General Banking 

I’ve never had a bank account - what do I need to do to open one?

The first thing you’ll want to do is to decide which organisation you want to bank with, and what sort of bank account/s you want.

Depending on what your banking needs are, you might want to find out about:

  • mortgage lending rates and conditions
  • interests rates offered for money in deposits 
  • the types of services each banking provider offers
  • fees charged for services (Consumer NZ subscribers can read their article about bank fees)
  • whether the bank is New Zealand-owned or a multinational

You can also ask your friends and family about their experiences with their respective banking providers, and check the Canstar Blue New Zealand website for consumer ratings of the major banking service providers.

Once you have settled on a bank, you’ll need to put together some identity documents in preparation for opening up your bank account. These generally include proof of your identity plus a recent document to prove your physical address (for example a copy of your tenancy agreement, a recent rates notice or power bill). More about proof of identity documents is in the next question.

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What kinds of proof of identity (ID) will the bank accept?

The specific proof of ID requirements can vary slightly from one bank to another, but they will generally ask you for one of the following combinations (unless specified, all documents you present should be current and original - not expired documents or copies):

1. One of the following:

2. If you don’t have any of the above, you can bring: 

plus 

3. If you can’t fulfil either of the above options, you can bring your New Zealand driver licence and one of these:

  • A Government agency document (for example a Community Services CardSuperGold Card or a recent statement from Inland Revenue)
  • New Zealand Defence Force photo ID
  • New Zealand Police photo ID 
  • If you have or had a bank account elsewhere:
    • a recen bank statement or credit card statement or 
    • a document issued by a registered bank which has your name and signature e.g. credit card, debit card, EFTPOS card.

You can check the specific ID requirements for the major banks in New Zealand:

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I need to open a bank account but I don’t have the right combination of ID documents. What can I do?

If you don’t already have one of the accepted photo IDs listed above (for example, you don’t drive and have never had a passport), then your easiest option for getting an acceptable photo ID document is probably to apply for the Kiwi Access card. The banks will generally accept a Kiwi Access Card (or it's older version, the HANZ 18+ card) plus your birth certificate (or certificate of New Zealand citizenship) as proof of your identity - just check with the bank to be sure.

If applying for a Kiwi Access card is not an option for you (e.g. you can’t complete the identity verification requirements to get one because you don’t have a suitable identity witness), then contact the local branch of your chosen bank and explain your situation. They may be able to help.

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Are the identity requirements different when opening a bank account for a child?

If the child’s account will be linked to their parent or guardian ie the parent or guardian will be operating the account, then the ID requirements are different. If the child will have full control of the bank account themselves then the ID requirements are the same as for an adult.

If the account will be linked to the child’s parent or guardian, then the bank will want to see proof of ID for the child and may also ask for proof of the relationship between the child and the parent or guardian: 

  • The child’s passport or the child’s birth certificate (originals) – the latter can also be used as evidence of the relation between the child and their parent;
  • If the child’s guardian is not their parent, then the bank may ask for evidence of guardianship.
  • If the parent or guardian is not an existing client of the bank:

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How long should I keep my bank statements for?

Businesses and organisations must keep their financial records – including bank statements - for seven years. This is a requirement by Inland Revenue (under the Tax Administration Act 1994).

Individuals are not required to keep bank statements and you only need to keep your bank statements for as long as they will be useful to you.

Your bank statements contain important details about who you are and how you spend your money. If you want to dispose of them it’s best to shred or burn them to prevent identity theft and to protect your privacy.

Note that your bank will have the information on their database, though they are likely to charge you a fee if you request information about your banking transactions from them.

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The bank gave me an account with an overdraft facility, though I didn't ask for one. Now I owe them hundreds of dollars because I didn't realise I was in overdraft. Is there anything I can do?

An overdraft facility may have been a normal feature of the type of account you selected when setting up the account. If this is not the case, you should discuss the situation with the bank and ask them to cancel the overdraft.

If you have spent the money already you will have to arrange to pay it back to the bank. If you believe you would not have spent the money if you'd known it would put you into overdraft, you could try negotiating with the bank to waive your overdraft fees or extra interest while you pay back the overdraft.

If you believe that the bank is not treating you fairly, you can make a complaint (see the next question).

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I have a problem with my bank. Who can I complain to?

All banks must have their own complaints procedure and information about the complaints procedure must be accessible to their customers. In general, the process of making a complaint to your bank is:

  • contact the bank to discuss your complaint, by:
    • calling their Contact Centre;
    • visiting the branch in person;
    • filling in a feedback form online; or
    • writing to the bank
  • If you're not satisfied after that initial contact you may have to follow up by asking to speak to one of their customer relations staff. Some helpful tips when you're talking to your bank about a problem are:
    • be clear about what the problem is and what you'd like your bank to do about it (putting it in writing may help to clarify the issues) 
    • take notes during any conversations you have with your bank, for example the time and date, who you talked to, and the outcome of the conversation 
    • keep copies of any letters or e-mails you sent to or received from the bank

More information about complaining effectively is on our Complaints and disputes pages.

If you can't agree with your bank on the solution to your problem, or haven't heard from them for three months after making your complaint, then a 'deadlock' has effectively been reached. You can then make a complaint to the financial disputes resolution scheme your bank belongs to. Most banks belong to the Banking Ombudsman Scheme.

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What’s involved in switching to another bank? 

Before you go to the trouble of  switching banks, work out exactly what it is that you are unhappy with regarding your current bank. It’s possible that you can negotiate to resolve those issues (e.g. high bank fees) so that you don’t have to make the move.
 
If you still want to make the move, you could start by visiting a selection of other bank branches in person to discuss your banking needs. If you have a mortgage, find out from your current bank what it will cost you to move it to another bank. For example, if it’s a fixed-rate mortgage there are likely to be early termination fees. Ask the bank you’re considering switching to, whether they will help you offset those costs.

Once you’ve found a bank you want to move to, put together a list of the types of accounts you want and all of the direct debits and automatic payments you have in place at the current bank.

Take this list, the relevant ID and your IRD number to the new bank. They will give you a Switching Bank Request Form, which will ask for your old bank’s name; your bank account numbers; the date to start the transfer of automatic payments and direct debits; and your signature. The new bank will arrange for your regular payments to be transferred.

It’s a good idea to withdraw some cash before the transfer starts – just in case there is a delay in getting your new debit, credit or EFTPOS cards. Most banks will switch over your payments free of charge or have a period that is free of charges while you sort the payments to and from the new account.

Once your new accounts are up and running, advise the relevant people of your new bank details e.g. your employer, organisations with whom you have automatic payment or direct debit arrangements, organisations which deposit money into your bank account. 

When you are sure that the changeover is complete (it could be a couple of weeks), you can request closure of your old accounts.

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What should we do with our joint account now that our relationship has ended?

You and your former partner will have to agree on how the joint funds (or debt) will be divided between you.

Disputes can arise if one joint owner withdraws funds without consulting the other, so it’s a good idea to contact the bank as soon as possible and request that the account be closed. Generally the bank won’t close a joint account unless all account owners have agreed to it. So if you make this request the bank will probably contact your former partner to check.

If the two of you can’t agree to have the joint account closed, the bank may place a hold on the account until the dispute is settled. This means that no-one can make any transactions on the account (although you can ask that any regular automatic payments are kept going) until the issue is resolved.

You can read more about joint assets and debt when a relationship ends, on our Relationship property page.