Like the currency of the United States, Australia and New Zealand currency comes in the form of coins and notes. The basic unit of currency for Australia is the Australian Dollar. The basic unit of currency for New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar.
We do not recommend bringing large amounts of cash with you for security and safety reasons. However, you may wish to bring a small amount of currency for any initial personal expense needs. Most major banks in large U.S. cities have foreign currency in stock, but smaller, regional banks may have to order different currencies. Therefore, do not wait until the last minute to place your order. Alternatively, you can exchange money at the Los Angeles, Dallas, or San Francisco Airport before you depart for the overseas flight. This is slightly more expensive than using a local bank (1%-2% higher fees), but can be convenient. Currency exchanges are not open 24 hours in Australia or New Zealand, so you should obtain the foreign currency in Los Angele, Dallas, or San Francisco.
Money Access Abroad
Cash (ATMs): The use of an American ATM card is a convenient and fast method to withdraw money. Most of these transactions assess the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions, which ultimately means savings for you. Please check with your bank to ensure your PIN number and ATM card will work abroad. Some banks currently do NOT charge any fees for using ATMs, and you will want to see if your home bank will assess fees for foreign withdrawals.
VERY IMPORTANT: You must call your bank in advance and notify them that you are traveling internationally and will be using your ATM card abroad. If you do not, your accounts may be frozen to ‘protect’ you from theft (ie, the bank will think someone has stolen your cards and is using them abroad).
Before departing the U.S., determine if your current ATM/bank card is readily accepted at foreign ATM machines. Check if your U.S. bank has an affiliation with a bank in Australia or New Zealand, by contacting your current U.S. bank.
Major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are most commonly accepted in Australia. Visa and MasterCard are accepted more regularly than American Express. Please keep in mind there must be someone readily available to pay your credit card bill (if your billing is not online) or your finance charges will quickly add up. Most credit card bills can be paid online so you may be able to pay from within Australia or New Zealand without involving a third party.
VERY IMPORTANT: You must call your credit card company in advance and notify them that you are traveling internationally and will be using your credit card abroad. If you do not, your accounts may be frozen to ‘protect’ you from theft (i.e, the credit card company will think someone has stolen your cards and is using them abroad).
- Your credit card must be in your name as shown on your passport.
- Be aware that many credit card companies charge approximately 3% for foreign currency transactions. Please contact your credit card company and ask them what the foreign currency transaction fees will be.
- Make sure you have signed the back of your credit card.
Pre-Paid Credit Cards
An easy option to help control your spending are prepaid credit cards which can be purchased online through the card web-site, i.e. Visa or Mastercard. Prepaid cards can also be purchased at many convenience or large box stores. Prepaid cards work in Australia and New Zealand just like they do in the U.S. Some cards even offer the option of purchasing them with foreign currency already loaded like the one found here: http://www.cashpassport.com/
- The quickest (and most economical) way to receive money from home is to have the funds deposited into your home bank account and withdraw those funds with an ATM card. Wire Transfers take a minimum of 3-7 days to reach Australia.
- Most major credit cards are widely accepted in Australia, but we recommend Visa or MasterCard.
- If possible, bring some Australian currency with you from the U.S. in case you arrive overseas during non-business hours, e.g., when banks and currency exchanges are closed.
- For those participating in the 8-week summer program, there is no need to open a bank account in Australia or New Zealand.
For day-to-day spending, excluding any major travel plans, you should budget approximately the same as you would for a summer in the U.S. plus an additional 10-20% to factor in variances of cost of living and extra activities. General day-to-day living expenses are comparable in Australia and New Zealand to that of major cities in the US; however, students tend to spend more on weekend travel and entertainment when abroad.
Please keep in mind that living in a large metropolitan area will be more expensive than living in a smaller town.