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Leaving NZ and need tax refund

Bank Accounts

If you are wanting to work in New Zealand then having a NZ bank account is a must. If you are not planning on working but spending a fair amount of time in the country travelling, then it may also make sense for you to have a local bank account.

One of the provisos of the Working Holiday Scheme visa is that you have an Inland Revenue Department number and in order to get this you must first have a New Zealand bank account. Even if you're not intending to obtain a work visa it might still make some sense for you – and save money - to get a local bank account if you are likely to be in the country for some time.

There are five main players when it comes to banking big boys in New Zealand – ANZ, BNZ, Kiwibank, Westpac and ASB. Some ANZ branches still carry the old branding of National Bank but are the same thing. All of these banks have loads of experience of dealing with migrants both temporary and permanent and are the go-to experts on giving you all the advice and answering any questions you may have.

ATM's for withdrawing cash really are everywhere, even in tiny towns and settlements. If you need an actual physical branch they are more likely to be found in the bigger cities and towns.

Which Bank to Choose

All of the banks previously mentioned here have different criteria for how much you must initially deposit to open an account. These currently range from between NZ$10 and NZ$500. Additionally, each usually offer more than one type of current or deposit/withdrawal account and which is best and most economical for you will depend on your personal circumstances. As previously mentioned, New Zealand banks are very used to dealing with opening accounts for overseas visitors and they are, in typical Kiwi fashion, ready, willing and able, to sit down with you and talk you through all your options.

Bank accounts are not usually of the totally free variety in New Zealand and most transactions – cash withdrawals at your own bank, cash withdrawals at other banks, account maintenance and so forth – may each attract a fee. Again, this varies from bank to bank and depends on the type of account you have but often younger visitors – the 25 and under crowd - are typically offered some of the best and cheapest deals. If you know you are likely to be using a variety of services and using them often on your bank account it is probably worthwhile plumping for one of the flat-rate per month type of deals which many of the banks offer.

Getting a Bank Account

It is possible with all the main banks to set up your bank account before you even leave your home shores. Or, if you prefer, you can wait until you have arrived in New Zealand. In either instance everything is geared up to make it as simple and pain-free for you as possible; many have been here before you.

All of the major banks listed have online application processes which can be accessed through the following links:

Westpac – www.westpac.co.nz

ANZ – www.anz.co.nz

BNZ – www.bnz.co.nz

Kiwibank – www.kiwibank.co.nz

ASB – www.asb.co.nz

Additionally, all of these have email query contact and even toll-free numbers you can call from overseas should you have any questions or hiccups during the process. In most cases you can deposit money into these accounts before even leaving home.

Once you arrive in the country you will need to visit a branch of your chosen bank to verify your identity with your passport and also show proof of your New Zealand address. This latter can throw up a small case of 'can of worms' – see the section below regarding this.

If you decide to wait until you are in the country to set up your bank account this is what you will need: 

  • a form of photo ID to verify you are who you say you are – most typically your passport or photo driver's licence
  • proof of address while in New Zealand (see section below)
  • your Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number – if you have one
  • an amount to deposit according to the specific bank's minimum requirement

Once you have shown ID and address verification you will be issued instantly with an EFTPOS (debit) card for which you must choose a four digit PIN and your bank account is immediately ready for use.

The Permanent Address Dilemma

Once-upon-a-time banks would accept any kind of address from overseas visitors to open an account which included hostels and hotels. However, money laundering laws and those pertaining to the 'Countering of Financing Terrorism Act' have meant ever-stricter guidelines for the financial institutions in this area.

According to Immigration New Zealand's 'Welcome to New Zealand' e-book which can be viewed online in PDF format through www.immigration.govt.nz ''you will need to give the bank a permanent address, either residential or a post office box or private bag'' and also '' a hotel or motel address is not acceptable''. Elsewhere, and very confusingly, the whole PO box number seems to be an unaccepted address to use.

The bottom line is – no-one really seems to know at the moment what is and isn't deemed an acceptable private address and what can be used. Not very helpful, we know!

The best advice at the present time – and at least until the laws seem to have settled into themselves a bit more and everyone knows what's what – is to contact one of the banks either by email or by using the toll free numbers to call and find out how things stand.

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