The banking industry in Oz is dominated by the country’s four largest banks: Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Westpac, and National Australia Bank. Unlike in other countries, in which mergers between large banks have become commonplace in these fraught economic times, the existence of a ‘four pillars’ policy in Oz means that the Australian government will reject any prospective merger of any of these banks. Not that it would appear they need to merge, anyway – each of these banks has at least an AA- rating with Standard and Poors, which reflects the high performance and stability of each of them.
Opening an Australian bank account should prove to be a fairly straightforward process – whether you are a resident of Oz or not. Due to the country’s long-term popularity as a migrant hot-spot, some banks offer great services for those who are planning on emigrating to Australia in the near future.
In addition to the four major banks there are 21 smaller or state specific retail banks – 12 domestic banks and nine foreign owned subsidiaries – while foreign banks are also well represented in the Australian market with 20 of Forbes’ top 25 banking institutions having a presence in the country.
In some ways, it can actually be more time consuming to open a bank account once you arrive to live in Australia. Generally, you will still be able to apply to open an account online but before this account will be activated you will need to present yourself at a branch of that bank to provide identification – usually a passport and proof of address will suffice.
It’s also worth noting that, depending on the bank you use and the type of account you have with them, you may need to pay a monthly service fee, while some accounts may even require you to maintain a minimum balance or face being fined. It is important to make sure you are aware of all fees and charges before opening any bank account.
Take the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), for example, which offers a wide range of services and options for would-be emigrants. Through CBA it is possible to apply for a Smart Access account up to three months prior to arriving in Australia – although you will need to be identified in a CommBank branch before you will be able to withdraw any money and gain full access to your account. You will still be able to transfer money from anywhere in the world and check your balance online before being identified.
This initial application can be done online in less than five minutes.
Should you wish to wait until you are in Australia to open an account, then the process is similar whereby you will be able to apply online to open an account but will still need to present yourself at a branch of that bank to provide identification – usually a passport and proof of address will suffice. It’s also worth noting that, depending on the bank you use and the type of account you have with them, you may need to pay a monthly service fee, while some accounts may even require you to maintain a minimum balance or face being fined.
The good news for those who choose to open an account with the Commonwealth Bank prior to emigrating is that they do not charge any monthly account fees for the first 12 months with through their regular Everyday Smart Access account, while overseas students who choose to open a Smart Access account will be charged any monthly account fees to long as they remain a student.