The best banks in Australia for international students

Prodigy finance Logo

Bryan Smith - December, 19 2023

10 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

Choosing to study in Australia as an international student comes with challenges, one of them being finding a bank that offers you a service to suit your needs and preferences.

It’s a good idea to compare four or five well-known Australian banks and look at the types of accounts and features available, online bank services, student benefits and bank charges, so that you can make an informed decision on which bank suits your needs.

By choosing the right bank, you can enjoy a seamless banking experience and receive the necessary support to manage your finances effectively while studying in Australia.

Factors to consider

As an international student, what are some of the factors you should consider when choosing a bank?

Ideally you want to look for a bank that:

  • Handles foreign exchange, international money transfers and offers reduced transaction fees for depositing foreign currency
  • Waives or reduces fees for ATM withdrawals, cash deposits and online transactions
  • Offers access to student loans, credit cards and overdraft facilities
  • Has mobile banking and online services
  • Has budgeting tools to help you budget for your tuition fees, cost of health insurance and initial expenses like accommodation deposits, transportation costs and buying household items.
  • Offers financial education, helping you become familiar with the Australian banking system and taxes
  • And off student discounts

The top banks for international students in Australia

1. Westpac Student Bank

Westpac is a popular bank for international students, providing tailored services and support in all main cities. With over 200 years experience, they are Australia’s oldest bank and one of the four major banks in Australia.

Features and benefits

  • Dedicated international student banking packages with exclusive benefits
  • Convenient online and mobile banking platforms for easy account management
  • Assistance with setting up an Australian Tax File Number (TFN)
  • International money transfer services and foreign currency exchange options
  • Financial education resources and tools
  • Once you arrive in Australia, you can apply online in 3 minutes and deposit money into your account

Accessibility and branch locations

  • Pay no withdrawal fees at any major bank ATM in Australia (including Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB, St.George, Bank of Melbourne, and BankSA)
  • Over 50,000 ATMs available globally via the Global ATM Alliance and partner ATMs
  • $0 monthly service fee if you are a full-time student or under 21
  • Withdrawing money from an ATM in another country will cost you a 3% foreign exchange commission plus a $5 ATM fee

Specialised student services

  • The Westpac Choice Student account is ideal for full-time overseas students seeking a fee-free account
  • Pay no account-keeping fees for the first 12 months while you’re a full-time student or under 30 in Australia
  • No Australian addresses are required when opening from overseas prior to arrival
  • Open an account in less than five minutes
  • Allows you to send money from all over the world
  • Apply for your account 3 months before arriving in Australia or when you arrive

Online banking and mobile app features

  • Bank account integrates with Apple Pay, offering a fast, secure way to pay in-store and online, using your Apple device
  • Manage your money on the go with digital money
  • Buy safely online with a Debit MasterCard linked to your Choice account
  • Use your phone instead of your card to withdraw cash from any Westpac, St.George, Bank of Melbourne, or BankSA ATM
  • Limitless free phone, online, BPAY, and in-branch transactions

2. ANZ Bank

ANZ is one of Australia’s leading financial institutions with banks in most urban and regional centres and is known for its comprehensive banking solutions for international students.

Features and benefits

  • Specialised student bank accounts with minimal fees
  • The ANZ Student Access Advantage offers simple banking solutions with no account fees
  • Student discounts and benefits on selected services and products - such as several account options for international students, whether for everyday transactions, savings, investments, or foreign transactions
  • Assistance with setting up an Australian bank account before arrival
  • With their own ANZ Foreign Exchange Service, it’s a breeze to exchange foreign currency into Australian Dollars at any ANZ branch, and deposit foreign currency directly into an ANZ account
  • Support for international money transfers and competitive exchange rates

Specialised student services

  • Apply for a Student Access Advantage bank account online before you get to Australia
  • Activate your account at one of the in-store branches once you arrive
  • To open an ANZ student account, you must be a full-time student and show your valid student ID to the ANZ bank agent at the beginning of every academic year
  • Limitless transactions, no threshold balance, no withdrawal fees, and an Access Visa Debit card
  • With an ANZ international student account, you can use your debit card to make overseas withdrawals (take note of a 3% foreign exchange commission and a $5 ATM fee)
  • The ANZ Progress Saver account has no monthly account service fee and can be linked to your Access Advantage account, making the process of transferring funds seamless
  • ANZ Progress Saver account helps your savings while you study, should you work part-time
  • Earn bonus interest when you make at least one deposit of $10 into your account and don't withdraw any balance each month (relevant T’s & C’s apply)

Online banking and mobile app features

  • User-friendly online and mobile banking platform with the the goMoney mobile app

3. Commonwealth Bank

Commonwealth Bank is Australia's largest retail bank and offers customers a range of products and services, including transaction and savings accounts. It’s also one of the oldest banks in Australia.

