How to open a bank account in New Zealand

11.07.17
4 minute read
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With glaciers on one end and rolling ocean waves on the other, New Zealand offers the ultimate experience for any expat. And with a population of approximately 4 million people, it’s growing steadily thanks to the influx of expats.

It’s for these reasons and more that expats and travelers alike are drawn to move to New Zealand. But if you’re looking to settle down for a bit, you’ll need a local bank account. Luckily, our trusty guide covers everything you need to know.

What documents do I need to open a bank account?

For foreigners, New Zealand banks are relatively easy to deal with as long as you have the required documents. These include:

  • A valid passport
  • A visa (for citizens of any other country besides Australia or the UK). You’ll need a Visitor Visa or Working Holiday Visa, depending on what your plans in the country are. If you’re planning on working remotely, you’ll definitely need a Working Holiday visa. However, there are plenty of options, which you can research in more detail at the New Zealand Immigration Bureau’s website.
  • One of the following proofs of residential address:
    • utilities bill (no more than six months old)
    • bank statement or letter (no more than six months old)
    • employment agreement (no more than three months old)
  • A minimum opening balance, depending on the bank.

Can I open a bank account from abroad?

If you’re planning on an extended stay, opening a bank account from abroad should be one of your concerns. In order to be eligible to do this, you’ll need a work or resident visa, regardless of where you’re coming from. Fortunately, it’s straightforward to open an account online even up to a year before you’re planning to come. Most banks offer a simple form to fill out, along with the required documents outlined above.

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Which bank should I choose?

New Zealand has plenty of local banks to choose from. However, after opening an account from overseas, you won’t be able to make withdrawals until you visit the bank in person on arrival. After providing identification and proving residency, you’ll get access to your new bank account.

The largest and most popular banks that allow you to do this include:

Below is a breakdown of these banks, along with quick facts on what they offer specifically and how it may benefit you.

ANZ

ANZ (Australia and New Zealand banking group) is the largest banking provider in New Zealand with over 800 branches and ATMs worldwide. They offer expats everyday banking, business banking, investments, insurance, foreign exchange and even credit card application with proof of residence for over a year. Online banking is possible with all accounts.

ASB

ASB (also known as Auckland Savings Bank) has a range of accounts for expats including a Foreign Currency Account, which provides an easy way to manage money between a foreign country and New Zealand. Student accounts are also available for those who qualify, and there are over 100 branches and 300 ATMs. Applying online can be done through email on their website.

BNZ

BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) offers multi-currency accounts and wealth management services specifically designed for expats. However, they have a steep minimum balance requirement for some of their products, so make sure to read the fine print. Customers must be at least 18 years of age, and there are over 250 branches and 650 ATMs within the country.

Westpac

Westpac Banking Corporation (more commonly known as Westpac) offers a Migrant Banking Package, International Student Account, Investment opportunities and over 1400 branches and 400 ATMs worldwide. Online and mobile banking make it all easy and convenient.

What kinds of banking fees and charges can I expect?

Though many banks provide access to opening an account overseas, it’s easy to forget about the fees. Whether it’s for opening a new account, credit and debit card fees, overage fees, or international bank fees in general, with any bank account it’s almost impossible to avoid fees.

Reading the fine print is a necessity when trying to avoid banking fees and charges. These add up over time for even the smallest of actions, like taking money out of an ATM. Being aware of every charge will ensure that you and your wallet stay happy.

One of the traps many travellers fall into is when they need to send money abroad either to or from their New Zealand bank account. A single international bank transfer (using a method called SWIFT) can be especially expensive if you’re only sending a small amount of money as there can be up to five banks charging you a fixed fee in order to use the service. Not only that, but banks and currency conversion services often given you a poor exchange rate and hide fees into a large mark-up on the conversion rate.

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