Australian bank account on a tourist visa

Australia certainly is not your typical offshore banking center. It is, however, one of the easiest countries in the world in which to open a bank account on a tourist visa. In this article, I detail how to do so and the circumstances in which it makes sense.


Australian banking

As a location independent entrepreneur / individual, you should look at places like the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore for your personal banking. The banks in those jurisdictions offer products specifically tailored for our lifestyle and are used to dealing with non-residents. There are some circumstances in which you might want a bank account in Australia, however. For example, if you want to receive payments from a service that only allows withdrawal to Australian bank accounts or if you want to purchase from a site that only accepts orders with Australian addresses. There is also the issue of stability and ease of use. Individuals from developing countries rarely have access to “decent” banking and for them, an Australian account would represent a massive step up. For some, it could also be about diversification or access to investment opportunities down under.


How to open an account

What makes Australian banking possible for non-residents is a piece of legislation authorizing banks to open accounts without requiring a local proof of address for those who have been in the country for less than six weeks. This means that in effect, you can open an account with only your passport (and stamp proving that you have been in the country for under six weeks). Conveniently, most banks will even allow you to open an account online before you arrive in Australia. When you arrive, you simply need to show up at the branch of your choice with your passport to collect your debit card.


Choosing a bank

My favorite “immigrant-friendly” banks are the Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac. You can open an account with any of them today, directly on their website.

Apply with the Commonwealth Bank
Apply with the NAB
Apply with the Westpac

Do note that you must fill in your details accurately as they will be verified when you visit the bank. For the visa, select “Other” and write “ETA” or “Tourist” (whichever applies to you). Once you have submitted your application, the bank will review it and then approve it in principle. If approved, you will receive your account number and an invitation to visit the branch you selected during the application process to collect your debit card. You can now book a plane ticket to Australia and prepare yourself for the last and most important step, activating the account.


Activating the account

Once you arrive in Australia, simply visit the branch you selected during the application process. Remember to bring along your passport. You will receive your debit card and internet banking security token on the spot. If asked about the purpose of the account, simply say that you are going to visit Australia very frequently and that you are considering relocating there. In my experience, they are perfectly happy with that.

Before leaving Australia, get a local SIM card. Australian banks tend to make heavy use of SMS-based two-factor authentication and not being able to receive the codes could mean being locked out of your account. It is usually possible to use an overseas number but that is not ideal and may throw a red flag in the long-term.


Non-resident status

When you open the account, you can use any address you want. The bank will not ask for a proof of address. It is very important for the address to be outside of Australia, however, as using a local address will make you lose your automatic “non-resident” status for tax withholding purposes. This can be appealed but you might as well save yourself the trouble. Also, make sure that your address is legit. The banks have compliance experts whose job is to spot fraud and deceit. They will close your account if they suspect any.


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