Expats moving to New Zealand will be pleased to know that the country's banking system is sophisticated and comprehensive. It also offers a good standard of customer service.

The requirements to open an account vary in New Zealand, but generally expats just need a bank reference from their home country and the rest is simple.

Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere. There are many ATMs that can be used to draw from local and foreign funds with a debit or credit card.

Money in New Zealand

The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which is divided into 100 cents. In New Zealand, it is normally written with a dollar sign or as NZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar currencies. A dollar in New Zealand is sometimes informally referred to by residents as a Kiwi.

  • Notes: 5 NZD, 10 NZD, 20 NZD, 50 NZD and 100 NZD

  • Coins: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 NZD and 2 NZD

Banking in New Zealand

Banking in New Zealand is relatively uncomplicated. The largest banks in New Zealand are ANZ, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), ASB and Westpac. 

All banks have online banking services that allow account holders to transfer funds or pay certain municipal bills and other services online. Banks usually issue holders with a card that can be used to pay bills at electronic points of sale at shops and restaurants, such as a Visa debit card. Cashless services are highly popular throughout New Zealand.

Opening a bank account 

It is advisable for expats to investigate their banking options before they commit to a certain account type or bank. Some banks or bank accounts charge fees for certain services – such as for transactions or monthly statements – while others don’t. Generally, expats will be offered a choice between a current account and a savings account or a package which includes both.

The requirements for opening a bank account in New Zealand vary depending on the bank. In general, foreign applicants will need identification (usually in the form of a passport and a driver’s licence), proof of residence and their visa. Conveniently, the account can be set up and a new bank card can be issued on the day that the account is created. 

Some banks, such as the Bank of New Zealand, allow customers to apply online before they have even arrived in New Zealand. Expats who meet certain criteria are therefore able to begin depositing money into their account before moving to New Zealand, though they would need to go into a branch when they arrive to get a bank card that will allow them to access their funds.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are widely available in New Zealand and Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere. Expats who open a bank account in New Zealand are typically issued with an EFTPOS card, which is similar to a debit card and can be used to make purchases directly from their account simply by swiping the card at a till and entering a PIN. While EFTPOS cards are free of charge, they are only able to be used in New Zealand or Australia and can't be used for online payments. Expats should be aware of this when choosing to open an account with an EFTPOS card. 

Taxes in New Zealand

New Zealand has simple tax laws with minimal loopholes. It is one of the most favourable tax environments for investors of all OECD countries.

Local income tax is calculated on a sliding scale depending on how much one earns. Expats who are in New Zealand for less than 183 days of any 12-month period are only liable for tax on their locally earned income. That said, expats who live in New Zealand for 183 days or more in any 12-month period are considered tax residents. This means that they will be liable to pay tax on their worldwide income.

The taxation system in New Zealand is characterised by the fact that there is no capital gains tax, inheritance tax, estate tax, healthcare tax or local taxes aside from property rates. There is, however, a blanket Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 15 percent factored into most things that expats would buy in New Zealand. Additional taxes are also paid on alcohol, tobacco and petrol.