This is a message for all people who are considering moving to Australia for a longer period of time. That is, long enough to want or need to open up an Australian bank account.
Approximately 6 weeks ago, I moved to Australia with my boyfriend on a Working Holiday Visa. We have been using this time to visit friends, get to know Melbourne, find a house, and settle into our awesome new neighbourhood of Brunswick. Since neither of us has found a job yet, we hadn’t even thought about opening up a bank account. Let alone worry about it.
Until two days ago. While filling out another important application you may not have heard about: the Australian Tax File Number, my boyfriend accidentally found out that 6 weeks is a potentially very important term in this country when it comes to opening up a bank account. The application for the TFN (Tax File Number) is actually quite straightforward, and can be filled out here. We received the number in the mail less than two days later. No problems there.
What could get you into trouble is the aforementioned six week term. The website we stumbled upon actually made it sound like one has to open a bank account within 6 weeks of arriving to Australia. We quickly calculated the days since we’d arrived to this country and realised we had already passed that term. Needless to say, I got a little worried. My boyfriend decided to dig a little deeper, and found a website that stated banks will request for a utility bill in your name if you don’t open up a bank account in the initial 6 weeks of your stay in Australia.
“Oh no! We don’t have any bills in our name, what should we do now?”
Fortunately, his nerves are quite a bit stronger than mine, so he just shrugged his shoulders and suggested we’d go to the bank the next day. So we did. And boy was I happy to find out that none of the above is actually true.
Let me try to be as clear as possible on this subject. The six weeks term for opening up a bank account in Australia DOES exist. That does NOT mean, however, that you can only open a bank account if you can present utilities or other invoices in your name.
The next morning, we left the house in search of an ANZ or Commonwealth Bank branch in our neighbourhood. We found both, immediately opposite of each other on Sydney Road. Why either of those two? Because they are the most highly recommended banks by many fellow travelers on a working holiday visa. No need to complicate life if the wheel has already been invented, right?
“Right. So what’s the real deal here?”
First, for the accuracy of this post, it is important that you know we chose to inquire at ANZ Bank. Whether the following information is also true for other banks is something I therefore cannot and do not want to make a statement on.
According to the bank clerk at ANZ, a very nice lady who’s helped us with all the necessary paperwork, 6 weeks is the maximum amount of time you can be in the country without having to show an additional official ID when opening up a bank account in Australia. Why is that important you ask? Because she also told us that there are plenty of people coming to Australia who have nothing but their passports (!).
If you are one of those people, and you are going or planning to go to Australia, for example on a work and travel visa, please keep in mind that you will need to open up a bank account to receive your salary, and you will be asked for a secondary ID if you don’t do so within the first 6 weeks of your arrival to the country. On the other hand, if you do present yourself within those first 6 weeks, you will only need to present your passport to open up a bank account.
The question of why this is so has nevertheless remained largely unanswered. Curious as I am, I obviously had to ask about the reasoning behind this strange rule. Leanne, our administrative saviour, did state that many people, especially at an older age, possess various pieces of official documentation showcasing different names. For example, ‘Bill’ as short for ‘William’. As a consequence, banks nationwide have decided to no longer accept customers who are not able to present multiple IDs with identical names.
Whether this is to avoid criminals from being able to take advantage of certain confusing situations, or just to make the lives of banking employees easier, I would not know. No matter how often or in which way she’d tried to explain, I also still don’t understand what the 6 weeks term has to do with any of this. Why would someone be able to open an account with just their passport one day, but then be rejected the next?
“Anyway…You said your 6-week term had already expired. What happened?”
Right then and there, we decided to open up a bank account at ANZ. Not only had the lady been so kind to explain this slightly bizarre situation to us, we also found out that the standard monthly fee of AUD $5 will be waivered if over the course of the month more than AUD $2000 is deposited into the account. All we have to do is gain some money to save some money! Easy peasy, right? 😉
Since our 6-week term had indeed expired a few days earlier, Leanne was obliged to ask us not only to present our passports, but also our foreign driver’s licences. Lucky for us, we both have a (foreign) driver’s licence.
After God knows how much paperwork, fully filled out, printed and explained by Leanne, approximately an hour later we were the proud owners of an Australian Bank Account. Hurrah!
And I’ve got a bright pink debit card to look forward to in the mail… 😀
Have you had any trouble opening up a bank account in Australia?
Do you know if other banks have similar or different policies after the 6-week term has expired?
Please share your experiences in the comments section. Who knows how many people we could help by sharing our stories!