If you are preparing for a trip to Australia, you’re probably wondering about the best way to transfer money from your home currency to AUD without having to pay huge fees. When you arrive in Australia, you will need to have a decent amount of savings to pay for your food, accommodation and other expenses until you find a job. The cost of living being quite high Down Under, especially in the big cities, a few euro or pounds definitely won’t be enough to keep you going! If you’re coming to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, you need to have at least $5000 in your bank account. When you arrive, we recommend that you transfer your money to your Australian account. In this article, we explain the best options for transferring money internationally whilst saving on fees.
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Open an Australian bank account
The first thing you need to do to be able to transfer money from a European or American account to Australia is to have an Australian bank account. Not only will this save you from international withdrawal or payment fees, but it will also allow you to be paid if you plan to work in Australia.
How to open an Australian bank account?
Opening a bank account online or in person
Opening an Australian bank account can be done remotely before your departure, as offered by Commonwealth and NAB banks, or in a branch when you arrive. In both cases, once you arrive in Australia, you just need to go to a branch of the Australian bank you selected and confirm your identity. You will have to present your passport and your account will be opened. You will then receive your debit card by mail within five business days, or you can often choose to pick it up directly from the bank.
Useful bank codes
Once your bank account is open, you will be given a bank identification number consisting of two numbers.
Your BSB number is the code of your Australian bank. It is composed of 6 digits.
Your account number is your bank account number. It has between 6 and 9 digits, depending on the bank.
These two numbers together correspond to the European IBAN number, i.e. the international bank identification number. Whichever money transfer method you choose, you will need these numbers.
What are the fees to open an Australian bank account?
Opening a current account is free at most Australian banks. However, fixed account operating fees, often monthly, may apply (about $5/month). Check with your bank, as these fees can be waived under certain conditions (if you are under 25, you are a student, you have a minimum income each month, etc.). In general, these fees are not applied within the first year of you opening a bank account.
How to transfer money to Australia?
Once your Australian account is available, you will have 2 options to transfer your money:
- Go through your bank in Europe and make a classic international transfer
- Go through a specialised international transfer platform (recommended).
Make a bank transfer to Australia (through your bank)
This solution, which seems to be the simplest, is not always so. Too often European banks don’t even know how to make a transfer to Australia. And when they know, they’ll ask you to provide them with the IBAN and BIC numbers of the account you want to transfer to, which doesn’t exist in Australia. But do not panic! Bring your BSB + Account Number (= IBAN) and ask your Australian bank for its SWIFT code (= BIC) and voilà!
Once your bank in Europe has made the transfer order to your Australian account, allow an average of 5 days to receive your money. To avoid any delay, make sure that you do not exceed the transfer limit authorised by your bank and of course that you have sufficient funds in your starting account.
How much does it cost?
The main disadvantage of international transfers is that it is expensive! Generally, European banks will charge you transfer fees (around 25 Euros of fixed fees + commissions). In addition, the procedure is often long and the exchange rate that will be applied to your transfer will be very low.
Indeed, most of the time the bank does not tell you the exchange rate that will be applied during your transaction … Although some banks in the UK and US have agreements with Australian banks they still charge high transfer fees or apply daily limits. And even if your bank offers to offer you transfer fees, be careful. What is important is not the price of the transfer, but rather the exchange rate applied. And the banks do not allow you to obtain attractive rates, they choose an advantageous rate for them but not for you!
To get an idea of the official exchange rate, you can also visit xe.com. With the app, you can even alert yourself when a rate exceeds a certain threshold. Very useful if you want to transfer at the right time!
Transfer money with transfer platforms: recommended
The main advantage is that the exchange rates are much more competitive than those of the banks. Indeed, these are international companies that have accounts in many countries. In most cases, they use their local accounts to receive and send funds. Thus the transfer of money generates very few intermediary bank charges. This will allow you to make great savings on each transfer!
How to transfer money to an account in Australia via this system:
- You make a transfer free of charge (Euros -> Euros) to a European account of which the chosen company (Wise, CurrencyFair,…) you will receive contact details.
- The company receives the money in their European account, it converts it to a rate close to that of the market (Euros ->Dollars) and makes it available on your Australian account.
- It performs a wire transfer to your account in Australian Dollars -> Dollars) and you will receive dollars from an account in Australia, here again, you will have no bank charges.
How much does it cost?
These transfer companies are remunerated on the margin they make by applying an exchange rate very slightly below the market rate. To this, they can be added transfer fees, of around 3 to 8 EUR, depending on whether you want a faster transfer.
Comparison of the two options
For a transfer of €1000 (exchange rates from September 2023) – comparaison between a traditional bank and CurrencyFair:
|Via bank||Via CurrencyFair|
|Fixed costs||20 – 25 EUR |
|0 AUD |
(1st transfer free)
|The market rate (xe.com)||1 EUR = 1.6679 AUD||1 EUR = 1.6679 AUD|
|The exchange rate applied||1 EUR = 1.6177 AUD||1 EUR = 1.6591 AUD|
|Amount received||1577.27 AUD||1655.10 AUD|
Which makes a difference of 78 AUD!
