Australian currency operates on the decimal system, with the dollar (A$) the basic unit and 100 cents equal to $1. Coins come in 5, 10, 20, and 50-cent pieces as well as $1 and $2 coins. Purchases are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. Bills, which are called notes, come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100; each denomination is a different color and size for easy identification.
ATM Cards & Credit Cards
While in Sydney, most students use their American ATM or debit cards at local ATMs to withdraw Australian Dollars (AUD). The ATMs (aussie translation: cash machine) accept American cards that have been set up with a four digit pin number, but generally charge a fee. When you notify your bank that you will be traveling overseas also check to find out what their rates/policies are for foreign withdrawals. Some banks offer special travel cards or have overseas partners that you can use to avoid certain fees, for example, Bank of America’s partner in Australia is Westpac.
Some students also choose to bring along an American credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. Although Australia has more of a cash culture, you will be able to use a credit card to pay for some larger purchases such as groceries and travel bookings. Just keep in mind that an American credit card will need to be paid off using an American bank account. As with your ATM card, it is important to notify your credit card company that you will be using the card in Australia and be sure that it has been set up with a four digit pin number.
Money for the First Week & Cost of Living
During week one you will need Australian currency to pay for groceries, appliances, travel bookings, a local prepaid phone plan, and other items. We estimate that you will need around $600AUD to pay for these initial expenses. There are many ATMs close to the BU Sydney Academic Centre and in the airport when you arrive.
Your weekly expenses will depend on your own standard of living and how much traveling, shopping, and dining out you choose to do. Remember that while in Sydney you will have some daily expenses such as food and transportation that you may not be accustomed to due to a meal plan or pre-paid transportation fee back at school. For those of you with an internship, you will likely be required to commute to some extent. Depending on your trip, a weekly pass may cost up to $60. Be sure to budget for the entire length of your stay.