As part of my working holiday starter pack, it included info on how to open a bank account. The office gave me a registration sheet for ASB bank and essentially “sponsored” me. All I had to do with finish filling out the sheet with my details (I used the hostel as my “address”, which is really common) and went to the location on Wyndham and Hobson in Central Auckland to activate the account. I went to the bank on a mid-Monday morning and the place was empty. I was quickly helped as the people there knew exactly what to do. I was given a checking account and EFTPOS card right then an there. I had to call the 0800 number to cancel my paper statements so I wouldn’t be charged a monthly fee, which I was a little nervous about, having come from America and banks here are notorious for wait times and just a million hoops. But as I would soon learn, NZ is so super easy! I made the call later in the day and my account was quickly switched over and I would deal with my account solely online. And as soon as I got my IRD number, I could just go to any location and tell them it for tax purposes.
EFTPOS has to be one of the greatest things that America is missing (after the world-band SIM card, which we are finally getting on). Unfortunately, I don’t think EFTPOS would work well here as we are just a huge population and it works better with smaller numbers. But it would eliminate so much debt and just make things so much easier, but that is just not the American way. EFTPOS stands for Electronic Funds Transfer (at) Point of Sale. The card is just like a debit card, but with less security. My name isn’t on it but there is no Visa/MC logo on it either and the card can only be used in New Zealand. I am sure they have cards that are like our debit cards in the US, but since my bank account was the lowest on the totem pole, this is what they gave me. And it was perfect! You can use your EFTPOS card for EVERYTHING in New Zealand, even just a pack of gum. No one looks twice when you buy something for 50cents and put it on your card. Swipe your card, type in your pin, press checking and you are off! No service fee either for using your card (in 99% of the places I went). I used my card so much that not only did I not use my US credit card for about 6 months, but I walked around with the same $20 in my wallet for weeks on end before I spent it. The money is immediately taken out of your checking, so there is no fear of overdraft either.
No worries about ATM’s either. There is seriously like one of every bank in every town. Some people will say that other banks are more prevalent, but I was in cities most of the time and never ever had an issue. Taking money out of your banks ATM is free, of course. I don’t even know if my card would work in other machines, I knew better then to try (and get charged a pointless fee, which is like totally against my religion).
Since New Zealand is so small, a lot of the time when transferring money to another person, they just give you their account number and you can deposit money directly into their account. It doesn’t matter if they are at a different bank. I did this to pay for my electric bill and it was like auto-pay. I would get a paper bill once a month and it would say when the money is going into their account. Easy!
(Side-story: When I got back to the US and had a large refund check in NZ dollars to deposit, I went to my local Chase bank and asked if they could take it and they said no. Then I asked if she could get her manager to see if they knew what to do and she said no. They were of absolutely no help. This transaction made me miss the helpfulness of New Zealand so much!)
And talk about no bank lines! I rarely had to go and talk to a teller, but the few times I did, there was rarely a line, even during the “busy” lunch hour. Some instances I had to talk to a teller:
-To find out how my parents could wire me money. So freakin’ easy! They sent me money a few times (including a large dump before they came, so they could save on fees) and it only cost NZ$25 to accept the money on dumps ranging from $1000 to $3000 (not sure how much it covered).
-Before I went to Australia on holiday, I ordered a load of currency (which you can do online!), so I wouldn’t have to take any out of the ATM there. When I went to pick it up, besides no line, they were like, if you ever have to take out like less then $5000, just show up. No need to pre-order it, we’ve got it!
-I went to deposit some cash into my account and there was no line of course. So I go to the counter and the women tells me that if she accepts it straight out, they’ll charge me $3 for the service. But if I fill out a slip (paper waste) and pop my money in the plastic bag (plastic waste!) and then hand it to her, FREE! I was like, are you serious, rolling my eyes. And she returned it, knowing what a waste that is, but bank policy. I think normally I would have had to drop it in the box, but since the bank was dead empty, she did me a solid and took the money immediately. Even the employees know their system is kind of retarded.
-I bought some t-shirts off a New Zealand company and one way to pay is to deposit the money directly into their account with the reference being your order number. As soon as the money was received, they shipped and I got my shirts within 2 days! At first I couldn’t figure out how to send the money online, so I went to my closest branch, waited in line and when I told the teller my issue. She shut down her window, took me over to the general use computer they had in the lobby for online banking (for those who don’t have a computer, which are kind of a lot in New Zealand!) and showed me how to send money. You would never get that kind of personal attention in the US!
-Before I left New Zealand when my visa ran out, I went to the bank to ask about my account and since I was going over to Australia, they opened my account in Australia for me! All I had to do was go to the central Commonwealth Bank in Sydney and they would have everything for me. My experiences with them, coming up next. *Whoops, I switched some posts around and my Australia Bank post actually posted first. Sorry about that!*
Morel: Whew, I ended up saying a lot about ASB! I loved banking in NZ. So easy, so nice, never a hassle. When I closed my account after my trip back in 2008/09 because at that point I didn’t know when I would be back and I didn’t want to get charged anything if their account terms changed, I nearly cried when the lady cut my EFTPOS card. It was on its last leg anyway. Apparently, you are eligible for a new one every 2 years and I was just at that mark. I saved all my paperwork, if I ever go back and need an account in NZ, should be easy peasy to re-open it! I know I am not worried.