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How to Open a New Zealand Bank Account

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Opening a New Zealand bank account.

For many backpackers and working holidaymakers, opening an 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?

The good news is our guest writer, Luke Wing, has done the hard work for you and paved the way to 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 options. These bank accounts allow you access to you money electronically with free EFTPOS cards, which we’ll go through below.

We’ll also show you how to open your bank account prior to arrival in New Zealand and once you are in New Zealand. Trust us, it’ll be smooth sailing once you are in the know.

EFTPOS, debit and credit cards

Firstly, let’s assume you are the average traveller that wants a place to store your money in bank X and you are in need of a way of accessing that money electronically, then good news! It is going to be free ride for you. All the bank accounts listed below come with a free EFTPOS card – that’s your debit card to 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, then you’ll need a Visa or MasterCard. Acquiring a Visa or MasterCard debit card will cost you an annual or one-off fee of around NZ$10. 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 a 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.

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how to set up your bank account before arriving in New Zealand

Setting up your bank account from overseas before to entering the country is advisable, as it is much easier and quicker to set up overseas bank transfers from your home bank branch rather than doing it from New Zealand. Plus, it can earn you some interest on the money deposited prior to entering the country. However, you will not have access to this money until you present proof of ID and a proof of address in-person at a branch of the bank you have enlisted to. (More of that in the section below).

Do bear in mind the exchange rate, thus transferring money to your new New Zealand bank account, is likely to cost you money.

To apply to open an account with most major banks, you will need to fill out an online application form which can be emailed or posted to the address found on their website under contact details. Be aware, 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 then sooner you get this done, the better.

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Opening your bank account in New Zealand

If you have followed the steps above, then all you need to do is book an appointment with the bank to open your bank account that you have applied for online. When you go to your bank appointment, you will 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. This can be a hostel or hotel address, but be sure to speak to the manager of the hostel first.
  • Proof of Identification – Your passport is a valid form of ID in New Zealand.
  • 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.

If you have not opened your bank account prior to arriving in New Zealand, then you will need to book an appointment with your chosen bank. This just means you have a lengthier meeting with the bank, filling out some forms. Plus, your bank account may not be accessible straight away due to the processing time. Remember, you still need to take your proof of address, proof of identification, and a copy of your visa to this meeting.

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New Zealand Bank Account Comparison – ANZ

ANZ stands for Australia and New Zealand, and is one of the big banks in New Zealand. The two accounts they offer are:

  • Go Account – no fees. Simple.
  • Online Account – no fees, 1.9% interest.

Setting up these accounts online and depositing money from your home country to one of these accounts will incur a NZ$15 charge for incoming payments. After that, transferring your money domestically in New Zealand will be free of charge.

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NEW ZEALAND BANK ACCOUNT COMPARISON –Westpac

Westpac is also a big banking corporation and have business both in New Zealand and Australia. They offer the following accounts:

  • Electronic Account –  a paperless account, meaning it’s all on the Internet. There are no fees attached with this account unless you are depositing and crediting cheques. However, if you have NZ$20,000 stashed away then there are no fees for cheques. A MasterCard debit card will cost you a NZ$10 one-off fee.
  • Online Saver – unlimited withdrawals and deposits. It also has a 2.2% interest rate per annum.
  • Online Bonus Saver – unlimited density and withdrawals and has a 3.3% interest rate.

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NEW ZEALAND BANK ACCOUNT COMPARISON –BNZ

The Bank of New Zealand, as it is formally known, has two of their own accounts which are worth a look.

  • You Money Account – at NZ$5 a month you can have a BNZ account with up to 25 sub-accounts with unlimited transactions and a freephone helpline. A Visa debit card will cost you a NZ$10 annual fee. It’s important to note that if you have come to the country to studying some bank fees may be wavered.
  • On All Account – free account offering a 2% interest rate. BNZ try to encourage you to save by charging you NZ$5 per withdrawal from this account unless money is transferred to an everyday account with the bank or the “You Money Account”, as it is formally known.

Transfer Money Onto 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.

Your best bet is 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 fees for this. Be aware that the currency exchange rates are pretty bad on this kind of transfer so you are likely to lose a few cents. Here are the fees involved:

  • Bank fee: from your bank back home to initiate an overseas transfer.
  • Currency exchange: lower than the exchange rate you can find online.
  • Bank fee: from your bank in New Zealand to receive an overseas transfer.

An alternative solution is to use a money transfer company like HiFX. They transfer your money much faster than traditional banks, their fees are lower (or non-existent in the case of HiFX), 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 onto your account saving on most fees above. It’s a huge saving when transferring a few thousand. That means:

  • No fee from your bank back home since you transfer money onto a 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?!

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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 bank fees continue to be charged from your account can play on your mind.

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 the most. Take your passport and your bank cards to your appointment to close your bank account.

More work and money essentials!

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!

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