UNSW Institute of Languages

International Students

Money Matters

Money Matters

Day-to-day living in Australia is comparable to other international study destinations, and can often be cheaper. A student living in Homestay accommodation would require approximately AUD$370 per week to live in reasonable comfort.
Some approximate costs include:

  • lunches (weekdays) = $45 per week
  • internet = $10 - $15 per week
  • cup of coffee = $3.00 - $3.50
  • newspaper = $1.50
  • coca-cola = $1.90 per litre
  • instant noodles = $1.15 per 100gms
  • toothpaste = $3.10 per 120gms
  • rice = $2.30 per kilogram
  • bus ticket = $1.80 up to 2 sections, or 3km
  • movie ticket = $15.00

To make a currency calculation click here.


International students on student visas may work up to 20 hours per week during semesters and unlimited hours during holiday times while in Australia. As Australia’s largest city there are more companies and businesses in Sydney so there are more opportunities for finding part time work.

Australia’s economy

Australia has an advanced, deregulated, market economy. It is the 13th largest economy in the world and represents 1.7% of the world economy. The Australian dollar is the world’s fifth most traded currency and is internationally regarded as stable.

Demand for Australia’s exports, principally mining and agricultural products, has remained strong in recent times. This has insulated Australia from many of the economic problems experienced in Europe and America and elsewhere.

The Australian economy has experienced 18 consecutive years of growth since 1992, averaging an annual growth rate of 3.3%. The economy is forecast to continue growing. Unemployment is low, at around 5%.

Australia has 4 of the 8 triple A rated banks in the world. The financial sector is very strong and continues to be stable in the recent uncertain economic times.

Banking in Australia

Australia’s central bank is the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank regulates Australia’s commercial banks. There are four of these:

  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA)
  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ)
  • National Australia Bank (NAB)
  • Westpac Banking Corporation (Westpac)

Australia has many other financial institutions - building societies and credit unions. These offer many of the same services as banks, but are subject to less strict, state-based regulations.

Opening an account

To open an account with a bank, building society or credit union, you need to show proof of your identity.

Cash machines

Cash dispensing machines, known as Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), are widespread. It costs nothing to use the ATMs that are operated by the bank with which you have an account. However, you may be charged a small fee to use ATMs operated by other banks. If, for example, you have an ANZ account and withdraw money from a NAB machine, you will incur a transfer fee of about $2.

The official currency is the Australian dollar. The currency consists of notes in denominations of $100, $50, $20 $10 and $5, and coins in denominations of $2.00, $1.00, 50 cents, 20 cents, 10 cents and 5 cents. In 1991, one and two-cent coins were withdrawn from circulation. Cash transactions are now rounded to the nearest five cents.


Many shops and retail outlets have EFTPOS facilities (electronic funds transfer at point of sale). EFTPOS allows you to pay for items by using your credit card or Australian debit card.

Credit cards

Credit cards such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Diners Club and JCB can all be used in Australia. Please note that repayments to most card accounts can only be made in the country in which the card is issued.

Credit cards are usually not issued to international students in Australia. Therefore, if you want to use a credit card you should make arrangements either to open your own account before you leave home, or to obtain a card on your parents' account.

Banking at UNSW

There are three financial institutions on campus:

  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA)
  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ)
  • Catalyst Mutual

With these institutions you can set up savings accounts, investment accounts, and/or cheque accounts. They also handle overseas transactions, such as drafts, travellers cheques and foreign currency exchange.

During your time in Australia it is a good idea to open a bank account. If you are planning to work in Sydney you will need to open a bank account. Employers will pay wages into your bank account and will not pay wages in cash. To open a bank account, you must show your passport as proof of identity.

Australian banks are registered and regulated under government legislation in order to safeguard the funds of depositors. Bank cash-dispenser machines, known as Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread, as is the use of Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) in shops and businesses.