Living Costs, Money and Banking

Studying abroad can be expensive, so we’ve put together some helpful information about Australia’s currency, living costs within Canberra, how to set up a bank account and even tips for budgeting your money. This way you can easily assess whether the great experience of studying abroad is possible for you.

Australian Currency

Australian currency is the only legal tender in Australia.

There are:

  • 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c silver cent coins,
  • $1 and $2 gold dollar coins; and
  • $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 plastic notes.

There are 100 cents in one dollar.

Australia's bank notes are made from a plastic that is strong, durable and provides a much greater security against counterfeiting. They are also colourful and can be easily distinguished from one another.

Click here for an online Currency Converter.

Changing and Accessing Your Money

When you are travelling to Australia it is a good idea to carry $200-$300 (AUD) in cash. This can be used for transport, food and emergency purposes. It is not recommended to carry large amounts of money with you.

The Australian Government has a limit on the amount of money that you can bring into Australia. You should check this before you leave home.

Your foreign money can be exchanged in your home country or at Australian international airports, banks and major hotels.

Banks will cash travellers' cheques in almost any currency, however they are easier to use if they are in Australian Dollars.

In Australia, Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) facilities can be found in most shopping centres. These machines can be used for 24 hours a day withdrawals. Many department stores, supermarkets and specialist shops have electronic transfer terminals (EFTPOS) where cash withdrawals can be made in addition to purchasing goods.

You can use credit cards in Australia at the majority of shops, movies, restaurants etc. Some places charge an extra fee for credit card use.

Living Costs*

The Australian Government estimates that the average living costs for an international student is $18,610 (AUD) per year (approx. $372 [AUD] per week). This pays for food, accommodation, telephone, gas, electricity, transport and entertainment.

However, international students are encouraged to undertake their own research into the cost of living in Australia, taking into consideration their own circumstances before making a decision on whether to study in Australia.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has financial requirements you must meet in order to receive a student visa. Below is a guide on the requirements you must meet to study in Australia:

  • $18,610 per year for the main student
  • $6,515 per year for the student's partner
  • $3,720 per year for the student's first child
  • $2,790 per year for every other child; and where required

Students must demonstrate that the funds they are relying upon to meet the costs of studying in Australia will be genuinely available to them during their stay in Australia.

Initial Set-up Expenses
Approximate Cost (AUD)
Transport from airport to accommodation
$10 – $50
Accommodation on arrival (temporary or more permanent)
$100 –$500
Bond money – usually around 4 weeks rent
$600 – $800
Course textbooks and equipments
$500 – $1,000
Other expenses
$300 – $1,150
$1,500 – $3,500

Regular/Ongoing Expenses
Approximate Weekly Cost (AUD)
Accommodation rent (Rent for CIT Residences includes electricity and gas)
$100 – $300
Electricity, gas, telephone  (often a shared cost)
$20 – $40
Food (This cost is included in Homestay fee for Full Board)
$70 – $90
Public transport
$20 – $50
Other expenses (entertainment etc)
$30 – $60
$240 – $540

Estimates for General Items
Approximate Cost (AUD)
All day parking in the city
$6 – $9
Cappuccino (coffee)
Movie ticket
Bus ticket (weekly Faresaver 10 tickets = $24.50)
Pool admission
$5 – $10
Dinner at a restaurant
$25 – $35+
Lunch at a café
$12 – $15+

Estimates for Grocery Products
Approximate Cost (AUD)
Loaf of bread
$2.50 – $3
Milk – 2 litres
$2.20 – $2.90
$1.50 – $3
Box of breakfast cereal
$3 – $4
Jar of instant coffee
$3 – $4
Bottle of soft drink
$1.50 – $3
Bottle of shampoo
$2.50 – $4.50
Bar of soap
$1.50 – $2.50
Apple (one)
.50c – .80c
Banana (one)
.60c – .90c
Beef (500g)
$7 – $8
Chicken (600g)
$7 – $8

 *All costs are indicative only.

Things to keep in mind – Long Term or Unexpected Expenses

  • Medical, dental, optical and pharmaceutical costs which may not be covered by OSHC
  • Excess luggage when returning home
  • Travel costs for emergency trips home


Australia has a large number of local and foreign banks and other financial institutions. Most banks provide telephone and internet banking, savings and cheque accounts, credit cards and debit cards, foreign currency exchange and travellers cheques, loans, transfer of funds and other financial services.

Banking hours

Monday to Thursday: 9.30am – 4.00pm
Friday: 9.30am – 5.00pm

Most branches offer 24 hour Automatic Teller Machines (ATM).

Opening a Bank Account

In Australia, most income including salary or wages and government benefits are paid directly into a bank account.

You should open a bank account within six weeks of your arrival, as you usually need only your passport as identification. After six weeks you will need extra identification to open an account, such as a new postal address and a Tax File Number which you can get from the Australian Taxation Office.

Check with your current bank to see if they have a branch in Australia that they can set up an account for you to access. If they don’t, visit the website below for further information on opening a bank account


Once you've settled in it's recommended you work out a budget covering costs including clothing, food, accommodation, transport and entertainment. Travel costs and child care, if applicable, should also be taken into account. It’s important to be aware of how much money you spend and where you are spending it. Sticking to a budget will ensure you are on top of where your money goes.

Read more about budgeting at

*Some information taken from