When travelling, living or working abroad for a longer period, it can be smart to set up a local bank account, in order to avoid withdrawal fees or exchange rates. It’s also necessary in case you want to set up automatic payments, like paying rent, or when you want to receive your monthly pay check. Moreover, a local debit card also offers a secure and convenient way to make purchases and you don’t have to walk around with a lot of cash on you. Enough reasons for me to open a bank account in New Zealand. And there was also another important matter; the application for the IRD number.
Choosing your preferred bank
As you may have read in this previous post, I was in need of a New Zealand bank account in order to apply for an IRD number. Thus, before I left Holland, I gathered some information online about all well-known banks in New Zealand – like ASB, ANZ, BNZ, Kiwibank and Westpac, just to name a few – and what kind of accounts and services they offer. Soon, I found a bank and a personal account which seemed to meet all my needs and requirements. The best thing was that I already could set up my personal account online before heading to New Zealand. It literally took me just a few minutes to do so. The only thing left was to pop into a branch once I would arrive in Auckland, in order to activate my account. Plus, there were no costs allied to this account. Sounds great, right?
How to activate a New Zealand bank account?
To speed up my application, I made sure to collect all the right documents the bank asked for. I even copied everything twice, just to make sure. Since they also required a proof of address, and I wasn’t able to provide the New Zealand one yet, I took my overseas instead.
“You need to bring an original and current to within 3 months original document for your overseas address or New Zealand address as part of the ID process at the branch on arrival in New Zealand, as well as your passport with appropriate New Zealand Visa stamp, OR a print out of your electronic New Zealand Visa.”
Once I arrived in Auckland, the first thing I did was pop into the nearest branch to activate my new bank account. This was the moment when the problems started. What seemed to be a piece of cake in the first place, became more complicated than I thought. Suddenly, the proof of my overseas address, wasn’t sufficient anymore. What? Why? Did I miss any information? I was told that unfortunately they couldn’t do anything about it. Instead of trying to find a solution, the bank staff just claimed that it wouldn’t be possible to activate my account without having an official proof of my New Zealand address. Since I didn’t have an official rental agreement with my landlord or any bills I could show them, there would be no way to activate my account, according to the bank staff. No further explanation. Oh yeah, they were also really sorry all the time. Thanks a lot! Very helpful!
I found it quite ridiculous, to be honest. I was a new customer in the first place, so why would the bank refuse to help me. Along with a lot of patience, 3 more visits to different branches, I eventually managed to activate my bank account. Miracles do exist! In my opinion, all the effort was just a waste of time. Really. I still don’t understand why they weren’t willing to help me when I first entered one of the branches.
Tips for opening & activating your bank account
Anyway, in order to avoid these annoyances upon your arrival, you better be prepared. Once again, I’m here to diminish the potential hassle by sharing my previous experiences. Therefore, I’ll provide some tips that might help when opening a bank account in New Zealand (I think, these tips apply to almost all of the banks in New Zealand, but to be sure, always check the requirements of your preferred bank first):
- Have a look on the websites of the major banks in New Zealand. They all provide comprehensive information online
- Some banks, like ASB and ANZ, offer to set up an account from overseas
- Make sure you bring your passport and your valid Visa with you when opening or activating an account
Proof of your New Zealand address:
- When staying in a hostel, ask them to write a letter that proves you’re currently living on the address of that hostel. The hostel will probably ask you to choose solely online banking, since they don’t want to receive tons of bank statements in their letter box, whilst you don’t stay with them anymore
- When you have a rental agreement in New Zealand, or you do receive your own electricity/water bills, showing your name and address on it, this would be the perfect proof of address
- When you don’t have an official rental agreement, make sure the host you’re staying with writes a letter that proves you’re living with him or her. Note: the host must be an existing client of that same bank, otherwise the letter will not be excepted as a proof of address
The funny thing is, once I managed to activate my bank account, the staff of the branch nearby suddenly became really helpful and friendly. It might be a coincidence, but today, just before I started to write this blog post, I bumped into Amy, the lady who activated my bank account. She immediately remembered me and we had a little chat. So yeah, that’s how things can change. There are not only downsides to this story. I like being addressed by my first name when entering my bank branch and the personal service they offer now. Anyhow, it still would have been nicer to get the right service from the beginning on.
Transferring money from overseas with TransferWise
Once you’ve managed to open and activate your New Zealand bank account, you will probably need to transfer some money onto that account. Unfortunately, transferring money from overseas can get quite expensive, depending on the conditions of your bank. However, after doing some research on the Internet, I came across TransferWise. Through their website, you can easily transfer money abroad without any hidden charges or unfair exchange rates. Just have a look yourself:
Even though, I was very sceptical in the beginning, I have to admit that it is indeed an easy way to transfer money abroad. I tested it myself, and I was very pleased with their services. Setting up an account on their website and planning in my first transfer, literally took me less than 5 minutes. Afterwards, they sent me updates about the status of the requested transfer. I even received the money a few days earlier than promised. If you want to try it yourself, you can sign up now and you will get your first international transfer – up to £500 – without any additional transfer costs.
Follow-up on the IRD number
Last but not least, a follow-up on the IRD number topic. I eventually figured out that the information given on my Working Holiday Visa wasn’t correct. To clarify:
“From 1 October 2015, international customers need a fully functional New Zealand bank account (the ability to make both deposits and withdrawals with the account holder’s identity verified in accordance with New Zealand law) before applying for an IRD number.”
So, first you will have to set up a New Zealand bank account. Once you have done that, a confirmation of your bank, that states your account is fully functional, will enable you to apply for the IRD number. Hopefully, this should clear up.
I know, this is a lot of information. But trust me, you might benefit from it once you have to deal with this administrative hassle. Hopefully, my experiences will help to make it a bit easier for you. In case you have any further questions related to this topic, please shoot them at me in the comments. I’d be happy to answer them!