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Paying in Australia

Australian Bank NotesThe official currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). In Australia it is usually abbreviated with the dollar sign ($) or - if it is necessary to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies - by A$. A dollar is subdevided into 100 cents.

Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia and if you need cash a large network of ATM's (Automated Teller Machines) covers most of the country. Especially in cities you should not have a problem finding one.

If you are from Europe you are probably usually using your bank card to withdraw some cash. The system most widely used in Europe is the MAESTRO system and unfortunately this one is not used in Australia. So your bank card is pretty much useless here.

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Australian Money

Obverse and Reverse of Australian bank notesBank notes come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and the first thing that will strike you are the bright bright colours. When I first saw Australian bank notes I immediately thought of toy money from the game Monopoly. The second thing will only happen when you actually touch a bank note. Unlike Euros or US Dollars, Australian bank notes are not made from paper but from a special polymer (plastic). Originally introduced because it made the bank notes extremely hard to counterfeit, Australians have quickly come to like the new material because it is more durable than paper and water resistant. If you go to the beach or get soaked in the pouring rains of the tropical top end's wet season, you never need to worry about your bank notes. Great, isn't it?

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Credit Cards

Credit-CardsCredit cards are widely accepted in Australia, especially Visa and Mastercard. However, some - especially smaller - businesses ask a surcharge if you want to pay by credit card. American Express is not as widely accepted and the odds of being charged a surchage are even higher.

All ATM's I have encountered so far in Australia work with credit cards, which is good and bad at the same time. Good, because the MAESTRO system used by most bank cards in Europe is not supported in Australia and a credit card might therefore be your only way to withdraw cash from an ATM. Bad, because withdrawing cash from your credit card could result in substantial fees (see below).

Let's talk a bit about fees in general and see what we can do to minimise, if not completely avoid them.

Read more: Credit Cards

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