Credit cards for temporary residents

If you are a temporary resident of Australia, you may be eligible to apply for a credit card. Compare some of your options here.

By   |   Verified by David Boyd   |   Updated 8th July 2021

Comparing credit cards for temporary residents

St.George Vertigo Visa

On St.George's website

New offerApply by 30 November 2021

St.George Vertigo Visa

Temporary resident

Yes

Balance transfer

30 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

13.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% for 30 months on Balance Transfers with a 0% balance transfer fee. Reverts to cash advance rate of 21.49% p.a.
  • $0 first-year annual card fee ($55 p.a. thereafter).
  • Additional cardholder at no extra cost.

Pros

  • 0% p.a. for 30 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee.
  • $0 first-year annual card fee ($55 p.a. thereafter).
  • The competitive purchase interest rate of 13.99% p.a.

Cons

  • Balance transfer rate reverts to 21.49% p.a. after 30 months.
  • There are no rewards program for this card.
American Express Explorer Credit Card

On American Express' website

American Express Explorer Credit Card

Temporary resident

Yes

Balance transfer

N/A

Purchase rate

20.74% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$395.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Receive 50,000 Bonus Membership Rewards Points when you apply online, are approved and spend $3,000 on your new Card within the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. New Card Members only.
  • Receive a $400 Travel Credit each year towards any flights, hotels and car hire when you book online with this card.
  • Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on purchases except government bodies in Australia where you will earn 1 point per $1 spent (uncapped).

Pros

  • The 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards Points when approved and reach spend requirement within the first 3 months.
  • $400 travel credit every year.
  • Get 2 complimentary airport lounge passes per year.

Cons

  • The $395 p.a. annual fee.

Overview

If you’re in Australia on a working or study transfer for a limited time, or are a temporary resident hoping to apply for permanent residence, there are lots of reasons why you’ll want to apply for an Australian credit card:

  • Convenience. Paying with cash or cheques is awkward and time-consuming, and using a debit card means that you miss out on the interest-free days offered by a credit card.
  • Avoiding foreign transaction fees. If you’ve brought with you a credit card issued overseas, you’re probably going to be hit with foreign transaction fees every time you use it in Australia.
  • Avoiding currency fluctuations. An overseas credit card also puts you at the mercy of currency exchange rate fluctuations, not to mention the lengthy process involved in paying off your overseas credit card balance from an Australian bank account.
  • Build Australian credit history. Using an Australian credit card is a good way to build up a credit history in Australia, which will make it easier if you need to take out a loan for a car, for example.

So, as a temporary resident you would be well advised to apply for an Australian credit card, and the good news is that there are many cards available for you to choose from.

A wide range of options and benefits

All of the Big Four Australian banks (ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac), plus American Express and some of the lesser or overseas-owned banks, are prepared to issue credit cards to holders of the visa type ‘Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482)’ (or ‘TSS visa’). You’ll be able to choose from a variety of interest rates, rewards programs, complimentary benefits and annual fees, whether you’re looking for a Visa, Mastercard or American Express card.

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482) ('TSS visa')

Previously known as the Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (subclass 457), this type of visa is issued to business professionals and skilled workers (and their immediate family) for stays of up to four years, when sponsored by an Australian employer.

Other types of temporary resident visa include the Temporary Graduate Visa, the Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa, working holiday visas for young people, and various student and training visas. Holders of these types of visas may also be able to apply for an Australian credit card.

Income requirement may be higher

One drawback of applying for a card as a temporary resident is that the card issuer may require you to demonstrate a higher level of income when compared with the conditions relating to Australian citizens or permanent residents. This is because there may be difficulties in obtaining your credit history information from overseas, meaning that your income and assets are the only basis on which to assess your creditworthiness.

Since there is a minimum income threshold for workers granted a TSS visa (the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold), currently set at $53,900, an annual income of at least this amount should be sufficient to qualify for many credit cards. Even if you’re allocated a fairly restrictive credit limit to begin with, you may be able to apply for a higher limit once you’ve established some credit history in Australia.

Required documentation

The bank issuing the credit card is likely to ask for a copy of the relevant pages in your foreign passport, so that (with your permission) they can check your visa status through the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system.

Australia has a compulsory personal identification system for financial institution customers, called the ‘100-point check’. When you first open an account with a new bank, you need to produce documents proving who you are and where you live. Many of the point-scoring documents, such as utility bills or a Medicare card, are issued only in Australia, and temporary residents or recently-arrived applicants may have difficulty in producing them. Fortunately, a foreign passport alone will usually score 70 points, an Australian driver's licence or tertiary student identity card will add another 40 points, while a foreign or international driver's licence will add 25 points. You may find it easier to apply for a credit card issued by the bank where you have your everyday banking transaction account, to avoid going through the 100-point check procedure twice.

