The Guide to Setting Up a Bank Account in New Zealand
For many backpackers, students and working holidaymakers, opening a new bank account when travelling overseas can be quite daunting. You may find yourself lost and drowning in the options of banks, interest rates and fees attached. So where do you start when it comes to opening a bank account in New Zealand?
The good news is our guest writer, Luke Wing has done the hard work for you and paved the way for your first few options for companies to bank with in New Zealand, as well as honing in on the types of bank accounts best suited to travellers. If you are travelling New Zealand for a year or studying and don’t have any real intentions with your money, the basic no-fee accounts are your best option. These bank accounts allow you access to your money electronically with free EFTPOS cards, which we’ll go through below.
New Zealand Bank Account Comparison: Choose a Bank in New Zealand
First things first, who are you going to choose to bank with in New Zealand? As a working holidaymaker or student wanting to save as much money as possible, you might want to bank with a company that has no fees. Or you might be drawn to more ethical banking like a co-operative. Plus, unlike when choosing a bank at home where you are more likely to look for higher interest rates for savings accounts, if in New Zealand temporarily, it’s best to focus more on the practical uses of a bank.
All of the banks listed below have the price of their standard bank accounts which have access to online banking and a debit EFTPOS card so you can pay electronically in stores and online:
- ANZ – No monthly fees and no annual fees for a Visa debit card. Plus, you can use your overseas address as proof of address if you haven’t yet got a New Zealand address (see below)
- BNZ – No monthly fees and no annual fee for a debit Visa card. You can apply for a bank account online, then verifying your account at a branch in person requires no appointment
- ASB – No monthly fees (if you stop paper statements) and NZ$5/six months for a Visa debit card. Note that ASB does not accept hostel addresses as proof of address (see below)
- The Co-Operative Bank – NZ$5 monthly fee (or free if you maintain a NZ$4,000 daily balance) and NZ$10 per year for a debit MasterCard
- KiwiBank – No monthly fees but a one-off NZ$10 fee for a Visa debit card. Work visas must be more than one year to bank with KiwiBank
- Westpac – No monthly fees and a free MasterCard for the first year. Note that Westpac requires evidence of employment to open an account.
How to Set Up Your Bank Account Online Before Arriving in New Zealand
Depending on what type of visa you are coming on to New Zealand, banks in New Zealand will allow you to open a bank account before arrival. However, you won’t have full access to the funds in your bank account until you activate your account at a New Zealand branch in person.
Setting up your bank account from overseas saves you time once you arrive in New Zealand. Plus, it allows you to set up overseas bank transfers from your bank back home. However, you will not have access to this money until you present proof of ID and proof of address in person at a branch of the bank you have enlisted to (more of that in the section below).
What Do You Need to Open a New Zealand Bank Account from Overseas?
Different banks have different requirements for opening New Zealand bank accounts from overseas, but generally, you will need:
- To complete the migrant banking form
- A certified copy of your passport
- A certified copy of your proof of address in your home country
- Evidence of your work or student visa.
For a copy to be certified, it must be stamped, signed and dated by a commonwealth representative, lawyer, notary public, honorary consul or a member of parliament.
Step-by-Step Process of Opening an NZ Bank Account Online Before Arrival
To apply to open an account with most major New Zealand banks before arrival, you will need to:
- Step 1 – Fill out an online application form which can be submitted online or emailed to the address found on their website
- Step 2 – You will receive a reply (usually within two working days – remember the New Zealand time zone) with any additional requirements you have to send
- Step 3 – Once the bank has all the details they need, they will send an email confirmation with your bank account details.
When to Open a New Zealand Bank Account Before Arrival
Be aware that you need to fill out your application form and have it sent to them 10 days prior to entering the country to allow for the application to be processed. We suggest the sooner you get this done, the better. For example, ANZ will allow you to apply to open a bank account from overseas within 90 days of arrival.
What Can You Do with Your New Zealand Bank Account Before Arrival?
Once you have opened your New Zealand bank account from overseas and received your account details, you will only be able to transfer funds to your account. This is known as having a bank account with “limited access”. You will only be able to access your funds once you have activated your bank account in person at a New Zealand branch.
A Note About Opening a Bank About with a Working Holiday Visa from Overseas
Some banks in New Zealand will no longer allow those with a working holiday visa to open a bank account prior to arriving in New Zealand. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis, so you will have to contact banks directly to see if you are able to open a bank account with them. In most cases, you will have to open a bank account once you have arrived in New Zealand. Otherwise, ANZ and BNZ offer the most straightforward process for those on a working holiday visa to open a New Zealand bank account from overseas.
Opening Your Bank Account in New Zealand
Whether you have opened a New Zealand bank account prior to arriving in New Zealand or you haven’t taken these steps, you can open a New Zealand bank account once you are in the country.
When to Book a Bank Appointment for Opening a New Bank Account in New Zealand
Book a bank appointment as soon as possible, especially if you intend to stay in Auckland or Christchurch city centre for the first few days. Banks in Auckland Central, in particular, are known for being fully booked one or even two months in advance, so we recommend booking an appointment even before you’ve arrived in New Zealand.
If you don’t take this advice, and find a bank with no appointments available in the near future, then we recommend making an appointment with one of the suburban branches instead.
