Get The Best Exchange Rate
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:
- Please, please do not take large sums of cash or travellers' cheques! You are literally wasting money by doing so. The best way to convert anything other than the smallest sums of money is to send it via telegraphic transfer (TT).
- Open an Australian bank account before leaving New Zealand so that you can minimise the amount of cash you need to take with you. We show you how to do this below.
- Don't use a bank to convert your money! Use a specialist foreign exchange company to get a better exchange rate and to avoid high bank fees. We also cover this below.
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!
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!
COVID-19 Update: The Commonwealth Bank has answered common questions about opening accounts and moving to Australia during COVID-19. They are also offering a range of support measures during the Coronavirus pandemic for both personal and business customers.
We chose to open accounts with the Commonwealth Bank (Aussies call it Commbank), 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.
You can open your account up to 3 months before you move (or 3 months after you arrive, using this same form) on the secure Commonwealth Bank site. If you apply via this page the monthly account fee will be waived for the first year.
To apply for a Commonwealth Bank account you’ll need to know the city in Australia you’ll be moving to you so you can select a branch to finalise the account on arrival.
You’ll also be asked for your Visa information. If you are a New Zealand citizen, choose Other. If you are not a NZ citizen, have your passport handy with your visa entry information.
It only takes a few minutes to create your account online and then you can login to your new Netbank account straight away to view your account details.
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.
Note that you cannot withdraw any funds until you have presented ID at a branch after your arrival in Australia. You can read more about Commonwealth Bank’s account options here.
Note 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 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:
- You can open your account up to 12 months before arriving in Australia.
- There is no need to deposit any money in your account to keep it active.
- No monthly account service fees.
- Get a free savings account when you open your everyday account.
- The widest ATM network in Australia, including St George, Bank of South Australia and Bank of Melbourne.
- No-fee withdrawals from Westpac ATMs in New Zealand when you fly back for a visit.
- Use your bank account to start paying bills before you arrive in Australia, if you need to.
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.
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.
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 XE (previously known as Currency Online), a specialist foreign exchange company with NZ offices, because we could get a much better rate, we paid no commission, and we could do everything online.
Just by choosing to use XE instead of a bank, we saved a few hundred dollars. There are other specialist providers too, but we chose XE 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:
- Open an account with XE. 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.
- 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.
- 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 XE 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 XE account using phone banking or at a branch if you don't.
- Your Australian dollars will appear in your bank account, less any telegraphic transfer (TT) fees the bank has charged you to receive the funds.
COVID-19 Update: XE is operating as normal during the Coronavirus pandemic.
If you need any help at any stage throughout the process, call them toll free on 0800 932 664.
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.