Ready to get your first Australian credit card? Here’s our take on the best credit cards for expats in Australia, and what eligibility criteria you’ll need to satisfy before applying for a card.
June 16, 2021 — 9 min read
If you’re thinking of relocating to Australia or you’ve already made the move, getting your finances situated is likely one of your top priorities. After setting up your bank account, you may be wondering what credit card you should use in your new country.
To make the choice easier for you, we’ve touched on how you can establish a credit history, what you’d need to apply for a credit card, and a list of the best credit cards for expats in Australia.
While choosing a credit card for your new life in Australia, consider the following factors:
Annual fee. Ask yourself what rewards you’d be happy with, in return for the purchases you make every day. Right after checking the annual fee of a credit card, think whether the rewards would be enough to offset that fee.
Foreign transaction fees. Look out for Australian credit cards with low or no international transaction fees. Such fees might negate any potential rewards from your credit card purchases.
Travel rewards. As an expat, you should keep an eye out for credit cards with awesome travel rewards, so you can get points for hotels and flights.
It’s always best to do your homework before taking such a huge step as shifting to Australia.
Naturally, the conditions would differ from one credit card issuer to another, but here are some general criteria you’d need to fulfil:
Age. It goes without saying that you can apply for a credit card as an expat only if you’re aged 18 or more.
Passport. Keep your passport number and a few copies of your passport handy.
Employment. At the time of applying for a credit card as an expat, you must prove that you’re already employed in Australia (and you have been, for the last three months or so), or that you’re going to be employed in the country (along with the confirmation of your upcoming employment).
What you can do is provide a written confirmation of your most recent employment contract and come up with your last couple of payslips.
Some Australian banks may require you to furnish an employment contract spanning at least 2 years, while others may ask for an employment agreement that’s got at least 6 months remaining till the end of the agreement.
Visa. Your visa must be valid (obviously). You may also need to have a certain period of time left on your visa (for instance, at least 2 years left till the visa expiration date).
Additionally, credit card issuers consider the type of visa you’re holding at the time of applying for a credit card. For instance, it may be a permanent residency visa or a 457 work visa.
Income details. You need to have a regular and verifiable income in Australia. To apply for some credit cards, you may also have to meet the minimum income requirements.
Australian address. The credit card issuer will require your residential address in Australia.
Australian bank account/s. You must also have an account at any Australian bank for expats. Some credit card issuers may readily accept your application if you’re able to prove that you’ve already applied for opening a bank account in Australia.
Keep in mind that Australian credit card issuers won’t care whether you had a good credit score or a bad one before moving to Australia.
The only thing that matters in this case is your financial history in Australia.
But how can you establish your credit history if you’ve just shifted to the country a couple of months ago? Well, for starters, you can follow these procedures:
Loans. Whether you take home loans, personal loans, or even car loans, or borrow money for other purposes, we’d recommend you to repay all your debts and loans, in time and in full.
Utility accounts. Upon moving to Australia, you’ll obviously have to set up utility accounts like electricity accounts, Internet accounts, and phone plans, to name a few. Make sure you pay all your utility bills on time. Any defaults or late payments would mean a mark against your credit history in Australia.
After you’ve settled in your new country, consider opening a bank account in Australia, if you haven’t already.
Find the best Australian banks for expats, and if they’re offering you credit cards, too, you can use your account statements to prove to them that you’re handling your finances responsibly.
This can significantly improve your chances for credit card approval as an expat.
Australian banks and credit card issuers are more likely to approve your application as an expat for a credit card if they find your credit score is good enough to meet their standards.
In Australia, 3 credit bureaus are well-known: Experian, Equifax, and Illion.
On comparing the credit scores and ranges by these 3 bureaus, it’s safe to say that a score of 750 is considered good. If the score is 800 or more, the credit report is excellent.
To ensure you’ve got a good credit score, you can view your credit report produced by these bureaus on their websites.