What You Need to Take to Your Appointment to Open a New Zealand Bank Account
When you go to your bank appointment, you will be informed of what you need to bring with you to the appointment. Generally, you need the following to open your bank account and access your money:
- Proof of address – This is a standard requirement. Only a New Zealand address can be used (apart from opening an account with ANZ, which accepts overseas addresses when applying online). Although some hostels have a service to allow backpackers to use their address as proof of address (and may charge a small fee to print the proof of address), note that not all banks accept this. As mentioned in the bank comparison above, ANZ and BNZ provide the most straightforward process for those without a New Zealand proof of address.
- Proof of identification – Your passport is a valid form of ID in New Zealand.
- Your overseas Tax Identification Number – This goes by different names depending on what country you are from, for example, national identity, social security, personal or tax number.
- A copy of your visa – Some banks check your visa, so have a printed copy or show them the visa if physically printed in your passport. To find out how to print a working holiday visa, see What Does a Working Holiday Visa Look Like?
Getting Your EFTPOS or Debit Card
By the end of your bank appointment, you should have an EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) card and have selected a pin number for it. Other types of debit cards, for instance, a Visa or MasterCard, may take longer to process and will either be available to pick up at the branch at a later date or sent to a specified postal address.
Note that you are unlikely to receive a chequebook when opening a New Zealand bank account as cheques are not legal tender in New Zealand (only cash is). Plus, some banks no longer provide cheque accounts or accept/issue cheques.
Tip for Applying for an IRD Number
If you want to apply for an IRD Number as soon as possible, then ask the banker to write a letter stating that your bank account is fully functional, it is an active bank account, or the bank account has had due diligence completed in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009. This will be sufficient evidence to apply for your IRD Number (tax number for working in New Zealand). However, if you are not in a rush, providing a simple bank statement once you have had some activity on the account will also be sufficient evidence for IRD.
For more about getting an IRD Number, check out What is an IRD Number?
What’s the Difference Between EFTPOS, Debit and Credit Cards in New Zealand?
All the banks in New Zealand offer a free EFTPOS card with their standard bank accounts. EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) is a debit card that you can only use at ATMs and to pay on chip-and-pin machines in stores.
If you want to be able to pay for things over the internet or phone, then you’ll need a Visa or MasterCard. Acquiring a Visa or MasterCard debit card may cost you an annual or one-off fee of around NZ$10 (sometimes it’s free). This card usually takes about a week to process, so is delivered to your postal address.
It is very unlikely that you will be able to get a credit card in New Zealand, as proof of income would be needed and you need to be a permanent New Zealand resident of 18 years old or above. That’s why many travellers come to New Zealand with a credit card from their home country.
For more information on using money in New Zealand, wise up with The Best Way to Pay in New Zealand.
Transfer Money to Your New Zealand Bank Account
Now that you are sorted with a bank account in New Zealand, you can finally transfer your savings from back home to your New Zealand bank account. Travellers’ Cheques and Amex are a BAD IDEA. They are extremely slow to process and are not accepted by every bank in New Zealand.
One way to transfer your funds is with a simple bank transfer. You can transfer money from your bank account back home to your bank account here in New Zealand using a simple bank transfer. It takes a week or two and every bank has a different fee for this. Be aware that the currency exchange rates are pretty bad on this kind of transfer so you are likely to lose a substantial number of dollars. Here are the fees involved:
- Bank fee 1: from your bank back home to initiate an overseas transfer
- Currency exchange: lower than the exchange rate you can find online
- Bank fee 2: from your bank in New Zealand to receive an overseas transfer.
Foreign Exchange Brokers
An alternative solution is to use a money transfer company like XE Money or Wise. They transfer your money much faster than traditional banks, their fees are lower (or non-existent in the case of XE Money), and the exchange rates are much more advantageous. They do a better job because, well, it is their only job. They have accounts in every country they serve and can transfer your money directly into your account saving on most fees above. It’s a huge saving when transferring a few thousand dollars. That means:
- No fee from your bank back home since you transfer money onto an account in your own country
- Better currency exchange rate than the one offered from your bank
- No bank fee from your New Zealand bank since you are receiving the money from a New Zealand account.
Spend that money on a rafting trip instead of giving it to a banker, will you?!
For a more in-depth look at overseas transfers, take a look at our guide to How to Transfer Money to Your New Zealand Bank Account.
How to Close Your New Zealand Bank Account
It’s really important your New Zealand bank account is shut down before you leave the country. We can’t stress how painfully long this process is if you try to close your bank account from overseas. Additionally, the fact that banks charge substantial fees for inactive accounts is a real bummer.
It’s very easy to close your account by booking an appointment with your bank to close your account. This process usually takes 20 minutes at most. Take your passport and your bank cards to your appointment to close your bank account.
More on How to Open a New Zealand Bank Account
Because we are a guide covering all aspects of working, travelling and being awesome in New Zealand, be sure to check out these articles for more tips:
- How to Set Up a Temporary Bank Account in New Zealand
- The New Zealand Work Tax System
- What is ACC and Employee Accident Cover
Opening a bank account is all part of your first week’s steps in New Zealand. Check out our Complete Guide: First Week of a New Zealand Working Holiday or First Week of Arriving in New Zealand: International Student Guide for more guidance for your first week in the country, as well as the 20 Essential Must-Dos BEFORE Moving to New Zealand.