Manage your finances
When you arrive in Wollongong it is important you have access to your finances. Below you will find some helpful suggestions on how to manage your finances while overseas.
Australia uses the ‘Australian Dollar’ (AUD) as its national currency which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations. The exchange rate for the Australian dollar (AU$) fluctuates, depending on the foreign exchange market. You can check the current rate on an on-line currency converter.
You will be able to convert your home currency cash to Australian Dollars at the Sydney International airport and at currency exchanges located within Wollongong. An easy way to receive Australian dollars is by using an automated teller machine (ATM) and withdrawing from your account. Most ATMs will allow withdrawal using an international card and will indicate what cards are accepted. It is important to discuss any international fees with your home financial institution.
Most businesses within Wollongong accept both cash and credit/debit card transactions, there are also a large number and variety of ATMs around Wollongong. Some international cards may be declined by local retails or incur surcharges.
When you first arrive we recommend you bring approximately $250 AUD with you. This should cover incidental expenses until you arrive at your accommodation in Wollongong. You will require at least $500 in your first few weeks to cover personal expenses and textbooks.
Accessing your money
There are several ways you can transfer funds to have them prepared for you arrival in Australia.
- Open an Australian bank account – This can usually be done online from your home country, allowing you to withdraw funds after completing an identity check. Check out the information on opening an account before you leave home on the websites of the major Australian banks: ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac.
- Credit Cards – The most commonly used cards in Australia are Visa and Mastercard. Before you leave home, check with your banking service that your credit card can be used in automatic teller machines (ATM’s) or for over the counter cash advances in Australian banks.
- International Debit Card – These cards can be used to withdraw money in a similar way to credit cards
- Traveller’s cheques – Cheques that can be exchanged for cash at banks, foreign exchange locations and selected travel agents.
Opening a bank account
Within the first six (6) weeks of your arrival in Australia, your passport with arrival date entered by immigration, is sufficient identification to open an Australian bank account. After this period the bank may require more information so please speak to the financial institution of your choice for further information.
There are 4 major banks in Australia that operate on a national scale. They are National Australia Bank (NAB), ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac. There are a large number of smaller banks and credit unions that operate throughout the country. International banks also operate within Australia, which may include your home institution.
National Australia Bank and IMB will exchange foreign currencies for Australian dollars, provided that you are an account holder.
On campus institutions
A number of banking services are available on-campus
- NAB Branch– Located between the UniShop and Library open Monday-Friday 9:30am-4:00pm. Two 24 Hour ATMs are located out the front.
- IMB Branch - Located across from Student Central (Building 17) open 9:00am-5:00pm. An ATM is located at the front of the branch
- Commonwealth Bank and CitiBank- The Post Office (UniShop, Ground Floor, Building 11) also operates as an agency for the Commonwealth Bank and Citibank.
- Multicard ATMS – Located inside the McKinnon Building Ground Floor, Building 67) in the breezeway next to the Food Court (Ground Floor, Building 11), in the UniBar, and in URAC.
Off campus institutions
Many other banks are located in the Wollongong Central Business District and are easily accessible by public transport.
Australian banks include:
- Commonwealth Bank (Phone: 13 2221)
- Illawarra Credit Union (Phone: 13 22 49)
- St George Bank (Phone: 13 33 30)
- Westpac (Phone: 13 20 32)
- ANZ (Phone: 13 1314)
EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) is an almost Universal payment system used throughout Australia. The system allows you to access your Savings, Cheque and most Credit accounts. To use either swipe, insert or tap your card through a stores EFTPOS machine and enter your PIN. As of August 1st 2014, signatures are no longer accepted for Australian credit card payments, however some international cards may still allow it. PayPass is another recent development in Australia. It allows you to simply “touch and go” for purchases under $100 by swiping your s-compatible card against a reader.
Some businesses may impose a minimum spend required to use EFTPOS or impose a fee for spending under a certain amount (usually $10). You may also incur a charge for the use of EFTPOS (especially American Express cards) however you are entitled to be notified of this prior.
Tipping and taxes
Tipping is not part of the Australian culture and is not expected by any industry due to high wage levels of staff. Tipping is completely voluntary and usually reflects exceptional service. It can be done as rounding up the bill or by dropping money into small tins at the register of shops. If you are paying by card there is often no ability to tip staff.
Sales taxes are already included in the sale price of items/services which is usually a 10% Goods and Services Tax. Items such as Alcohol and Cigarettes are taxed at a much higher level but are still included in the sales price. The tax amount can usually be seen on the sales receipt.
Other money matters
Never carry large amounts of cash. Most businesses accept EFTPOS or credit cards. Most Colleges/Halls of Residences accept credit card payments, however, you should confirm this with the office in advance of the payment due date. Australian banks can take up to six (6) weeks to clear personal cheques from overseas banks and wiring money can be expensive, so use your credit/international debit card to transfer money from home wherever possible.