You will soon become an expert at international banking transactions…
Before you leave the US, contact your bank and/or credit card company to let them know that you will be studying abroad – where, for how long, and any other countries you plan to visit.
If your ATM card is linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems, your card will work in thousands of cash machines throughout the country. The advantage to using your American ATM card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. Australian banks typically charge a fee for the use of their ATMs, but check with your home bank to see if they have a partner bank that you may use to withdraw funds from without a fee (ie. Bank of America is partnered with Westpac).
That said, have other sources of money in case your ATM card does not work.
You can use most credit cards in Australia, but they must be in your name as it appears on your passport and have a PIN set-up prior to departure. Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express, but AmEx Offices can assist you with cashing US checks. Credit card cash advances are considered loans, so interest is charged from the day the advance is made. Before you depart, check with your card company for more information on what services you’ll have where, what fees are involved, and what to do if you lose your card.
Travelers checks can be helpful in case your wallet is lost or stolen, or for an initial monetary amount on opening an Australian bank account, but are not recommended for everyday use.
You will have the ability to open a bank account on campus at your Australian university. To do this, you will need:
You will be able to deposit personal checks into this account. The bank on your campus may be able to accept wire transfers for a nominal fee (you should verify this upon arrival). Bank hours are generally from 9:30 - 4:00 Monday through Thursday and 9:30 - 5:00 on Friday.
When the program is in session, our Melbourne office can make emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home. If you find yourself in dire financial straits while traveling, the State Department can help your family transfer money to you (provided you are a U.S. citizen).