New Zealand passport and moneyIf you are going to New Zealand for an extended period, a phone number, bank account & mail address will be useful. Here’s my guide on how to get setup in New Zealand before you arrive (or quickly after you land), so you can get the admin out of the way and start enjoying your trip ASAP!

Contents:

  1. Get a postal & physical address
  2. Get a SIM card (mobile phone number)
  3. Open a bank account
  4. Get an IRD (Tax) number

1. Get a postal & physical address

Getting a postal & physical address in New Zealand is critical if you are going to be setting up bank accounts, buy a car, or property during your stay.

If you have friends and family, then the easiest option can be to check if it’s okay to have your mail directed to their address. If that isn’t an option, or you would like to be independent, then I recommend Private Box as a mail forwarding service.

Private Box provides you with a postal & physical address in Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch. They collect your mail, and it can be scanned & emailed to you, or forwarded to most postal addresses in the world.

The best time to sign up for Private Box is before you arrive New Zealand. This will help with setting up a bank account in step 3. There is a cost involved – plans start at NZ$10/month – but there are no contracts so you can cancel at any time. It is also useful if you plan to leave New Zealand, but still wish to maintain a bank account, companies, or property, etc.

2. Get a phone number

If you bring an unlocked GSM phone to New Zealand, you can get a SIM card easily. Regarding coverage – most of the providers offer the same coverage in the main cities and towns. However, each network will have their quirks in rural areas. If you plan to spend a lot of time in a particular rural area, it is best to check with a local from that area. The main providers are Vodafone NZ, Spark, 2degrees, and Skinny Mobile. For travellers on a budget looking for pre-paid options I’d recommend:

While plans and deals constantly change, for travellers on a budget looking for pre-paid options I’d recommend looking into the following:

Skinny Mobile – they consistently have the lowest prices and have free calls to anyone on the Skinny network when using selected prepaid plans, so if you’re travelling with friends and need to call often, this can be very useful. Skinny also runs on the Spark network. Check your device compatibility.

Spark – They have a network of payphones across the country which have free wifi hotspots available for Spark mobile customers on selected prepaid & postpaid plans. This is handy for saving data when travelling around the country and you have some downtime to Skype home or catch up on YouTube etc. The Spark network also has the fastest [theoretical] data speeds. Their network is 4G & 3G (not 2G, which the others reduce to in some areas). Check your device compatibility.

You can buy mobile SIM cards before you travel to New Zealand on eBay. Having a New Zealand phone number helps with the next step – opening a bank account.

If you want to get a SIM card after you arrive in Auckland (assuming you are flying into Auckland airport), you can buy a SIM card and add some credit for any of the networks at The Warehouse store. This shop is open 7 am – 12 am (midnight) every day.

If you are getting picked up or hiring a car, this shop is a short drive, or it’s a 15min walk from the airport terminals. Note there is free wifi in the airport terminals.

When arriving at Auckland International Airport, there are stalls for tourist SIM cards from Vodafone NZ. I think these plans are overpriced.

Once you have your address and mobile phone setup, you can apply for a bank account….

3. Get a bank account

If you are planning on staying in New Zealand for a few months, then it can be convenient to have a bank account. The main consumer banks are ANZ, BNZ, Westpac, and Kiwibank (see a full list of all registered banks). I’d recommend Kiwibank, mainly because they have a type of day to day account which does not have any monthly fees.

Kiwibank’s internet banking & mobile apps are good, so you don’t have to go into the branch that often, and when you do have to visit a branch, they operate out of post shops, so they have the most branches in New Zealand than any other bank. This comes in handy when you are visiting more remote towns.

You can open a bank account with Kiwibank before you arrive in New Zealand online at https://join.kiwibank.nz. If you apply online, you have the option of applying as someone living overseas, or already in New Zealand.

Applying online as an overseas applicant

You can apply from overseas by clicking on “Not in NZ?”

