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Is an Australian Bank Account Necessary for an Australian Work Holiday?

9 November 2011 2 Comments

This is a good question, and one that you probably didn’t think was worth asking, especially as it seems pretty obvious that to work in Australia requires an Australian Bank Account. But you would be surprised, as it may not actually be necessary if you are on an Australian Work Holiday. Let me explain.

Travelling to somewhere such as Australia or New Zealand on a working holiday Visa is becoming far more popular these days, with countless folk from all walks of life opting for a prolonged vacation in places that offer so much. From school leavers to those 30 years of age, one of the major issues for these countries now is how many people to let in each year. Obtaining a working holiday Visa should be a priority as they run out fast.

Upon obtaining such Visas, it becomes part of the process to sort out an Australian sim card, and a Bank Account at the same time, ensuring a trouble free passage into working life abroad. These are all steps that would be seen to be necessary, but in reality, this is not always the case.

I was one of these people who decided I needed all the help I could get on my Australian Work Holiday, and opted for the Australian phone and sim card, as well as the Australian Bank Account. I set it all up within the first week or two in Australia, and was happy for having done so, but it wasn’t until further on in the trip that I decided I could have done things a different way. Having said this, though, it would have been difficult to have foreseen the events that eventually unfolded while on my travels, and so I couldn’t possibly have known to do things any differently from the start. But if I had planned for what eventually did happen, I could have given myself a better time there, and would have been left with more money at the end.

I opened my account with the Australian Commonwealth Bank, taking the advice from other travellers I had met, and was extremely impressed with the level of service received and the friendliness of the staff. It was a good bank to choose, but I later wished I hadn’t chosen them, not for any wrong doing on their part, but for the fact that I didn’t necessarily need an account at all, not with any bank.

My bank from home charged me 25GBP for a Swift money transfer into my Australian account, and I was here on charged a monthly fee with the Commonwealth Bank just for having the account, and charged each time I withdrew money from a cash machine. My bank at home also charges a Non-UK transaction fee, adding to the money paid out, just to have money in my Australian account. Putting all this money together, it was a lot of money coming out just for having an account. Others I knew were using different banks, but were being charged different amounts for similar reasons. I was under the impression I had to have an account in OZ if I was going to work there, so I considered it all a necessary evil.

Don’t get me wrong, if your plan is to work for a long time in a company that will pay you a salary, then it is essential that you have an account. If you already have work lined up, or your aim is to work for such a company, then by all means get yourself an account. You won’t get paid otherwise. It is a requirement to be able to apply for some jobs, so make sure it is all in place if you want to begin applying for work.

On the other hand, if your intention is just to do casual work – be it working in a hostel or a small shop somewhere, or cleaning cars etc – then a bank account is something you can do without in my opinion, but only if you are working for just a short time. If you are being paid cash in hand, you don’t really need an account. Of course you need somewhere to store the money if you are working for a long time in casual work. This would be another reason for an account, as nobody wants to be carrying this sort of money around with them in their backpacks, especially while sharing a dormitory with countless other strangers. You would want to be putting the money away each week into an account. If the work is short term, then don’t worry about an account.

I guess there is a happy medium in all of this, and it would be the option I would choose from now on. If I was to do it all again, this is what I wish I would have done. I wish I had gone to Australia, opened an account, but transferred no money into it from home. I would leave my UK money where it is at home, and have my Australian Bank Account solely for money earned in a job, whether it’s casual or other. I would use only the money I make in Australia, and would pay money in and take money out from within the bank wherever I was, if possible. If I needed more money, then I would take money from home.

I am charged a percentage for withdrawing money abroad with my current bank at home, but the cost is actually cheaper than if I had transferred the money to my Australian account and withdrawn it in Australia. Maybe it would be an idea to take the money directly from your account at home, depending on your current account’s fees for withdrawing abroad, and deposit directly into your Australian account manually. This would cut down on the fees.

It may be simpler just to transfer the money direct, but think about it and research it beforehand. You may realise that it is far cheaper to do things your own way, especially as you are likely to be hit with a processing fee by the company performing the transfer for you, if this is the way you decided to do it.

My advice is to wait until in Australia, see how things go with regards to finding work, and leave opening an account until you get a job, or start looking for a job. Use the money you have on you and the money you withdraw from home from a cash machine. Carry this money with you, or deposit it into an Australian account when needs must, but don’t use the swift money transfer, and certainly don’t let a third party company take care of it for you. It may be easier this way, but you want your money to last. All the money I spent on transfers, and for having an account that I wasn’t really using, could have been better spent on the things I wanted to enjoy in Australia.

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Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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  • Eric said:

    Really? You need a bank account in AU to have a job? I used to be a bank manager in California. I’d estimate that 1/4 of the people that came in the door to cash paychecks didn’t have bank accounts.

    Does that rule cut down on illegal immigration?

  • dan said:

    I’m not sure of all the ins and outs, or how they deal with immigration, but for me as a traveller, this was the case for certain jobs, not all. It might also be a measure to cut down on time-wasters. A bank account means you are more likely to be serious about the job I guess.

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