Any trip to Australia will require Australian currency, even if you plan to use your credit or debit card to pay for most things. TripAdvisor recommends using ATM machines to convert your U.S. dollars (USD) to Australian money (AUD). There are fewer fees associated with these transactions and you won't have to carry around more money than you need. However, if you need to convert U.S. dollars or cash out traveler's checks, you can obtain Australian money in the U.S. or in Australia.
Even if you plan to not use cash often, plan to bring at least 100 AUD per person in case of emergencies. Completing international money transfers is a hassle, so don’t forget to do this! So if you’re a family of 5, bring at least 500 AUD or 500 USD to convert.
Australian states and territories accept Australian dollars and coins as payment. Bank notes are made from polymer, a type of plastic that provides additional protection against counterfeiting as well as any rips or tears. Australia is the first country in the world to use this innovative method of providing currency. According to the Australian government, the polymer bills last four times as long as the paper dollars. Don't be surprised if the money feels a little different when you convert your dollars in Australia.
Dollars and Coins
Australian money comes in dollars and coins, similar to U.S. currency. The largest Australian bill is the $100 bill and the smallest is $5. There is no equivalent to 1 US dollar, so keep this in mind when you’re converting USD. The notes are colorful and each denomination has its own hue. There is the $100 note in green, a $50 note in yellow, a $20 bill in red, a $10 bill in blue and the $5 bill is pink. The coins are in denominations of $2, $1, 50 cents, 20 cents, 10 cents and 5 cents. Each coin has its own size and design, but all of them feature Queen Elizabeth II.
Changing in the U.S.
Change your U.S. dollars to Australian dollars before you leave America at any airport or money exchange location. All international airports will have a currency exchange booth located near the ticket counters or departure gates to convert USD. Major cities in the U.S. also have currency exchange offices and desks separate from the airport. They can often be found in malls or business districts. Companies such as Travelex, AAA, American Express and other exchange services will allow you to pre-order the amount of Australian currency you'll need and have it ready for you to pick up. Sometimes your bank will have the best exchange rate and sometimes it will not, so be sure to check currency exchange rates or ask for financial advice for whatever foreign currency you’re wanting and see what the market rate is before exchanging.
Changing in Australia
Once you arrive in Australia, you can change your U.S. dollars to Australian dollars at the airport, but TripAdvisor cautions that the exchange rates will not be in your favor there. Wait until you leave the airport to exchange your dollars, or use a local ATM to get some quick cash. All Australian cities will provide currency conversion in local banks or at commercial money exchange locations. You can also check with your hotel to see if they will change money for you.
Whether you’re heading to Sydney or a smaller Australian territory like Christmas Island, Tuvalu, Norfolk Island, or Kiribati, be sure to figure out your money transfer from the United States dollar beforehand, and get the best Australian dollar exchange rate possible.
Conversion rates are constantly fluctuating, but at the time this article was written, the AUD exchange rate according to Google’s currency converter was 1 AUD = 0.66 USD or 1 USD = 1.51 AUD.