A practical foreign exchange and currency guide to Australia
What’s in this Australia currency guide:
The official currency of Australia is the Australian dollar, with symbol A$ and currency code AUD.
The Australian dollar is the fifth most traded currency in the world and is popular with currency traders, because of the high interest rates in Australia, the freedom of the foreign exchange market from government intervention, the stability of Australia's economy and political system, and the view that the Australian dollar offers diversification benefits in a portfolio containing the major world currencies, especially because of its greater exposure to Asian economies and the commodities cycle.
The currency is commonly referred to by foreign-exchange traders as the "Aussie dollar".
Australians are more focussed on their currency exchange rate than are the citizens of most other countries, along with perhaps the British and Canadians. This is may be due to the open and trading nature of the Australian economy and also due to their love of 'overseas' travel.
Aussie Ups and Downs 2011-20
The Aussie is very volatile for a major currency, for example between 2008 and 2011, AUD rose 80 per cent against the US dollar, ultimately going up through parity at one point.
Then during 2011-12 AUD started to track the Chinese economy much more than it tracked any of the traditional domestic economic and monetary indicators.
From 2013 to 2015 it dropped against the US dollar, especially when the Chinese stock market sold off in 2015, followed by a decent cyclical 17 per cent rally in 2016-17.
Then from early 2018 it again began its steady way down before being king-hit by the Covid pandemic flight to safety in March of 2020 which took AUD/USD all the way back to its 2008 lows to $60 cents.
In mid May AUDUSD fell below the 69¢ level (it has since recovered back above 70¢), over escalating concerns over the Covid lockdown on Chinese companies.
In late January and again in May the AUD slipped below the key 0.70 USD mark, its lowest level since mid 2020.
However, AUD is widely expected to rise to US75¢ by the end of 2022 – the Aussie dollar is forecast to have a volatile year against a range of currencies.
13 May 2022
26 Feb 2022
27 May 2021
28 May 2017
29 May 2012
01 Jun 2002
The below comparison table makes it easy to find the best exchange rates and lowest fees when you want to make a Transfer or Spend Australian dollar.
The classic error first-time visitors make is trying to ‘do’ Australia in two or three weeks, forgetting that it’s a continent as well as a country. It’s far better to pick two or three areas to tackle well than attempt to tick off the highlights in one visit. Otherwise, most of the visit is spent in transit. Not only are the gaps between major cities bigger than they are in Europe or the US – there are generally far fewer small towns between them. This delineation between urban and bush is massively to Australia’s credit. Once out of the city, it feels like you’re in the wild.
Australia has a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10 per cent. You may be able to claim a refund for the GST paid on goods if you have spent AUD$300 or more with a single business, no more than 60 days before departing Australia. Tourist Refund Scheme facilities are located in the departure area of international terminals.
There are no limits on the amount of currency that can be brought in or out of Australia, but travellers must declare hard currency equivalent to AUD10,000 or higher. Australia is not usually considered a budget destination, in fact Sydney and Melbourne are consistently ranked as two of the world’s most expensive cities but if you’re careful with your spending it’s still possible to make your money go a long way, especially when the Australian Dollar is weaker.
Hotels and restaurants do not add service charges to your bill, and tipping is always your choice. In upmarket restaurants, it is common to tip waiters 10 percent of the bill for good service. Americans, in particular, struggle to grasp the absolutely impeccable Australian tipping system. Basically, you tip if you want to, but nobody particularly expects you to or pressures you to.
Most nationalities will need to get a visa before you travel. Beware of scam adverts claiming to help you extend a working holiday visa. Several British nationals have had their visas cancelled as a result. If you’re a Singaporean national, there’s good news in relation to visas which is that from January 2018 a new, long-term, multiple entry visa will be available. This will allow Singaporeans to stay for up to three months at a time over a six year period.
There are no limits on sending money to Australia and the government allows unhindered access to foreign investors. Investments over a value of AUD244m (or over AUD1.078bn for investors from the US and New Zealand in non-sensitive sectors) must be pre-screened, but all other capital inflows are unrestricted.
The IMF’s Global Housing Watch has Australia ranked as the third least affordable place in the world to buy a house – behind only Belgium and Canada.
The area (㎡) of prime property that $US1million buys in Australia’s capital cities (Q1 2018) is: Sydney 49㎡, Melbourne 91㎡, Brisbane 117㎡, Perth 126㎡. This is compared to equivalent areas for Hong Kong 22㎡, New York 25㎡, London 27㎡, Singapore 37㎡, Paris 45㎡, Shanghai 50㎡, Los Angeles 58㎡, Tokyo 70㎡, Berlin 74㎡, Miami 78㎡, Mumbai 94㎡, Istanbul 110㎡, Dubai 138㎡ and San Paulo 172㎡.
Foreign citizens who want to buy or invest in residential property in Victoria (VIC), New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA) will need to pay a stamp duty levy and, in some states, a land tax surcharge. New South Wales recently increased the stamp duty surcharge for foreign investors to 8 percent, making it the most expensive in the country.
You can read about the best providers and compare the latest deals for international money transfers to Australia in our Send Money to Australia guide.