Opening a bank account in New Zealand is more complicated than in the United States where you can do everything online.
Choosing a Bank
There are currently 26 banks registered in New Zealand. The five largest banks in New Zealand are BNZ Bank, ANZ Bank, Kiwibank, Westpac Bank, and ASB bank. Along with the banks, there are many credit unions. Many banks offer a specific migrant banking package. Some of these banks allow a foreign currency account to reduce currency conversion fees. It is often cheaper to use a money transfer service than a bank to transfer money between countries.
Opening a Bank Account Before Arrival
Many banks allow you to open a bank account before you arrive in New Zealand. You can fund the account before you arrive in New Zealand, but you need to go into a branch to activate your account once you arrive to withdraw funds. You have 12 months after you open an account to activate the account in the branch. If you do not activate the account within 12 months, any funds deposited into the account will be returned to their original source.
Activating Bank Account
Once you arrive in New Zealand, you need to activate your bank account before you can withdraw money. Showing proof of identity and proof of address allows the bank to activate your account. You need to make an appointment to do this, and at some branches, it might take several days to get an appointment. Most banks allow you to make an appointment several weeks out, and it can be made before you move. Proof of identity is shown by providing your passport. A New Zealand drivers license is not required.
The list of documents that can be used to provide proof of address.
Providing proof of address can be more difficult because you might be staying in temporary accommodations. New Zealand allows a letter from your short term accommodation to count as your proof of address. This letter can be from an AirBnB, hotel, or hostel and can be one line saying that you are currently staying there. Some banks allow the accommodation to email it, and others want it in print form.
Applying for an IRD Number
An Inland Revenue Development number is a New Zealand tax number. You need an IRD number before you start working and it impacts your tax withholdings. If you have a resident class visa, you can apply for an IRD number online before you arrive in New Zealand. If you have a visitor or work visa, you need a New Zealand bank account to apply for an IRD number. Once you activate your bank account, you can ask the bank for proof of account to apply for your IRD number. You can apply online, at an AA Drivers License Center, or a PostShop.
Updating Bank Account
Once you have your IRD number you will need to add it to your bank account. If you used a temporary address to open up your bank account, you would need to update your address when you find permanent housing.
Inform Your Home Country
Many countries require you to inform them if you have foreign holdings in a bank account. The United States requires you to file a FINcen Form 114 if you have $10,000 in a foreign bank account. This needs to be filed when you reach $10,000, not when you file your regular taxes.
How was your experience opening your bank account?