You will also need to provide details about your employer and your income, and the bank will almost certainly want to verify this with your employer since they will have little else on which to assess your creditworthiness. Other documents you could be asked to produce include your foreign birth certificate or citizenship certificate and your foreign driver’s licence. Some card issuers may also want to know not just your current address but your last overseas address as well.

You can read more about how to prepare your application in this guide.

Get a supplementary card, or primary card, for family members

Your spouse, or another family member living with you in Australia, could have a supplementary card on your account. Do remember though, that you, as the primary account holder, have sole responsibility for repayment of the total account balance, including any purchases they may make using their supplementary card.

Family members accompanying the primary visa holder are usually also allowed to work in Australia. So they may have their own income, as a basis for applying for a credit card in their own name.

Learn about credit cards for temporary residents

Can temporary residents get a credit card and does your immigration status make you eligible for one?

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

  • FAQs

  • Glossary

Convenience

Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Australia. It's a convenient way to pay, especially now that you can pay using your phone. You'll find life as a temporary Australian resident much easier if you have a credit card.

Less expensive than using an overseas credit card

Once you have an Australian credit card you can avoid potential foreign transaction fees that would apply to all purchases made in Australia with a card issued by your home country bank. You'll also be protected from currency fluctuations, since your card account balance will be in Australian dollars and you can pay it in Australian dollars.

Build Australian credit history

Having a credit history and score is an important factor when you need to borrow money, perhaps for a car loan, or even a home loan if you decide to stay here for longer. Unfortunately, it's very difficult for lenders to access your overseas credit history, so you'll be starting from scratch when you arrive here. Fortunately, Australian credit card providers will still issue cards to temporary residents with no local credit history, provided you can tick all their other boxes, and your new credit card, used responsibly, becomes your tool for establishing a good credit history.

Tip: You can check your credit score for free here on Finty.

Unfamiliar card types and benefits

Every country's credit cards are slightly different, so it make take a while to get your head around the card types available in Australia.

Secured credit cards for example, common in some countries, are not currently available in Australia. There are fewer cards in Australia offering cashback and point-of-sale discounts than you might expect. Different brands of rewards points are difficult to compare because they operate like separate floating currencies rather than being tied to a dollar value.

Take your time and do your research to familiarise yourself with the local card market.

Potentially high interest rates

Although there are low interest credit cards available, Australian credit card interest rates for premium rewards cards can be much higher than you're used to seeing.

Low credit limit

The credit limit you are given when you first apply for a card may be lower than you'd expect based on your income and past credit history overseas. This is because the bank can't easily access your overseas credit history, and has to rely on your income alone, and possibly your payment record on utility bills during the brief period since you arrived. It's not much to go on, so your starting limit may be low, but after a few months of using your account responsibly you can apply for a limit increase.

Do research and compare your options

You don't need to settle for second best just because your options are more limited. Consider which features are most suited to your specific needs. Are you looking for a low or no annual fee card, a rewards points card (often with a higher annual fee), or a card with a relatively low interest rate in case you cannot repay your balance in full every month? Once you have chosen the most suitable card, check that you satisfy the card’s eligibility requirements. You can then apply for the card directly from this page if you wish.

Australian card terms and conditions may be different

Don't assume that the terms and conditions governing Australian credit cards will be identical to those you are familiar with in your home country. Before you make your final decisions it would be a good idea to read the card's fine print to familiarise your self with details like:

  • Interest rates on carried-over purchases balances and cash advances
  • Interest-free days allowed on purchases
  • How interest is calculated
  • Minimum monthly payments
  • The order in which payments are allocated to the balance owing
  • Additional fees for cash advances, late payments and foreign transactions
  • How any points are earned and redeemed, and if points expire
  • Eligibility and activation for any complimentary benefits

Kiwis count as honorary Australians

New Zealand citizens don't need to jump through the same hoops as temporary residents from other countries. In most cases they can apply for Australian credit cards on the same basis as Australian citizens.

Tip: We have a detailed New Zealand credit card comparison here.

Visa subclass 482 has replaced subclass 457

If you see a visa type called Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (subclass 457) listed in a card's eligibility qualifications, you can safely assume that the new Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS) (subclass 482) will also qualify. The card issuer may not have updated their website. Subclass 482 has replaced subclass 457, but you may still have a 457 visa if you've been in Australia for a while.

You'll need to have a few months left on your visa

Most banks will want to see a minimum amount of time left on your visa's validity before it expires, probably at least nine months. Check your visa's expiry date and the bank's requirements before you apply.

Contact the card issuer if you don't see your visa type listed

If you don't see your particular visa type listed among the acceptable visas for your chosen card, phone the card issuer to ask if you qualify. It may just be that their website information is incomplete or not updated.