Recommended international money transfer companies
Here is a small selection of three major international transfer platforms which, according to our experience and the various user comments, constitute the most advantageous means of transferring money to Australia. All these companies are very secure and their services have obviously been tested by us and many travellers.
We remind you, however, that it is necessary to open an account in Australia in order to be able to make a transfer.
- Exchange rate very close to the real rate with the possibility of choosing a time to exchange the currency according to the rate
- Very secure system
- Transfer fees: 4 AUD or 0 AUD (the first 5 transfers are free thanks to our partnership)
- Transfer time from 1 to 2 days (4 to 5 days for the first transfer)
- Ability to exchange currency with other members, allowing you to obtain conversion rates sometimes above the market rate!
- Online assistance available
- Simple system, easy to use
- For us, the most economical solution
CURRENCYFAIR: 5 FREE TRANSFERS
To benefit from 5 free transfers, register here:
For more information on CurrencyFair: CurrencyFair – Free transfer
- Offers one of the best exchange rate (really close to actual market rate with the capacity to “lock a rate” for your transfer)
- Online assistance
- Transfer fee: $5.14
- Transfer time: 1 to 2 days (allow 4 to 5 days for the first transfer)
- Simple and easy system
- Mobile app available
WISE – 1st transfer free
Create your Wise account and make your first transfer for free (for any transfer of more than £500)!
For more information on Wise: How to Transfer Money with Wise
Other ways to transfer your money to Australia
If you are just passing through and do not want to open an Australian bank account, there are different ways you can still use your money there.
Use an online bank
More and more online banks are offering free payments abroad, regardless of the currency! Practical, especially when travelling, online banks are more economical than conventional banks and allow you to carry out all your transactions from your smartphone. The best known are the banks N26 and Revolut which will allow you to withdraw and pay in Australia free of charge.
Withdrawing money with a bank card from your home country
There are several banks and different types of credit cards, but with all of them, you have to pay fees when withdrawing money from an ATM in Australia. Most of the banks apply fixed fees for each withdrawal plus a commission on the withdrawal amount (usually between 2% and 3,5%).
For example, if you withdraw 100£:
+ 4£ of fixed fees,
+ 3% commission,
+ 2£ to pay to the bank of the country you are withdrawing from
= 100 + 4 + 100 * 0,035 = 109,5£
Using your bank services, you already lose approximately 10£ on a 100£ withdrawal!
And even if your bank is promising you a free withdrawal, just think about the exchange rate! Since banks apply low exchange rates, you will definitely lose money.
By paying directly with your bank card from your home country, you will still have international bank charges to pay. And depending on the bank, you will have a fixed rate + a commission rate relating to the amount of the payment. These fees and rates vary again depending on the bank. In general, they are slightly lower than those applied when withdrawing from an ATM.
In addition, an exchange rate is imposed by the VISA or MASTERCARD centre for each purchase. This rate can be that of the same day or that of the day before. In all cases, it won’t be as good as the market exchange rate.
Exchanging money in a currency exchange office
Currency exchange offices offer exchange rates lower than the market rate to obtain a commission on each exchange. Using these services is recommended for short trips or stopover in a country. But it is not suitable for people intending to live in the same country for several months.
Moreover, be sure to avoid offices in airports as they usually offer even lower exchange rates than offices in the city centre.
Pay with PayPal
You also have the option of using PayPal. Be aware, however, that this service charges significant fees. PayPal will charge you up to 5% border fees and over 3.5% conversion fees.
Remember to check the exchange rate applied by PayPal at the time of your transfer. Also check the transfer fees before choosing this option.
Western Union allows you to withdraw cash overseas. Its services are quick, however, its fee is pretty high. We recommend you to use this option only if you urgently need some cash.
1. Departure and destination countries: in general, whatever the currency, the conversion takes a maximum of 2 days. The speed of the transfer also depends on the payment methods available in your source currency and the processing of incoming transfers by your beneficiary bank.
2. Your means of payment: transfers made from a credit/debit card are immediate. Bank transfers, on the other hand, take longer. You can get an idea of the duration of the transfer when you choose your payment method. Note that rapid transfers are subject to additional fees.
3. Timing of payment: Transfers are only processed during business hours. In addition, be aware of holidays and weekends as well.
4. Security checks: Following the creation of your account, it may happen that during your first transfers, platforms such as Wise or CurrencyFair may need to verify your identity (address or source of your money). This step is for your security. As a general rule, allow between 1 and 5 days, depending on whether this is your first transfer or not.
The BSB number indicates the code of the Australian bank (6 digits).
The account number is your account number (between 6 and 9 digits depending on the bank).
These two numbers together correspond to the European IBAN number.