Australian Money: Solidifying Basics For Visitors

By Josh •  Updated: 08/27/23 •  4 min read

When travelling to another country you typically have some needs to work out in regards to currency, whether you choose to carry cash or are planning to use cards while in country.

The Australian dollar is the official currency of Australia. It has been this way since 1910, when it replaced the pound as legal tender. The symbol for the Australian dollar is $AUS or AUD, and coins come in denominations of 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, and 2 dollar. Banknotes come in denominations of $5, $10, $20 and $50.

Australian currency takes the form of coins and banknotes, and for many travelling it would be smart to always keep some on hand. This will make it easier to exchange and pay for things when you’d like.

What Type of Money Do They Use in Australia?

Unlike many other countries, Australian dollar is actually made out of polymer, which is plastic, notes making it a unique cash for many from the United States to handle as it feels different than our fabric based currency notes.

They use a mix of banknotes and coins in Australia, pretty much like any other country on the planet but they don’t have what we call pennies, their lowest coin is for 5 cents.

The Aussie Adoption of the Dollar

On February 14, 1966, the Australian pound was replaced by the Australian dollar at a rate of A$2 = A£1. Although Australia was still part of the fixed-exchange sterling area, because it used the pound sterling as its official currency, the exchange rate was set at A$1 = 8 U.K. shillings (A$2.50 = GB£1).

In 1967, when the pound sterling was devalued against the US dollar and the Australian dollar did not follow suit, Australia effectively departed from the sterling area. It kept its peg to the US dollar at a rate of A$1 = US$1.12.

What Is the AUD (Australian Dollar)?

The currency code used to represent the Australian dollar (AUD) is AUD, which stands for “Australian Dollar.” The Australian dollar is composed of 100 cents and is most often symbolized by $, A$, or AU$.

The Australian dollar was introduced in 1966 following the end of Australia’s colonial ties with Great Britain. The Australian dollar is also used in the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Tuvalu.

New Banknotes in 2016

The Australian Dollar is the world’s fifth most frequently traded currency, after the US dollar, Euro, Japanese yen, and British pound. The first paper money was created in only 1966, but by 1998 they had already using polymer banknotes.

In Australia, the modern polymer banknotes were first created. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) collaborated with Australian research organizations to do so. All of their banknotes are now produced using long-lasting polymer material.

On September 27, 2012, the Reserve Bank of Australia announced that it had authorized development on a project to improve the existing banknotes. The enhanced banknotes would include tactile elements such as Braille dots for easier accessibility for the blind.

The $5 note, which was the first new banknote in this series, was released on September 1, 2016.

The new $10 note was put into circulation on September 20, 2017, and the new $50 note went into circulation on October 18, 2018.

On October 9, 2019 the new $20 bill was put into circulation, followed by the introduction of a new $100 note on October, 29 2020.

All people who appeared on the first polymer series were looped back in for the second series.

Funny Money Nicknames

In Australia, the Five Dollar bill is known by at least fourteen alternative names. It’s also known as a “fiver” in the United Kingdom, though it’s been called a “Galah,” a “Skydiver,” a “Pink Lady,” or even a “Pink Snapper.” Because of its pink color, it’s also known as a Prawn, or a Piglet & Rasher.

The color blue has been applied to a variety of different objects. The most common names for the ten-dollar note are “blue swimmer,” “blue tongue,” or “budgie.” It’s also known as a blueberry on a plate, blueberry ice cream, and blueberry cake.

Final Thoughts on Australian Money

As an American tourist in Australia, I found it difficult to manage Australian money. The coins were confusing and intimidating for me- especially the dollar coins since these don’t exist in the US.

It was hard enough trying to get my head around how much something cost without having to worry about if I had the right change on hand or not. For this reason alone, travelling can be a nightmare when you don’t know what currency is being used where you are visiting!

It would be smart to understand this ahead of time and make sure that you understand if you plan to use a card what you will be charged for the conversion and any additional charges before you use them.


Josh is a loving dad and husband, writer, business owner, and someone who loves to explore the world. He last travelled to Australia to visit Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns and am looking to head back soon to see more! He is a huge fan of hiking, drawing, and so much more!

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