Features and benefits

  • Student-specific transaction accounts with low or no monthly fees
  • Extensive network of ATMs and branches across Australia
  • Online and mobile banking platforms for convenient account access
  • International money transfer services with competitive exchange rates
  • Assistance with budgeting and financial planning
  • Foreign exchange fee is 3.00% per transaction

Accessibility and branch locations

  • The Commonwealth Bank Student Smart Access account has no monthly account fees and unlimited free transactions from network ATMs, EFTPOS, counter deposits, phone and internet

Specialised student services

  • Open an account up to three months before you arrive
  • Open an Everyday Account with student options online in 5 minutes and receive the bank details straight away
  • Caters for full-time and part-time tertiary students with a range of exclusive discounts on banking products
  • If a student is older than 25, no monthly account fees continues with your Everyday Account with student options
  • Perks of Commonwealth Bank – Student Smart Access include:
    • Cashback from big brands like Menulog and JB Hi-Fi when you activate and shop with CommBank Rewards
    • The savings account, NetBank Saver, is a flexible online savings account linked to your Everyday Account, earning you interest on your savings
    • CommBank Neo interest-free credit card with one simple monthly fee - no late fees or international transaction fees
    • Everyday Account Smart Access has no monthly account fees while you’re under 25 years old, and is ideal for your day-to-day – like getting paid, paying friends back, or shopping in-store and online with your own money

Online banking and mobile app features

  • Cardless cash feature in the CommBank app to get money using a CommBank ATM without using your card
  • View, track and organise your money anytime with the CommBank app
  • Use Bill Sense, Spend Tracker and transaction notifications to monitor your student expenditure
  • Free health check that helps find the best banking services for you
  • Sync your Debit Mastercard to your phone or wearable with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay for a fast, easy and secure way to make payments in stores, in apps, and online It also applies if you want to shop now and pay later with StepPay or Klarna

4. NAB - NAB Classic Banking

With branches widely available throughout all major Australian cities, the National Australia Bank (NAB) is one of Australia’s largest and has partners with small, medium and large businesses.

Features and benefits

  • Student bank accounts with no monthly account fees
  • A NAB Visa Debit card for all your everyday spending and make payments in store, online or with your digital wallet
  • No minimum monthly deposits
  • No overdrawn fees if you happen to go over your account balance
  • No ATM withdrawal fees at over 7,000 ATMs across Australia

Specialised student services

  • NAB caters to the banking needs of international students and is considered one of the best student banks in Australia
  • Get assistance with opening an online NAB Classic Banking account before you arrive by visiting the Moving to Australia section on their website
  • The NAB student account carries a $5 fee for overseas ATM withdrawals and a 3% foreign currency charge
  • Special discounts and benefits for international students.
  • Educational resources and tools for financial management

Account options

  • The National Australian Bank offers traditional banking accounts with no overdraft fees, monthly account fees, or direct ATM fees when using any rediATMs or NAB ATMs.
  • Complete your regular banking at any Australian post office, with the NAB classic account
  • Protect your account against fraud with NAB defence
  • Connect your account to NAB iSaver and transfer funds anytime you need to, to help you save

Online banking and mobile app features

  • Secure digital banking, where you can manage your money easily through the NAB app and NAB Internet Banking
  • Integrate your NAB account with Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Extensive online and mobile banking functionalities
  • Unlimited phone and internet transactions perfect for easy paying of bills, however $5 fee for overseas ATM fees applies per transaction

5. Citibank

Citibank is one of the most widely recognised banks in the world, with a vast network of ATMs across Australia.

