If you want to open a bank account as an international student you just need:

  • Your address in Australia.
  • Your ID (passport).
  • Your visa details.

Once your account is set up, you can send or receive money easily. Some banks let you do the entire set up online, as long as you're already in Australia. Others need you to visit a branch in person.

Can I open a bank account before I arrive in Australia?

Most of Australia's biggest banks now require you to open an account in person at a branch. Some banks let you open the account online before you arrive, but you still need to visit a bank branch to activate your account.

  • Commonwealth Bank. Open up a transaction account up to 14 days before you arrive. But you have to visit a branch with your ID before you can use the account.
  • Westpac. Open online in 3 minutes once you're in Australia.
  • NAB. You need to visit a branch to open an account.
  • ANZ. You can set up an account once you've arrived in Australia.

HSBC lets international students open an Australian bank account online before they arrive. But you need to be from one of these countries:

  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Hong Kong SAR
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Singapore
  • UAE
  • UK

Sending money to and from an Australian bank account from overseas

Once you've got an Australian bank account set up you have 2 way to send money back home (or somewhere else):

  • Bank transfer. You can send money from a bank account in your home country directly into your new Australian bank account. It can take up to 5 business days to receive the funds in a bank transfer. You'll have to pay a fee for the transfer. Also look at the exchange rate, as this can vary widely between different banks and money transfer services.
  • International money transfer. You can use an international money transfer service to send money between your home country and Australia. A money transfer service can send money to a designated bank account, or you can choose to pick up the money from a local transfer agent near you.

Bank transfer or money transfer: Which is better?

Money transfer services tend to be cheaper than bank transfers. But you should always shop around and compare costs.

Look at the following:

  • The exchange rate. Every bank and money transfer provider has slightly different rates when sending and receiving different currencies.
  • The fees. Check what kind of international transfer fee your bank will charge, and see if a money transfer service has a lower fee.
  • The time. If you're in a hurry, a money transfer service may offer faster payment speed than a bank.

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