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Money, banks and credit cards in Australia

Banks, ATMs, EFTPOS

Many Australian banks have reciprocal arrangements with overseas banks. It is recommended that you check with your bank before you leave home to obtain details of any arrangements they may have and any conditions that apply.

Banks are open during normal business hours and you will find automatic teller machines (ATMs) everywhere, even in small country or outback towns. ATMs generally dispense $20 and $50 notes.

Personally, I very rarely go anywhere near a bank or ATM -- supermarkets, service stations, restaurants and most other suppliers have EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale), which allows you to purchase goods and services electronically, as well as providing a cash-out facility.

Credit cards

Credit cards are generally accepted everywhere, although there may be a surcharge, which may vary depending on the type of card. The most common cards in Australia are Visa and Mastercard.

Goods and services tax (GST)

Goods and services tax (GST) is a broad-based consumption tax charged at the rate of 10% on the sale of most goods and services in Australia.

Tourist refund scheme

If you spend $300 or more in the one store in the 30 days before you leave Australia you may be able to claim a refund of GST -- more information on the Australian Customs external link site.

Exchange rates

The exchange rate between the Australian dollar and other currencies fluctuates. The rate also varies between providers, and non-bank providers generally offer better exchange rates than banks. When comparing rates you also need to consider such things as fees and ease of use. Foreign exchange regulations vary from country to country and Australia's regulations are among the strictest in the world.

Click here for a currency converter.

Currency

The unit of currency in Australia is the Australian dollar, which is divided into cents -- 100 cents = $1.

Australian notes are printed on polymer (plastic) substrate instead of traditional paper, using technology developed in Australia. Polymer notes are more secure against counterfeiting, last four times as long as paper notes, are cleaner and more hygienic, and can be recycled. They also stick together, making it difficult to get out of your wallet or purse.

Notes are also colour-coded to make identification easier, and are sized according to value -- each note is 7mm longer than the next smaller in denomination. They come in denominations of $100 (green), $50 (yellow), $20 (red), $10 (blue) and $5 (purple). Each note depicts people who have been significant in Australian history or life.

Coins come in denominations of $2 and $1, and 50, 20, 10 and 5 cents. The $1 and $2 coins are gold-coloured, while the cent-denominations are silver-coloured, however there is no actual gold or silver in the coins -- the gold-coloured coins are made of 92% copper, 6% aluminium and 2% nickel; while the silver-coloured contain 75% copper and 25% nickel. Just to confuse everyone the $2 is smaller than the $1.

One side of all Australian coins features the effigy of the reigning monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the year the coin was minted. The $2 coin depicts an Aboriginal tribal elder, the $1 generally depicts five kangaroos, however there have been a number of commemorative $1 coins issued. The 50¢ is the largest coin and generally depicts the coat of arms although there have been many commemorative designs. The first 50¢ was round and actually made of silver but since 1969 these have been made of copper and nickel and are a very distinctive dodecagonal (twelve-sided) shape. The other coins depict Australian animals -- platypus (20¢), lyrebird (10¢) and echidna (5¢).

The copper-coloured 1 and 2 cent coins are no longer in circulation, however shops will still price items in steps of less than 5¢: they will add up the total of items purchased then either round down or round up the total price to the nearest 5¢ -- unless you pay by credit card or EFTPOS in which case you will pay the exact amount. The 1¢ coin depicted the feather tailed glider and a frilled-necked lizard was on the 2¢. These coins were made of 97% copper, 2.5% zinc and 0.5% tin.

Decimal currency was introduced on 14 February 1966. The $1 coin replaced the $1 note in 1984, the $2 coin replaced the $2 note in 1988, and 1 and 2 cent coins were removed from circulation in 1992. The original paper notes were progressively replaced by polymer notes between 1992 and 1996.

  • The Reserve Bank of Australia external link is responsible "for the production and issue, reissue and cancellation of Australia's notes".
  • The Royal Australian Mint external link is responsible for Australia's coins. The mint is located in Canberra and is a popular tourist attraction.

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Images of Australia

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Pied Cormorants. Common Wallaroo or Euro. Common Wallaroo or Euro.

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