Who is a temporary resident?

A temporary resident is someone who is allowed to reside in Australia, usually for work, education, diplomatic activity or training, for a period of up to four years. For example, someone could be in Australia on a working holiday visa for up to a year. Another common example would be someone on a skills shortage entry visa, sponsored by an employer who wishes to recruit skilled people from overseas for a stay of up to four years.

What are the eligibility requirements for a temporary resident credit card?

Eligibility requirements vary, depending on the card issuer and the specific card.

For example, ANZ say that they will accept all temporary working and business visa sub-classes, except working holiday visas. They also say that they may ask you to provide:

  • A current copy of your employment contract (if applicable)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport
  • A copy of the Australian visa page or confirmation of your electronic visa from the Australian Department of Home Affairs
  • Proof of the income required for the specific card you are applying for

Westpac has a similarly long list of acceptable visa types.

What credit cards can I apply for as a temporary resident?

Your choices are may not be as wide as those for Australian permanent residents or citizens. However, all of the Big Four Australian banks (ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac), plus American Express and some of the lesser or overseas-owned banks, are prepared to issue credit cards to holders of the visa type ‘Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482)’ (also known as ‘TSS visa’), as well as to holders of some other visa types.

Mastercard, Visa and American Express cards are all available. The cards listed on this page are a selection of some of the cards open to temporary residents. 

Is it more difficult to be approved for a credit card if I'm a temporary resident in Australia?

Yes. The requirements for proving your identity, residency status and income are more stringent than the standards applied to permanent residents or citizens of Australia, since it may be difficult for the card issuer to get access to your overseas credit history. However, if you can prove your residency status using your Department of Home Affairs visa documents (or via the VEVO electronic visa verification system), establish your ID and prove that you meet the income requirements, then it is possible for a bank to approve your application.

Why is it a good idea to use an Australian credit card while I’m in Australia?

There are several good reasons for applying for an Australian credit card:

  • It’s a much more convenient payment method than cash or cheques.
  • It’s better than using a debit card because you can get up to 55 days interest-free credit with a credit card. With a debit card you pay with your own money on the day of the transaction.
  • Using an overseas-issued card in Australia means that you will probably incur foreign currency transaction fees, which can be very expensive.
  • Using an overseas-issued card in Australia will put you at the mercy of currency exchange rate fluctuations.
  • By using an Australian credit card you build up a local credit history, which may come in useful if you need to apply for a loan, or decide to become a permanent resident.

Do I need to apply for a credit card issued by the bank where I already have an everyday transaction bank account?

Not necessarily. You can apply for a card issued by a different financial institution if you wish. However, if you want to avoid having to repeat the compulsory ‘100-point check’ identity verification required for financial institution customers, it may be easier to stick with the same bank.

Can I get a credit card for other members of my family who are with me in Australia?

You may apply for a supplementary card on your account for your spouse or other family members. But remember that the responsibility for repayment of the total account balance, including any purchases they may make using their supplementary card, rests solely with you.

Family members accompanying the primary visa holder may also work in Australia, without restriction as to the type of job or employer; that is, they do not need to be sponsored, and can change jobs. Therefore they may have their own income and could on that basis apply for a credit card in their own name.

100 point check

An identity document scoring system used by Australian government and financial institutions to establish a person's identity for legal, financial and other purposes. Different types of documents are allocated a score (e.g. 70 points for a current passport), with the target score being 100 in order to establish identity by providing several different documents.

Credit history and credit score

Your credit history in Australia is a record of all your credit transactions, including credit cards, bank loans and utility bill payments. It includes both positive information (timely payments, accounts of long standing, mix of credit types, low credit utilisation ratio) and negative information (late payments, defaults, insolvency, bankruptcy, enquiries about your credit history from potential lenders). The information is sent by lenders to the three Australian credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and illion), who record it in your credit file and use it to calculate your credit score, a numerical expression of your creditworthiness.

Foreign transaction fees

A surcharge placed by banks on the value of credit card purchases made from a merchant whose processing centre is located outside the country where the card was issued. The surcharge is typically calculated as a percentage of the purchase cost after conversion to the card's home currency, and may be anywhere between 1% to 5% of the cost depending on the card's terms.

Temporary resident

Someone who is allowed to reside in Australia, usually for work, education, diplomatic activity or training, for a period of up to four years.

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482) ('TSS visa')

A type of visa issued to business professionals and skilled workers (and their immediate family) for stays of up to four years, when sponsored by an Australian employer. It replaced the Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (subclass 457) in 2018.

Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (subclass 457)

A type of visa previously issued to skilled workers for stays of up to four years in Australia when sponsored by a business. It was replaced by Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482) in 2018.

Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system

An Australian government online service allowing visa holders, employers, education providers and other organisations to check visa conditions.