Online application not in nz

 

If you apply as someone living outside New Zealand, I’d suggest only do this if you are planning on arriving within the next 6 months. You will be asked to supply proof of your current address, and proof of ID (passport), and fill out an additional application form, see below:

Kiwibank online application email

 

Note: it is a lot easier to apply as someone already in New Zealand, but you will need a New Zealand phone number, and New Zealand physical address, both of these you can get in the first two steps above.

Applying online as a New Zealand resident

This is the easiest method, and will give you access to internet banking immediately. You will still need to go in person to a branch to show some identification. To apply as an NZ resident, you will need a New Zealand phone number, and New Zealand physical address, both of these you can get in the first two steps above.

Note: if you are opening an account before arriving in New Zealand as this post suggests, I would recommend only signing up a week before you arrive.

If you have used Private Box in Step 1 for your physical address, enter this without your personal identifier. See example:

Kiwibank Online application

 

When choosing your base account the Freeup account is most cost effective:

Kiwibank Online application Account type

 

Once you add your New Zealand phone number, you will be sent an SMS with a temporary password to your internet banking.

You can now make deposits into the account. However, there are restrictions on withdrawals until you present identification at a branch. In the past I have found the cheapest way to transfer money between banks was a withdrawal from an ATM in New Zealand with my card (Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay, Discover, Diner’s Club, Maestro, and Amex are commonly accepted in ATMs) then manual deposit at the branch. You can also make SWIFT transfers to Kiwibank. Please check the fees of transferring money from your home bank account to work out the most cost efficient method for you.

Once you arrive in New Zealand you will need to do the following:

  1. Show proof of identification (e.g. passport) at a branch.
  2. Get a bank card
  3. Make some transactions
  4. Get proof of bank account for an IRD number application

These can be done after arrival at Auckland airport at the NZ Post/Kiwibank store near the airport.

Note this branch’s opening hours are:

  • Mon-Fri: 9am – 5pm
  • Saturday: 9am – 1pm
  • Sunday: Closed

Also note: This branch is next to The Warehouse store mentioned in step 2 above.

Applying in person after arrival

You can also apply in person. The Post office/Kiwibank branch is often a busy place so you may not be able to be seen to straight away if you just walk in. Most branches will let you make an appointment if you call them beforehand.

To apply in person, you will need a New Zealand phone number, and New Zealand address, both of these you can get in the first two steps above.

The closest branch to Auckland airport is this NZ Post/Kiwibank store.

Note this branch’s opening hours are:

  • Mon-Fri: 9am – 5pm
  • Saturday: 9am – 1pm
  • Sunday: Closed

Also note: This branch is next to The Warehouse store mentioned in Step 2 above.

You’ll need:

  1. New Zealand phone number, and New Zealand address
  2. Show proof of identification (e.g. passport) at a branch.
  3. Get a bank card
  4. Make some transactions
  5. Get proof of bank account for an IRD number application

Getting a bank card

Most banks in New Zealand will also give you an EFTPOS (debit) card over the counter if you ask. You can also get a Visa debit card, which allows online payments etc., but this cannot be done over the counter and will be sent via mail. Some banks will try to charge $10/year for a Visa debit card. Often banks will waive the fee for the first year if you ask.

Applying for credit cards usually requires proof of income.

4. Getting an IRD number

If you plan to work or buy property in New Zealand, you will need an IRD number. (IRD = Inland Revenue Department = Government tax department). Information on how to get one can be found on the IRD website.

To get an IRD number you need to have an active bank account that you have made transactions with. It is possible to do this before you arrive in New Zealand, but you will have to liaise with your bank directly as this is not a normal case. The IRD conditions for your bank account are that you have provided identification and have made at least one deposit and one withdrawal on your account.

Conclusion

I hope that this post will help people prepare a little more before coming to New Zealand. I’ve hosted couch surfers and helped them with this exact setup. However, you can get a head start, and get on with the real fun of enjoying New Zealand with this admin done in advance!

Do you have feedback on this guide? Please make a comment below.

 

Full disclosure notes: None of the recommendations here are paid endorsements. I have been a happy customer of Private Box, Skinny Mobile, and Kiwibank.

Updated: 15/06/16 – Updates to information on mobile providers.

Featured image by Patrick Kiteley.

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