Get The Best Exchange Rate

Key Points

The goal here is simple: to get as many Australian dollars for your New Zealand dollars as possible. This is how we did it, and it worked out well for us:

Of course, you can wait until you get to Australia before opening an account. This will be easier if you prefer a bank that doesn't allow you to open an account online from New Zealand. You can still use the advice below about converting your New Zealand dollars to Australian dollars as it isn't dependent on opening an account before you leave New Zealand.

Opening An Australian Bank Account Before You Leave New Zealand

Do this at most 3 months before you move to Australia as many banks don't want to hear from you until you are this close to moving over.

The key criteria here are the ease with which you can open a new account without actually being in Australia, and minimising the fees associated with getting your newly converted Australian dollars into your account. You can always switch banks once you become familiar with the great and not-so-great aspects of the one you choose first!

When it comes to opening a new account without actually being in Australia, there seems to be quite a big difference between the banks. Some will let you do it pretty much all online, others want you to fill out paper forms and mail them, and yet others don't want to know you until you are actually in Australia. We preferred the banks who let you do it all online. Paper forms are so 2001!

Commonwealth Bank

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Open An Account Now

You can open your account(s) with the Commonwealth Bank (at most 3 months before you move) by completing this simple application form. Once you've completed the form, you will be able to log into your new account right away.

You can do this right now - you don't have to be living in Australia.

Note: If you open an account with CBA using this form we may receive a small commission that helps us create this content. Thanks for your support!

We chose to open accounts with the Commonwealth Bank, because their account opening process is simple, their online banking is widely regarded to be the best of any bank in Australia, they offer a comprehensive range of banking services (they have 4,000 ATMS and 1,000 branches in Australia), and their fees are comparable to the other major banks.

Since creating this site, we've partnered with the Commonwealth Bank to make it very simple for you to immediately open bank accounts before leaving New Zealand. All you have to do is complete this application form up to 3 months before you arrive in Australia. You’ll be able to sign in to your online account immediately after completing the online form.

Here's what to do and what to expect:

  1. You can open your account up to 3 months out by completing this online application form on the secure Commonwealth Bank site. You will choose your online banking password when completing the form.
  2. Login to your new Netbank account straight away to view your account details.
  3. After logging in, download and print your welcome letter. This contains important information about your new account, including how to transfer money to your new account.
  4. Choose the Australian branch where you’d like to pick up your new Debit MasterCard after arriving in Australia.
  5. Once your account is opened, you can use it to deposit funds but you cannot withdraw any funds until you have presented ID at a branch after your arrival in Australia. For using the bank account as somewhere to send your Australian dollars, this is all you need to get started.

If you are opening a joint account, be aware that both of you will need to go into a branch and present ID when you arrive before you can make payments from it etc.

Again, you need to arrive in Australia and go to a branch to complete your account setup within 3 months of opening the account online, so don’t do this step too early.

Westpac

Westpac is another popular bank in Australia and they too have a convenient online account application. The process takes about 10 minutes and you will receive an email from Westpac a couple of days later with your new account information.

Some great features of a Westpac account for Kiwis moving to Australia are:

Lots of people ask us if they can just transfer their existing New Zealand Westpac account to Australia, but Westpac Australia is completely separate - so you will need to open an Australian account.

ANZ Bank

The ANZ also has a convenient online application process for people moving to Australia. Visit this moving to Australia page of their web site for more information and to apply online. As with the Commonwealth Bank process, you need to present your ID at a branch in Australia before you can withdraw funds from the account.

If you have personally opened an account with the ANZ this way before leaving NZ, please email us to let us know how it went and we will update this guide to make it more useful to those who prefer to bank with the ANZ.

NAB - National Australia Bank

The NAB also offers an online bank account application process for you to open a bank account with them before you arrive in Australia.

Converting Your Money To Australian Dollars

Surprisingly few people seem to realise that there is quite a lot of choice when converting money into another currency. Many people just go with their first instinct - to use a bank. Don't do that! Unless you happen to be a very important customer, you will not get a good deal from your bank. Typically they will give you a pretty bad rate, and then charge you a commission on top of that!

The reason you want a bank account before converting your money is to avoid dealing with cash. Conversion rates for cash are often much worse than when dealing with electronic funds. For this reason, you should aim to convert as little physical cash as possible and send the converted funds directly to your new bank account.

Foreign Exchange Specialists

Depending on how much money you are converting, you can save yourself hundreds, or even thousands of dollars by using a specialist foreign exchange company. We used Currency Online, a New Zealand based specialist foreign exchange company, because we could get a much better rate, we paid no commission, and we could do everything online.

Just by choosing to use Currency Online instead of a bank, we saved a few hundred dollars. There are other specialist providers too, but we chose Currency Online because of the added convenience of being able to do it all online.

Here's the basic process we went through to convert our money, once we had our Aussie bank account opened:

  1. Open an account with Currency Online. It doesn't cost a thing, and you don't need to do regular transactions with them. You'll need to send electronic copies of your ID to complete the process. Just scan or take a photo of your passport (or drivers license, etc) and email them as per the instructions they give you.
  2. Once your account is open, log in and create yourself as the receiver of the Australian funds (this is referred to as creating a beneficiary). Use your new Aussie bank account details to have the Australian dollars paid directly into your account. This part can be confusing, so watch the video to the right if you want some help with it.
  3. Convert your money online or over the phone. You can do this at any time between 7:30AM Monday and midnight Friday (New Zealand time). Pay the New Zealand dollars you are converting into the Currency Online bank account (instructions are given on the confirmation of your currency exchange contract). You can pay the NZ dollars online if you have online banking, or simply credit the Currency Online account using phone banking or at a branch if you don't.
  4. Your Australian dollars will appear in your bank account, less any telegraphic transfer (TT) fees the bank has charged you to receive the funds.

If you need any help at any stage throughout the process, call them toll free on 0508 399 399. Chrissy is particularly helpful.

That's really all there is to it. You might have just saved yourself enough to cover one weeks rent in your new place in Australia, just by not using your bank!

Still have questions about moving your money to Australia? Check out our discussion forum where you can ask questions that can be answered by us and other readers.