Best for: Low annual fee
With an annual card fee of only $59 AUD (or approximately $45.15 USD), Westpac bank in Australia offers a credit card that comes with a low variable purchase rate, as well (13.74% p.a.).
The credit limit would start from $500 AUD ($382.60 USD), and you’ll get up to 55 days interest-free on your credit card purchases. This interest-free period doesn’t cover cash advances, though.
A foreign transaction fee on the Westpac Low Rate credit card costs 3% of the value (in Australian dollars or AUD) of any transaction you’ve made in a foreign currency.
Westpac also sends you SMS payment reminders, so you don’t forget to repay your purchases in full every month. As for late fees, if you don’t pay the minimum monthly amount by the due date on your credit card statement, you’ll find yourself coughing up $15 AUD ($11.48 USD) per statement cycle.
To apply for this card as an expat, you’ll need to have a permanent residency visa, a residential address in Australia, and a minimum annual income of $30,000 AUD ($23,118.75 USD).
Best for: Reward points
Getting this credit card from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) means you’ll have to empty your pockets of $120 AUD ($91.80 USD) as the annual fee.
But on the brighter side, you’ll be free from foreign transaction fees. This will apply only if you make overseas purchases, or if you’ve bought something online from an international website (hear overseas stores calling you for a shopping spree?).
What’s more, after ANZ gives the go-ahead to your credit card application, spending $1,000 AUD ($765 USD) on eligible card purchases in the first 3 months will give you 40,000 bonus Reward Points.
For every dollar you spend on eligible purchases up to $2,000 AUD ($1,530 USD) during each statement cycle, you’ll earn 1.5 Reward Points. If your spending on eligible purchases per statement cycle gets more than $2,000 AUD, you can earn 0.5 Reward Points.
And then, you’ll be able to spend your Reward Points on Airmiles, Frequent Flyer Points, or Gift Cards from retailers like Bunnings, Myer, and Westfield.
So, it works like this - the more you use your ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures credit card, the more Reward Points you’ll get. And the more cardholders you add to your card (up to 9), the faster you can accumulate more Reward Points.
However, every additional cardholder will incur an extra annual fee of $65 AUD ($49.73 USD). The minimum credit limit would be $6,000 AUD ($4,590 USD), with a 20.24% interest rate on purchases and cash advances.
Apart from that, this credit card makes you eligible for complimentary travel insurances like Transit Accident Insurance and International Travel Insurance.
For making eligible card purchases, you may also receive Purchase Protection Insurance, Extended Warranty Insurance, and other complimentary insurances when shopping.
Best for: No interest
National Australia Bank has got this amazing credit card for expats that doesn’t need you to pay any interest, foreign transaction fees, or late payment fees.
All it asks for is a fixed monthly fee, depending on the credit limit you choose while applying for this card the first time. For a credit limit of $1,000 AUD, the monthly fee is $10 AUD ($7.65 USD); for a $2,000 AUD credit limit, the fee is $15 AUD ($11.48 USD), and for $3,000 AUD, you’ll have to pay a $20 AUD ($15.30 USD) monthly fee.
Of course, if you don’t buy anything with your credit card, and you haven’t got any outstanding balance throughout the statement cycle, too, NAB will reverse the monthly fee.
Once your application for the StraightUp card is approved, you can change your credit limit by putting through a request via the NAB app.
Also, you’ll be able to use the card for overseas as well as online purchases - basically, wherever Visa cards are accepted.
To help you stay in control, this credit card blocks cash advances and any sorts of gambling transactions.
However, there are no product transfers or balance transfers available with the NAB StraightUp Card. You can’t add any extra cardholder, either, or use more than one StraightUp card.
We hope you’ve been able to choose one from the best credit cards for expats in Australia.
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With Xe, you can send money from Australia to more than 130 countries in over 98 currencies, and handle the entire process online any time of day, any day of the year.
All currency conversions mentioned are based on the mid-market AUD/USD exchange rate on June 3rd, 2021.