Banking for Australian Expatriates and Migrants to Australia
1. Australian Expatriates moving Overseas
As an expat you are likely to have three or more banking relationships:
1. Your existing retail banking relationship in Australia.
You should maintain internet banking facilities in Australia so that you have the facility to pay and receive money in Australia. The banks will have no problem retaining you as a customer, even if you are non-resident, and it will not impact your tax residency position. It may also be the best place to hold any AUD cash balances - see the chart below showing term deposit rates, these will normally be more competitive than offshore accounts.
Informing your bank of an overseas address should automatically result in a withholding tax of 10% being applied to interest income - ensure this is the case or you may incur additional costs if later required to lodge remedial tax returns.
Note as an aside that if your current relationship with a bank includes use of their sharebroking services (eg. Commsec, nabtrade) you should expect these to be discontinued, and this will extend to all online brokers in Australia; they will not maintain non-resident clients.
2. You will need to establish a banking account in your host country
In most cases, this can only be done after you arrive in the country - the setting up of accounts has become appreciably more difficult in recent years as a result of money-laundering regulations.
3. You may need to establish an Offshore bank account
Opening an offshore bank account used to be de rigeur for expats. Whether establishing an account(s) is now required or useful is likely to be function of your country of residency and international mobility. They can offer a superior and safe environment for holding cash or investments but arguably they are not as flexible and friendly as they used to be because of constraints imposed by money laundering regulations.
At the present time, we do not believe that any of the Australian banks have the geographic spread or capacity to provide a true International banking experience to Australian expatriates. The exceptions are expatriates in New Zealand and PNG where some Australian banks retain a retail presence.
You have a very wide choice of large, global financial institutions that are experienced in dealing with expatriates and often have dedicated units or "Clubs" to deal with their specific requirements. Unless you have a specific need that can only be met by Australian banks we think that broader, more competitive services are available elsewhere.
At the present time, HSBC probably represents the best general banking option for Australian expats, and if you open an account with the bank in Australia this may accelerate the opening of accounts elsewhere in the bank's network. We strongly suggest however that you explore other services outside the banks in terms of any foreign currency transfers - banks can be extraordinarily expensive, both in terms of the exchange rates applied and fees.
Additionally, when it comes to holding cash it is unlikely that offshore accounts will be able to match the rates available on AUD term deposits in Australia, even allowing for the 10% withholding tax applying to non-residents. The chart below provides an indication of current term deposit rates in Australia for comparative purposes.
2. Migrants and Expats Moving to Australia
It is easy for expatriates or migrants moving to Australia to establish a bank account in advance of their arrival with most of the major banks - including CBA, Westpac, NAB and ANZ - providing specialist migrant banking services. These provide for an account to be opened via an online application process up to 12 months prior to your arrival and access to debit cards and other services. Typically, however, Australian and other international banks provide poor foreign currency transfer rates and you should look to specialist providers such as OFX to effect large balance transfers.
However, whilst you will be able to move funds into the account you will typically not be able to access or otherwise operate the account until you have attended an interview with bank staff and provided appropriate identification - as required by anti-money laundering legislation.
Alternatively, if individuals, including migrants and expatriate Australians, need to establish a bank account in Australia which they can operate whilst overseas, and prior to travelling to Australia - perhaps in respect of a property purchase or other investments - we can assist in opening an account which provides this flexibility. However, there is additional administration associated with meeting money-laundering requirements, and fees are applicable. Please use the Inquiry form below should you wish further information.