Features and benefits

  • Pay no account, transaction or fund transfer fees with a Citibank Plus Account *
  • Make purchases in-store, online or withdraw cash from ATMs fee-free with a Citi debit Mastercard
  • Use Mastercard Travel Rewards and enjoy automatic cashback from participating restaurants, hotels, and retailers worldwide. Your Citi debit card gives you access to this programme!
  • Apply for a Citibank Term Deposit through Citi Online to get a guaranteed competitive interest return on your savings

* Receiving banks may charge a fee

International focus

  • The Citi Plus transaction account allows instant transfers of money from any country to your Citi account or any other bank account worldwide, for free

Specialised student services

  • The Citi Plus account is ideal for students as it has no monthly account fee and allows free withdrawals within the Citi ATM network (which includes banks like BankSA, Westpac, Bank of Melbourne, and St George)

Online banking features

  • Use Citibank's debit MasterCard worldwide to withdraw cash from ATMs

The 100 point system

All Australian financial institutions, including the top student banks, use the 100 point system to verify a customer’s identification, before an account is opened in their name. This helps prevent identity theft, fraud and money laundering from taking place when accounts are opened.

Individuals need to submit a combination of identity documents to total 100 points in order to meet the requirements. Each type of identification has a point value, with passports and driver’s licences allocated higher points due to their increased security.

Here is a list of the documents and the corresponding points for each:

  • Passport (70 points)
  • Australian driver's licence (40 points)
  • Birth certificate / citizenship certificate (40 points)
  • Healthcare card or health insurance document /
    confirmation of enrolment at education institution
    (these require a photograph or signature) (40 points)
  • Utility bill, bank statement or car registration document (25 points)
  • Medicare card (needs your name on it) (20 points)
  • Credit or debit card (10 points)

Things to note:

  • The above point allocation may change
  • You’ll require your passport if you open an account within six weeks to three months of arrival, but this only applies to banks, not credit unions
  • Once you have opened your account, your debit card will arrive by mail within a few weeks

Tips for managing your finances

Studying as an international student can be challenging at times. Here are some tips to help you manage your finances.

How to budget cleverly

  • Create a budget: Make a list of your income (money you receive) and expenses (money you spend)
  • Prioritise essential expenses: Identify your essential expenses like rent, food, and transportation - pay for those first out of your budget
  • Limit non-essential spending: Set limits for dining out and entertainment

Managing currency exchange

  • Compare rates from different sources before exchanging your money
  • Use online tools, like currency converters to help you understand the value of your money in : Australian dollars
  • Transfer wisely: Explore different methods and choose an option with lower fees and favourable exchange rates

Avoid common financial pitfalls

  • Credit card caution: Pay attention to the interest rates charged for purchases on your credit card
  • Beware of scams: Be cautious with your personal and financial information
  • Plan for visa expenses: Understand visa costs and plan for them in advance

Get financial advice and support

  • University resources: Many universities offer financial counselling and help with managing your finances
  • Banking services: Visit your bank and inquire about student-friendly accounts
  • Online communities: Join online forums or communities where international students share their experiences and financial tips

Conclusion

Remember that the suitability of a bank depends on your individual needs and preferences. Before selecting a bank, it's advisable to carefully review the terms and conditions, fees, and services offered. Additionally, you may want to check for any student-specific offers or discounts available, and take note of if they handle foreign exchange and the accompanying charges.

You may feel overwhelmed when having to choose where to open a bank account. The above article on the top five best banks for international students in Australia - National Australia Bank (NAB), Citibank, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Bank and Westpac Student Bank should help make your choice easier.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are intended as an overview for illustrative and educational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement of any international bank, nor international bank account, mentioned.

Image of webinar host

Talk to us

Wednesday & Friday 12 pm (GMT) | 5:30 pm (IST)
Hosts: Nangi and team

Join webinar
Download our mobile app

Our global teams are based out of:

South Africa

India

United Kingdom

United States

© Prodigy Finance Limited 2007 - 2024. All Rights Reserved. Prodigy Finance Limited is incorporated in the United Kingdom (Company Number 05912562) with its registered address at 85 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 7LT and registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner (Reg. No. Z9851854). Prodigy Finance is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (firm registration number 709641) for certain consumer credit activities. Prodigy Finance loans are offered to eligible borrowers and these loans are governed by English law. Prodigy Finance Servicing, LLC is incorporated in the state of Delaware, USA, is an affiliate of Prodigy Finance Limited and conducts the business of servicing of loans for residents of certain US states. NMLS # 2155440 (Prodigy Finance Servicing, LLC) and NMLS #1611590 (Prodigy Finance Limited) (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). View Prodigy Finance's lending, servicing and collection licenses.