The majority of travellers who come to Australia equipped with a backpack and a game plan to see the country are entering with a Working Holiday Visa. This amazing visa enables foreigners to enter Australia with legal permission to stay for a year while being able to work in order to fund their exploration of Australia.
Backpackers usually aim for employment that involves waiting tables, bar tending and other jobs that are either seasonal or fairly easy to learn and just as easy to leave. Most of the employers that receive backpacker applicants are knowledgeable in the patterns and characteristics of these nomadic employees, however some may still insist that paying you through direct deposit or check is the way to go, despite how much easier it would be to just get paid off the book in cash. In order to receive your hard earned money, you’ll most likely need a bank account.
Other countries may have several qualifications that you’ll need to fulfil when it comes to opening a bank account, but in Australia, many banks have devised banking methods and practices that are perfectly suited to a foreign traveller on a working holiday visa. My personal experience with Australian banking was with Westpac, and it has been an extremely successful and pleasant one.
When I first arrived in Australia, I realized that rather than pay the international banking charges from my North American bank account, it would make much more sense to open an Australian account given that I was planning on staying for an entire year and would be working a great wealth of jobs that I hoped I would pay me large sums of money that I would then save for future adventures.
From the recommendation of a friend, I headed over to a Westpac branch and was kindly received by a Westpac employee who sat me down and asked me several questions about the type of Visa I had, how long I planned to stay, what kind of work I was interested in and a few other questions related to housing. The only ID I was required to bring was my passport, and since I had been in Australia for about a week, that was acceptable, but once you’ve been in the country for more than 30 days, you will be expected to show two valid forms of ID to prove that you have established yourself there. At the first mention of my Working Holiday Visa, the bank employee suggested I open an account that is designed specifically to the needs of nomads like me, the Westpac Choice account for migrants and expats.
Some of the benefits of this account include:
- No monthly service fee for the first year for new customers, which is as long as a first Working Holiday Visa will allow you to stay in the country anyway.
- Incredibly simple online and electronic banking through an application for smart phones that allows you to see your account activity and amount in both Choice and Savings accounts.
- If you lose your debit card, or heaven forbid it gets stolen, you can still get cash out from Westpac ATMs. Just call 132 032 and ask for Emergency Cash!
- Westpac is all over Australia, even remote towns like Exmouth in Western Australia (it’s actually the only bank in the small isolated town) and in cities like Melbourne there seem to be Westpac ATMs on every corner in the CBD and at least one in every major suburb.
To open the account was absolutely painless and all I had to do was deposit $50.00 AUD, which went directly into my account! I received the card within a few days.
In addition to having a bank account that is especially customized for travellers, the staff at Westpac are always extremely friendly and ready to help answer any questions you might have about your accounts or any other money woes for that matter. When it came to closing my account, they very advised me not to as I still had Australian tax season ahead of me and having the bank account still open would not incur any additional costs since it was still under 12 months since I opened it. Whether I would be receiving tax back and and/or paying taxes, having that account would make the process go much smoother than attempting to pay or receive with my North American bank account. On top of this, once my taxes were complete, even though I would not be in Australia anymore, I could easily contact them through email to close the account before I had reached the 12 month limit of my free account and still have no extra costs for the accounts!
There are other banks that other backpackers prefer, but it is largely case dependent for what your banking needs are. If you aren't sure about what you need, it helps to talk with other backpackers about their decisions and banking choices, as well as going into different banks and asking specific questions that relate to your needs and assessing which caters to you the best!