Friday, June 18, 2010

Tips for new migrants: opening a bank account

Opening a bank account requires a 100-point check. Since identity cards are not used here, the driver's licence is the usual form of identity. Very often, such as in opening a bank account, you will require more than just the driver's licence to identify yourself. Various forms of ID can be used but they must add up to a minimum of 100 points.

A few tips here about banking:
1. If you sign up for electricity or other utility bills, it is better to put both husband and wife's name. Then when it comes to dealing with the utility bill company, either husband or wife can act. Or else, they will only deal with the nominated person and strictly nobody else. Also, either one can use the utility bill towards the 100-point check if needed.

2. Always use your name consistently. They will accept Anglican name, nickname, or whatever you fill in. It is best to be consistent. For e.g. if your name is Ah Beng, don't put it as "Ah_Beng" or "Ah-Beng" or "Ahbeng" or "John". Be consistent all the time (i.e. school, medicare, income tax, etc) and you'll minimize future inconvenience.

3. The 4 major banks are ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and NAB. Any bank will do but you'll probably want one that is closest to you or has ATM machine convenient to your location. If you go for HSBC, there are very few branches in Melbourne and it gives you no advantage at all in terms of transferring money between HSBC Malaysia and here, if that's what you have in mind. Suncorp, St.George, and other small regional banks also have fewer branches; an inconvenience if you are traveling through smaller towns.

4. Once you've set up an account, you will be providing that to the tax dept, Medicare, Centrelink, your employer, Superannuation fund, utility companies, etc. Plan to have one permanent account that you will use all the time for a long time, and for putting your pay in and paying bills out of it.

5. It is more practical for husband and wife to set up their own account. It makes it easier to work with the automated tax filing system (you'll find out later). You can always set each other up as nominees to operate each other's account.

6. Unlike in Malaysia, you don't need a cheque book account. I don't have one. The only time you'll need to write a cheque is when you buy a house or a car. Just buy a bank draft then. All bills can be paid via Bpay in the internet.

7. The most useful account is an everyday account and a savings account. The everyday account allows you to pay bills through Bpay and withdraw money from the ATM. The savings account is where you put the rest of your money away. You can also get a debit card to work with your everyday account, so you don't really need to have a credit card. Usually there is no charge to have a debit card and it can be used like a credit card. Initially it is hard to get approval for a credit card unless you are employed here.

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