Since settling down in Melbourne, I’ve had the unenviable task of setting up a bank account and sorting out my phone.
Two relatively easy tasks – if I was doing it at home. It’s taken me nearly all week to get it sorted and I’m still not entirely done.
I’m sure it was a simple task, I’m sure I just made it harder or more complicated for myself by just, well, being me, but when you’re not entirely sure how the banking system works in your own country (other than, for the most part it does) it’s a bloody minefield working it out in a different continent.
I’ve spent the past week carrying around every bit of documentation relating to my being in the country, everywhere.
Partly on the off chance someone will spot check my eligibility and partly because I have no idea just how much I need to be able to do anything.
Not because it’s particularly exciting, but just in case someone stumbles across my blog, I thought I’d try and lay out a sort of ‘dummies’ guide to setting yourself up in Australia.
(I daresay this post may change a few times as I get a better understanding of how everything works, but this is the bones of it)
For a start, if you’re going to be working in Aus, you need a TFN or Tax File Number (something I tackled here). I guess it works like your N.I. number: it’s unique to you and you get taxed about 48 cents from every $1 if you don’t have one. Getting it sorted it key.
Most legal things in Australia require you to make up 100 points with ID documentation, usually your visa, passport and proof of residency (bank statement or letter from accommodation) is enough – if you’re going to set up anything make sure you at least have these things with you or you’ll be backwards and forwards for days!
The first thing I had to decide was which bank to go with. Unlike in the UK, where you can use any cash point to access your money for free, in Australia, if you try to take money out from an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank, you get charged about $1.75.
With this in mind, the natural choice seemed to be Commonwealth Bank – they’ve got ATMs everywhere and there’s a branch near to where we’re staying, plus loads in the CBD. They’re also the easiest to spot, with their bright yellow shop front (so I don’t have to worry about trying to find them!)
When you open an account, they automatically set you up with the equivalent of a current account, you also get a savings account and then a separate superannuation account. If you’re going to be working in Aus you have to get a superannuation account.
Superannuation is like a giant pension scheme – you pay into it, your employer automatically pays your superannuation into your account, but it’s really important that until you leave the country again, you forget about this account.
Once the money is in, you can’t get it out.
So if you accidentally pay anything into it, you’re stuck. Once you’ve left Australia for the final time (as far as working is concerned) you get this money back.
You need to make a deposit to open up your account, but you can do it with as little as a dollar, so it’s good to get it done as soon as you can – it helps with processes further down the line, such as Medicare and being paid!
One other thing it’s worth noting is that your ‘current account’ will have a charge on it. When I set mine up, there is a $4/month charge on the account, however, if you’re putting $1,000 or more a month into the account this fee gets waived. Generally speaking, if you’re working part time it should be pretty easy to cover this amount, so it’s not something to get too bogged down with.
Another thing to note is that they like you to keep the bulk of your money in the savings account and only transfer into the current account what you’ll need for a week or so – this seems like a bit of a faff, because I don’t think you can be paid into the savings account, but it’s something you can sort out online. The interest rate is really good though, 3.6%, so it’s probably worth the hassle doing it that way.
Commonwealth like to do everything online, once you’ve opened your accounts, I was being encouraged to go online with internet banking, download their app and make any changes I needed to make online, but to do this, you need to have a confirmation text sent to your phone.
Not having an Aussie phone at this point I was a little bit stuck, and this is where the crux of my problem lay.
To get a bank account I needed an Aussie number and to get an Aussie number, I needed a bank account and online banking.
You can get round this (as I’ve managed to), but it’s part of what made everything seem so confusing.
I possibly made my phone harder for myself by opting for a contract, or pre-paid SIM, but with the WiFi in the flat being quite temperamental and with a lot of people I want to keep in touch with being so far away, I wanted to make sure I’d have enough Internet on my phone and a contract seemed like the obvious solution.
After spending an agonising few days trying to work out who to go with, I eventually decided on Optus. Thankfully, when I was on the way to my CPR course we went past a Virgin shop and they use the Optus network – I’m a long time customer of Virgin and I trust the brand, so I decided to go with them.
Something I’ve had a real problem with over here is brand recognition. It’s not something we think about on a day to day basis, but our lives are heavily brand centric. I have no idea what half the brands here are, I don’t know if I’m using something good, or something bad, I’ve got no idea of brand reputation or quality and it was part laziness, part reassurance that I had some idea of what to expect that made me decide to go with Virgin.
They’ve also got a cracking deal going at the moment meaning I’ve got an extra GB of data on my phone (possibly not needed, but it’s a nice back up).
To set up my phone I needed my passport, copy of my Visa, proof of residency and a bank statement. The proof of residency had to be officiated, so a bank statement was the perfect double whammy, to prove I had enough money to pay for my phone and also as my proof of address.
This is where things got trickier.
My personal documents were all fine, but when I initially went in the documents from opening the bank and a printed statement from the ATM weren’t enough. This was where we tried to log in to Internet banking and all that didn’t work and I was stuck. No dice.
I went back the next day with a bank statement from the teller, but they don’t give you a statement with your current balance, only your available balance, correct as of the last banking day. I was getting ‘go fever’ at this point and I was hoping this would be enough (despite not showing as having enough in the account).
But you need to make sure you get a bank statement printed with your address on.
Sound obvious I know, but I was backwards and forwards between Virgin and Commonwealth most of the afternoon!
You get to pick what number you want from a deck of available SIMs which meant I was already onto a winning start at remembering my new contact details.
The bank was closed by the time I was heading back, so I still haven’t managed to set up Internet banking, but that’s a job for tomorrow!