Budgeting and banking

Managing your finances

Understanding your finances, organising a bank account and budgeting are all important parts of your student life in New South Wales. Living on a student income can be tough (especially if this is the first time you have lived away from home). Here are some tips to help you take control of your finances.

Woman calculating using a calculator

Cost of Living Calculator

Study Australia has developed a Cost of Living Calculator in collaboration with Insider Guides. This calculator will assist students to estimate how much it could cost to have the lifestyle they choose in Australia.


Putting coins into a container

NSW Savings Finder

The NSW Government is helping reduce the cost of living with more than 70 rebates and vouchers. International students are eligible for some of these benefits.

Find out more

The Australian currency

The basic unit of currency is the Australian dollar (AUD or A$) and there are 100 cents in one dollar ($1). Bank notes are plastic, brightly coloured and issued in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. As for coins, we have 5 cents (or c), 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. 1c and 2c coins were discontinued in 1990.

When paying with cash, prices of goods and services are 'rounded up' or 'rounded down' to the nearest 5 cents. For example, you would pay $1.95 in cash for an item priced $1.97, but $2 for an item priced $1.99. If paying by an electronic method such as a credit card or bank transfer, the price would not be rounded up or down; you pay the exact amount.

Make a budget

It is a good idea to work out a weekly or monthly budget that includes all your possible income from sources such as:

  • Family support
  • Savings
  • Part-time work

You can then compare this against your weekly spend to make sure you have enough money to live, study and enjoy your time in NSW.

You can find useful information on how to plan your expenses at the Money Smart website, which includes a useful budget calculator.

Banks in NSW

There is a diverse and competitive banking industry in Australia, and banks are regulated by the Australian Government. Almost all Australian residents maintain a transaction or savings account with a linked debit or credit bankcard.

EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale): Australians increasingly use electronic payments through EFTPOS for basic purchases and debit payments. There is usually no charge for paying by EFTPOS; however there may be a minimum spend, such as $10.

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines): You will find ATMs in most public places, and many education providers have ATMs on campus. ATMs in Australia will usually charge a fee if the card you use belongs to a different bank to that of the ATM.

Bank charges: All bank accounts in Australia are subject to bank charges of some kind – ask your bank about these. However, there are many banks which offer accounts without account keeping fees or with minimal charges.

Credit cards: If your credit card has a Maestro or Plus sign on the back, you will be able to use that card in Australia. Some credit card transactions will attract a fee, generally a percentage of the final bill (for example, 1.5%).

Also, do not forget that you may be charged extra fees each time you use a card from your home country in Australia. Some banks may waive these fees, so it is worth investigating which banks do this.

Internet banking: Most banks enable you to access your account via the internet.

Opening an account: To open a bank account you will need:

  • Your Electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE)
  • Your passport and other forms of identification (these vary depending on the banking institution)
  • A letter of offer from your education provider
  • Your Australian Tax File Number (TFN), available from the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

Opening hours: Most banks are open Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 4.00pm (although some are also open on Saturday mornings).

Student accounts: Some banks offer special student accounts with no or low fees, so ask about this option.

Transferring money from overseas:  Money can be sent via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to your Australian bank account. This usually takes between 1 and 10 days.

Banking Ombudsman

The Australian Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman helps individuals and small businesses to resolve complaints concerning all financial services provided by banks.

For more information on the banking ombudsman, visit: www.fos.org.au or call 1300 780 808.