A bank account is one of the first things students should do upon arriving in Australia.
More than being a place to deposit your cash, and a point in which your allowance can be deposited, banks are also places where your credibility is checked, and bank statements are often used for basic process such as an application for a mobile phone line, or application for rental of property.
Choosing a bankEdit
Given that you are probably not looking to invest your allowance, and the short timeframe of your stay in Australia, you should look for the bank that offers you the most convenience.
For example, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has got branches and ATMs on-campus in UNSW and the Newcastle University, and has got a comprehensive network of ATMs across both Sydney and Newcastle, so it would probably be best to park your money there so that you can get to it easily.
EFTPOS and your bank keycardEdit
In Australia, the debit card system at point-of-sale is called EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale), and is akin to Singapore's NETS system. Just like NETS, you can pay for purchases using your bank keycard (often called "ATM cards" by Singaporeans) by swiping your card and keying in your PIN.
Unlike Singapore ATM cards (most notably POSB cards), you can also withdraw money from ATMs that do not belong to your bank. e.g. withdrawing money from a Westpac ATM using your Commonwealth keycard. The keycards are also part of a much larger network of debit card systems (Cirrus and Maestro or PLUS) that allow you to withdraw cash from practically any ATM in the world.
Do note that you are likely to be charged a fee for most ATM transactions unless your account is a student one where transaction fees are discounted or waived altogether. Do check with the bank teller before applying for your account.
You can also save on transaction fees by asking for "cash-out" when using your keycard at most supermarkets (the cashier gives you cash from the register and an equivalent amount will be debited from your bank account).
MasterCard and Visa student credit cards are normally made available to most international students. These cards normally have relatively modest credit limits (about AUD$500 when you first apply) and interest-free periods of about 55 days. They are handy for making online payments, or paying in places where EFTPOS cards are not accepted. Moreover, by using a local credit card, you can bypass the hefty charges imposed by the banks when using your Singapore credit card in Australia.
Internet banking is common in Australia and it is often used to transfer large sums of money (e.g. paying of rent or tuition fees). Most major banks in Australia provide internet banking services, for more information on their product and services, please visit their homepage following the links below.
When receiving monies from overseas, consider alternatives to costly inter-bank telegraphic transfers, such as remittance agents, which are available at your neighbourhood money changers. Their exchange rates are normally more competitive and transaction fees low, though some caution should be practiced when selecting an agent.