337 - Banking
Published January 21, 2008
Australia is still a largely cash-based society. It is necessary to establish a local savings account, and possibly, a checking account as soon as possible after arrival. It takes an hour or more of paperwork to set up an account--bring passports, orders, verification of address. Each bank manager has some latitude in setting individual account fees and service criteria--ask for and negotiate the service you want. You might be able to get immediate access to US checks deposited rather than waiting the customary hold period. All accounts have a service charge and all deposits plus check withdrawals are taxed by the state and federal governments (an average of $8.00 - $12.00 AUS per month)--these taxes can be avoided by not having checks drawn on your savings account. It takes readily available cash to start up, especially if buying a car. Bring as much money as possible in traveler's checks which will not be held until the check clears. Even a cashier's check from a US bank may be held for up to 10 days until it has cleared the US. Other considerations are deposits on all utilities, car insurance, hotel and food until housing is ready and any items for the house such as appliances that were not brought from the states.
A debit card (EFTPOS - electronic funds transfer point of sale) from the bank is necessary to get cash when banks are closed and in order to avoid long lines at the bank. Debit cards are used everywhere including all major grocery stores, petrol stations and department stores. The stores will also give cash back and there are ATMs everywhere.
Many bills can be paid with a credit card or debit card, or telephone banking thus eliminating the need for a checking account. Consequently, many personnel don't even bother with checking accounts choosing an occasional inconvenience rather than paying the taxes associated with a checking account.