Handling Money in Australia for the Student

Australia’s currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD). As of 9/30/09 the exchange rate is 1.14 AUD per U.S. dollar.  Past participants have recommended that you exchange money before departure in order to have some cash available upon arrival.  They suggest bringing enough cash to last a week’s worth of living expenses.  This will include bus, train and taxi fares, payment of temporary accommodation, and meals.  Be sure to ask for small bills when exchanging money so you can pay for local transportation without needing too much change.

You can use credit cards in Australia for everything from drawing cash to buying dinner.  While Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express for purchases, American Express offers its card holders some very useful financial services. For each transaction, you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. You can only draw from a primary (usually checking) account and you should check with the issuer to make sure your numerical PIN number will work abroad.  There are some things to consider when using an American ATM card; the first is international transaction fees.  Be sure to ask each company about their international transaction fees because these fees can be fairly high.  Also, American ATM cards are difficult to replace quickly if lost or stolen so make sure you have other sources of money with you.

One way to handle your money is to open an Australian bank account.  You can wire money from your home institution to your account in Australia.  The advantages of opening an Australian account are:  Australian banks currently do NOT charge a fee for the use of their ATMs, you have easy access to bank employees that can help you if there is a problem with your account or if your card is lost or stolen, and if you chose to work, you can directly deposit your paychecks into your account.  Some Australian banks also have special packages for students that make it convenient to open and easy to close an account upon entry and exit of the country.  Examples of banks in Australia are Australian New Zealand Bank (www.anz.com), Commonwealth Bank (www.commbank.com.au) and Bank of Queensland (www.boq.com.au).  Note:  Before you can open an account in Australia, you must have an Australian address and telephone number. 

Even with careful planning and strict adherence to a budget, it is very easy to overspend. Finance charges can add up quickly if you extend payments on goods or take out cash advances.  Planning a budget and sticking to it can help you avoid overspending.