Open a bank account before you move to Australia

When I made my initial entry to Adelaide last December, lots of people suggested that I open a bank account. In the end, I decided against it because I wasn’t comfortable using another person’s address to do so. What I should’ve done, however, was to visit an Aussie bank to see if there are any other options available instead!

But today I stumbled on something really interesting. Apparently, you can set up your bank account with Westpac online before you move/arrive in Australia. In fact, the site is entirely for prospective migrants.

I promptly did so, filling out the necessary form. But I wonder whether I’ll get approved as I wasn’t sure what to put in the “expected job” field. I selected “Student”, which is not a lie as I plan to take a certificate-level course in the first few months in Adelaide. I’ll update you guys on the progress.

There are two accounts you can apply for. The Westpac eSaver and Westpac Choice.

After applying for these accounts, you need to complete your identity check either by visiting a regional branch (the nearest branch for Malaysians is the one in Singapore), or by going to the Aussie branch to do so. You need to be there in 12 months of your application or else your account will be closed. Also, you need to have your identify verified within 6 weeks of arriving in Australia — just show your passport and Australian address. If you do so more than 6 weeks after arrival, you’ll need to provide at least 2 forms of identification such as a passport, driver’s licence or birth certificate.

Once your identity is verified, you can start transferring funds.

I’m personally a little leery with tele-transactions, so I’m using the old fashion bank draft route. I’ll probably just transfer a few hundred Aussie dollars to test the waters. What can I say? I’m paranoid.

Will update you on my progress. 🙂

PS: The National Australia Bank also has the same option – to open a bank account online before leaving for Australia. I will check it out and report back to you on this.

Update! My account with Westpac has been approved. 🙂 But what’s this I hear about monthly fees? Apparently some banks charge monthly fees to your account. OMG. However, Chris (below, in comments) commented that NAB doesn’t do that. That’s information for a future post!

Update 2: A guy with a very thick Australian accent (so thick I could barely understand him) called me to see if I was a real human being. A few weeks later, I received a nice parcel in the post with information about my account. I have the option of confirming my identity in its Singapore branch. Since my trip down south may be delayed, I may have to do that.

Update 3: Got to Adelaide! Before you arrive, be sure to make an appointment. Banks in Oz usually require you to make one if you want to open an account. Anyway, all I did was present my passport and wala. Interestingly, most of the people there know me because of this post! The bank manager actually dropped a comment below.  By the way, be sure to apply for your Tax File No as the bank requires it. If you’ve worked in Australia before (I did as a Subway Sandwich Artist when I studied in Perth) you can retrieve it from the Tax office.

I opted for a savings account with a high savings rate (about 4.5%). Happily, because I’m a new migrant, they waived the bank charges for the year.


4 thoughts on “Open a bank account before you move to Australia

  1. Hi Susan,

    I opened an bank account with Commonwealth Bank while in Malaysia (online), transferred funds to the account before I arrived in Australia. When I am here, I went to the branch the account was assigned to and was able to access to the funds right after they validated my identify and activated my ATM card.

    I would say, either the traditional way (bank draft) or online is fine. 🙂

    Do check out the monthly fees applicable for the account you will be applying. I was told NAB does not charge monthly fees though.

    • Thanks for the info, Chris. The thought of my savings being chipped away monthly by charges doesn’t appeal to me! I will definitely check.

    • Hi, may i know how you transferred money from Malaysia to the Commonwealth Bank. I mean which way gives you the best exchange rate. I have no clue how to do these things. Thank you.

  2. At Westpac and as an international student, good news (for students & young) is no account keeping fee is charged. Extra good news is that our esaver is high interest earning & our personal banker (Ryan) is Malaysian and was an international student many years ago – he gets it.

    The I am most probably than not will be your Bank Manager if your bsb is 035016. Originally from Brunei and stumbled upon your blog when I clicked on the screen shot you chose because it is synonymous to our migrant banking brand – basically we are South Australia’s Westpac migrant bank (among other speciality).

    Welcome & by the way, drop me an email, I would love to meet you.

    Warm regards,
    Ida Wong-Taylor

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