Banking in New Zealand

by Ray Clancy on April 19, 2010

Moving to New Zealand?

Your guide to expatriate banking services in New Zealand

New Zealand lies in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,900 kilometres east of Australia, and the official languages are English and Maori.

New Zealand’s economy fell into recession before the global financial crisis, prompting the central bank to make substantial reductions in cut interest rates, in addition to developing fiscal stimulus measures. The economy emerged from recession in 2009, but posted only limited growth figures. Future government plans around the economy include increasing productivity growth, develop New Zealand’s infrastructure further, whilst limiting the extent of government spending.

New Zealand’s banking system is highly sophisticated, with a full range of services available to New Zealanders and visitors. The currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD), and as of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately $2.26 NZD to £1 GBP (pound sterling).

Banks in New Zealand

Central bank

  • Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ)

Commercial banks in New Zealand

  • ANZ National Bank
  • ASB Bank
  • Bank of New Zealand (BNZ)
  • Kiwibank Ltd
  • National Bank of New Zealand
  • Westpac New Zealand

Foreign banks in New Zealand

  • Barclays
  • Citibank
  • Deutsche Bank
  • HSBC
  • TSB Bank Ltd

Bank opening times in New Zealand

Banking hours in New Zealand are very similar to the UK, with most local banks opening between 8.30am or 9am until 4.30pm (Mondays to Friday).

However, it is common for banks to extend their opening hours for one evening per week, with some banks and building societies opening on Saturday mornings. The majority of bureau de change offices operate extended opening hours, including weekend services.

Banking services in New Zealand

Electronic banking is used widely in New Zealand, and the use of credit, debit and cash cards is widespread, whilst the use of cheques as a means of payment is declining. Bank branches can be found throughout New Zealand, and offer customers a full range of counter services, in addition to internet, postal and telephone banking services.

The banking sector is dominated by a relatively small number of large institutions, but do shop around for the best rates and deals.

The main types of bank account in New Zealand

Banking in New Zealand is modern and efficient, and offers many services and products that are similar to those in major European countries. Most New Zealand banks allow customers to operate accounts online, by telephone and in local bank branches. The New Zealand Post Office also offers banking services, under the name ‘Kiwibank’, and these services can be found at post shops.

The main types of bank account in New Zealand

  • Current accounts – The normal account for day-to-day transactions in New Zealand is a current account (also known as a cheque account). Customers will generally receive a chequebook within a week of opening the account, but as in the UK, with the increase in use of electronic payment cards, the usage of cheques has declined in recent years. These accounts typically offer low interest rates, used for day-to-day banking, easy access to available funds
  • Savings accounts – offer lower interest rates, with some restrictions on withdrawals and access to funds
  • Deposit accounts – offer higher rates of interest, but typically offer limited access to funds held on deposit.

Bank account statements are usually provided monthly, although it is possible to have weekly statements issued on request. Mini-statements can be obtained at an automatic teller machine (ATM). In New Zealand, ATMs are normally called cash dispensers.

Opening a bank account when you arrive in New Zealand

Requirements for identification and official documentation can vary depending on the bank or institution, so check in advance with the bank you would like to use. Typically, you will need two forms of identification: your Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number and recent statements from your current or previous bank.

If you do not have an IRD number when opening an account, you will be charged the resident withholding tax (RWT) at 39 per cent.

If you think you may need an overdraft, loan or mortgage in New Zealand, a reference from your overseas bank manager can help with the application process.

Opening a bank account before you arrive in New Zealand

Before you arrive in New Zealand, it’s advisable to have a bank account already in place with funds on deposit, plus some New Zealand currency for immediate use.

There are branches of New Zealand banks in most major cities in Europe, North America and Asia which will process an account application. You may not need to visit a branch in person, as many accounts can be opened by telephone or by post. It is worth noting that most banks require an initial opening balance of $200-$500 NZD for new accounts.

