If you’re planning to spend some time in Australia, you’re probably wondering about the best way to convert your money into Australian dollars. Most people choose to bring some dollars with them on their trip, but converting your money before you travel may not always be the cheapest option – and what happens when you need more cash? Should you be using your credit card to withdraw money? It all depends on how long you are looking to stay in Australia, but for long stays we recommend you do an international money transfer from your home country to an Australian bank account. In this article, we’ll help you decide on the best option for you when it comes to getting cash in Australia.
Bring cash with you from your home country
Most travellers will bring some cash with them when travelling to Australia, which is generally a good idea. However, keep the amount of cash within reason – you don’t want to be left broke if your wallet is stolen or goes missing.
You can exchange your cash from your home currency to Australian dollars before you leave, either at a bank or at the currency exchange desk at the airport. Note that most exchange offices, especially in airports, charge a very high fee to exchange your currency. This fee can vary between $5-$15 (AUD).
How much cash can I take into Australia?
There is no limit to the amount of cash you can bring into Australia, but anything over $10,000 (or currency equivalent) must be declared. This can be done at the customs examination area when entering Australia. The form can be filled out at the international airport or seaport, or you can download the form here.
Wise offers mid-market exchange rates and you can also get a debit MasterCard and pay in the local currencies wherever you are.
Withdraw money with your national credit card
This might seem like an easy way to get cash in Australia, but with most international banks, you will have to pay a high fee when withdrawing money from an ATM. Most banks apply fixed fees for each withdrawal, plus a commission on the withdrawal amount (usually between 2% and 3.5%).
With the Wise debit MasterCard, you can get free ATM withdrawals up to 350 AUD per month. The exchange rate is mid-market and there is no fixed fee.
The table below gives an example of the fees when withdrawing cash with your national credit card vs a Wise debit MasterCard:
|National credit card||TransferWise debit card|
|ATM fee||£2||Free up to £200 every 30 days|
(afterwards 2% fee)
|% conversion fee||3% = £3||0.6%|
|Exchange rate||There might be an exchange rate|
|Mid-market exchange rate|
|Total you pay||£109||£100.6|
As you can see, using your bank services, you lose approximately £10 on a £100 withdrawal! Some banks offer free withdrawals, however, that does not mean that they offer a good exchange rate. Most banks have poor exchange rates, and you will most likely lose some money.
Be aware that banks have fraud alerts that alert them of suspicious activity such as your card being used in a foreign country. It’s worth informing your bank before coming to Australia, or making sure you have text alerts set up so you can assure them it’s actually you using your card. Otherwise, your card and account could be frozen until you can make contact with your bank from Australia.
Read more: Transfer money abroad with Wise: info and review
Pay with your credit card
Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere in Australia, if the business accepts credit card payments. Credit cards from Bankcard, UnionPay and JCB are also widely accepted in Australia. American Express and Diners Club are widely accepted, but may be rejected by small businesses like corner shops, cafes etc.
Your bank will apply a fixed rate for withdrawals. This is usually lower than the rates applied when withdrawing money from an ATM. However, an exchange rate is applied by the credit card company for each purchase, and this rate is often not great.
Digital multi-currency accounts
A digital account is a virtual multi-currency account. This option is particularly recommended for people who travel a lot. The biggest advantage of these is that you can hold multiple currencies in your account and get the current exchange rate.
You can also convert currencies with just a few clicks. You can top up your account in your local currency and convert that money into Australian dollars, that you can spend during your visit to Australia.
We recommend the company Wise. Wise offers mid-market exchange rates and you can also get a debit MasterCard for 7.50 AUD and pay in the local currencies, wherever you are.
Here are the main advantages:
- No fees for payments made in pre-converted currencies you hold in your account
- Free ATM withdrawals up to 350 AUD per month with the Wise MasterCard
- Low conversion fees, between 0.35% and 2.85%
- Mobile app to convert currencies effortlessly
Exchange cash in Australia
If you decide to bring cash with you to Australia, you will most likely try to exchange your money at the airport. As is the case with most countries, as mentioned above, currency exchange desks at Australian airports charge a very high fee to exchange money. This fee can vary between $5-$15 (AUD). Money exchange offices located at airports or in hotels usually offer poor exchange rates. Instead, visit CBD currency exchange offices if possible.
To get the best exchange rate, compare the exchange rate offered at the exchange offices with the current mid-market rate. You can do this by checking the Wise website.
Western Union allows you to withdraw cash in Australia. This a quick solution, but be aware that the fees are pretty high. We recommend you only use this option if you need cash urgently.
Traveller’s cheques are not always accepted in Australia. If you do want to buy some, it’s best to get them in Australian dollars as some shops, cafés and other businesses will not necessarily know what the exchange rate is if you present a cheque in a different currency.
Open an Australian bank account
If you are travelling to Australia for a few months or longer, you should definitely open an Australian bank account. Not only will this save you from international withdrawal and payment fees, it will also allow you to be paid if you plan to work in Australia.
Opening an Australian account can be done online before your departure, as offered by some banks like Westpac and NAB, or in a branch when you arrive. Once you arrive in Australia, you just need to go to a branch of the Australian bank you selected and confirm your identity.
Taking cash out of Australia
There is no real limit to how much cash you are allowed to take out of Australia. However, anything over $10,000 AUD needs to be declared. You should also check the rules of the country you are entering, as these may be different to Australian rules.
For more information on travelling into or out of Australia with money, visit www.austrac.gov.au.