An international account, which can be opened before you move to New Zealand, provides you a wide range of secure international banking services. These include online banking and offshore banking options, in addition to offering expats a range of convenient facilities, such as international payments and money transfers and accounts in a range of foreign currencies (including sterling, euros and dollars).

An international account can help you make a smooth transition from domestic to international banking.

Cheques

There are no cheque guarantee cards in New Zealand, which is why you may be asked to produce a driving licence or credit card as identification when paying by cheque.

Using a cheque incurs a ‘cheque duty’ (a form of stamp duty) of 5 cents per cheque issued. This amount is automatically deducted by your bank, which customers need to be aware of when reconciling cheques issued with the debits that appear on bank statements.

A cheque paid into your account is usually credited the next day (occasionally the same day if the cheque is from the same branch or bank). A cheque drawn on your account and given to someone else may also be debited from your account on the same or the next day.

ATM facilities in New Zealand

Most banks and building societies in New Zealand allow customers a limited number of free cash withdrawals per month from ATMs in their own network, but customers may be charged for using an ATM belonging to another bank or network. It is advisable to check what charges apply before using a cash machine, particularly if using a card from a bank outside of New Zealand. A number of ATMs also enable you to deposit cash or cheques into your account.

The Mondex system has recently been introduced in New Zealand. This system allows you to access funds equivalent to your account balance by using a Mondex debit card to buy goods and services.

Credit and charge cards

Credit and charge cards are issued by most banks and are accepted widely throughout New Zealand. They can also be used to withdraw cash from ATMs or over the counter at banks, for a charge of NZ$1.50 to NZ$4 per transaction.

Most of the major international credit and charge cards, such as Visa and MasterCard, are accepted in New Zealand, as well as the local Bankcard, which is also widely accepted in Australia.

Annual fees for credit cards range from $20-100 NZD. Most credit cards have customer loyalty schemes and offer a range of incentives to customers such as bonuses, frequent flyer points or cash rewards.

Some of the large stores and retailers in New Zealand issue their own charge cards. However, some stores may only accept their own store cards and the interest rates (APR) on store cards can be high.

EFTPOS Cards

When opening a bank account, you should request an ‘electronic funds transfer at point of sale’ (EFTPOS) card, also known as a debit card. This can be used to pay for goods and services, with payments debited from your account usually on the same day.

Money transfers to and from New Zealand

As well as money transfer services offered by banks, there are a wide variety of specialist businesses operating in the money-transfer market. Rates charged can vary between institutions, so it is advisable to research transfer charges beforehand to secure the best deal.

There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought in or taken out of New Zealand. However, to combat money laundering, people who carry more than $10,000 NZD in cash (both in and out of New Zealand) are required to complete a border cash report.

Bank charges in New Zealand

As in the UK, bank charges will be incurred on a range of financial products and services. However, due to competition between financial service providers, a range of financial incentives and introductory rates are often offered to new and existing customers, so it is advisable to shop around to ensure you get best deal.

Banking in New Zealand – other information

New Zealand ombudsman

If you have any complaints or issues with a bank in New Zealand, contact the banking ombudsman. You can find more information at www.bankomb.org.nz.

More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International

To find out more about the benefits of opening an International Bank Account before you move to New Zealand, speak to a specialist adviser from Barclays Wealth International on +44 (0) 141 352 3902.

For further details regarding the range of international accounts, financial services and international investments available to expats and international residents, visit Barclays Wealth International online.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David January 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Just read the above article on Banking in NZ and need to point out some obvious errors in it. Firstly regarding commercial banks in NZ there is no bank brand called the "ANZ National Bank" there is a bank brand called the "ANZ" and one called "The National Bank". Secondly the "TSB Bank" (it's correct bank brand not TSB Bank Ltd) is not a foreign owned bank is one hundred percent New Zealand owned and needs to be listed under commercial banks in New Zealand. Furthermore the listing of commercial and foreign banks is misleading as all the banks currently listed in commercial banks except "Kiwibank" (it's bank brand not Kiwibank Ltd) are foreigned owned (mostly by Australian Banks).

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