Getting started in New Zealand

Immigrating to New Zealand? Understanding an unfamiliar banking system can be challenging - no matter where you're coming from. Learn how things work here and how ASB can help you move your money.


Living and working in New Zealand

When you know what to expect, everything is a little easier. Here's some information about living and working in New Zealand, and where you can find out more.


New Zealand (or Aotearoa as it is also known), is made up of two main islands and numerous smaller ones. It has a temperate climate and a diverse landscape, boasting everything from golden beaches to volcanoes, subtropical forests to mountain ranges, and isolated fiords to everything inbetween.

There are three main centres: Auckland (the largest), Wellington (the capital) and Christchurch (the largest in the South Island). There are also plenty of smaller regional centres spread across the country that offer a great work-life balance.

In total New Zealand has 16 regions: Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisbourne, Hastings, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington, Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough, Canterbury, West Coast, Otago and Southland.

ASB has branches and ATMs in each region.


New Zealand has a population of 4.5 million people, with 1.5 million living in the Auckland Region. The country has many cultures. 74% New Zealand European; 15% Maori; 12% Asian; 7% Pacific Islander; and 1% Middle Eastern, Latin American or African. (2013 Census, Statistics New Zealand).


Maori discovered the country about 800 years ago and called it Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud). In 1642, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named it New Zealand. In 1840, the country became a British Colony when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The treaty recognised a partnership between British Crown and the Maori people and remains an important document today.

Over the next 150 years, New Zealand grew to be the independent and culturally diverse country it is today.


New Zealand has three official languages: English, Maori and New Zealand Sign language. While English is most commonly spoken, you will hear many languages spoken every day and more organisations are now catering for non-English speakers.


New Zealand is a democracy with just two levels of Government: central and local.

The central government is formed after a general election (held once every three years), the central government is formed and led by the Prime Minister. The government is responsible for housing, welfare, education, health, justice, immigration, police, energy, the national road and rail systems, defence, foreign policy and public finances. Central government also regulates employment, import and export, and workplace safety.

Local government is also elected every three years and provides local services such as water, rubbish collection and disposal, sewage treatment, parks, reserves, street lighting, roads, local public transport and libraries. It also processes building and environmental consents and administers other regulatory tasks.

You can learn more about how central government and local government operate at newzealandnow.govt.nz.

(Source: Immigration New Zealand)


New Zealand has a mixed economy which operates on free-market principles. It has significant manufacturing and service sectors that support a highly efficient agricultural sector. Exports of goods and services account for around one third of real expenditure GDP.

For an insight into New Zealand economy, read Treasury New Zealand's latest economic overview.

(Source: Treasury New Zealand)


The New Zealand tax system is relatively straightforward. If you live in New Zealand, you will pay 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on things you buy. If you earn an income you will also likely pay personal tax on that income and if you operate a business, your business will also have tax obligations.

Anyone earning an income and paying tax in New Zealand needs to have an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number. This is an eight or nine digit number unique to you and links you to all your tax, entitlement and personal details.

Immigration New Zealand has a great summary of how tax works in New Zealand. For more information you can also visit the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).


Rates are the taxes levied by local government to help fund the work they do locally. Rates are based on the value of any property you own in the local government or council’s area. Visit the local council's website to find out what a property's rates are.

Working in New Zealand

To work in New Zealand you must be a New Zealand or Australian Citizen, a resident or the holder of a valid work or study visa.

Visit Immigration New Zealand to find out about applying for a visa or citizenship.

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.

This is funded by a levy paid by all taxpayers. If you’re an employee, this levy will come out of your before tax wages or income. If you’re self-employed or run a business, you will be invoiced for ACC separately from your taxes.


Housing availability and prices vary throughout New Zealand. Auckland, where the majority of the population lives, has the highest median house price.

Historically New Zealanders have tended to build standalone houses, but as cities become more populated, apartments and multiple unit houses have become more popular.

If you’re looking to buy a house in New Zealand, talk to us about a home loan and ASB home insurance.


Education in New Zealand is split into four categories: Early Childhood (0-6), Primary (5-12), Secondary (13-19), and further or tertiary education (16+).

For Primary and secondary education, most schools rolls are made up of children who live in the local area. This is called the school zone.

You can find out more about choosing a school here.


New Zealand's banking system

Carrying large amounts of cash is less common in New Zealand. Most retailers offer EFTPOS so customers can pay for day-to-day transactions and when cash is required there's usually an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) nearby.

For electronic transactions, all major banks offer internet and mobile banking. Transactions like these include employers direct crediting wages into employee accounts, or automatic payments for rent being sent directly to a landlord.

To be able to make cashless transactions in New Zealand, you'll need to set up a bank account. You can do this with ASB before you arrive. Getting set up early will make it easy to pay for things from the start.

You can learn more about banking in New Zealand here.


Choosing a bank

New Zealand has a wide selection of major banks that provide products and services including transaction and savings accounts, credit and debit cards, lending and investments.

About ASB

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia owns ASB. We are one of New Zealand's leading full-service banks and provide a range of products including Premium banking, online share trading and wealth management.

With branches nationwide and easily accessible internet and mobile banking, you'll be able to bank whenever you want - whether you're overseas or in the country.

Want to know more? Find out about ASB.

Get an ASB Relocation Specialist to help

Get in touch and we'll help identify what you might need to get things set up before you arrive. A Relocation Specialist can even help with things like buying a home or identifying a good school zone.


Moving your money to New Zealand

Once you've opened your ASB account, there's several ways to bring your money to New Zealand.

International money transfer

An international money transfer is an internationally recognised way to electronically transfer money securely between accounts in different banks around the world. Once you've opened your ASB account, you'll be able to receive an international money transfer from a bank overseas. This means you'll have New Zealand dollars on-hand, ready for your arrival, as funds are available as soon as they arrive in your account. Please remember though you'll need to activate your account when you arrive before you can access any of your money.

Foreign cheque

Also known as a foreign currency cheque or bank draft, a foreign cheque provides a physical way to bring your money to New Zealand. To do this, you'll need to get a foreign cheque from your current bank and then deposit it into your new ASB account when you arrive.

In most cases, you'll need to allow 21 days before your money becomes available as foreign cheques are not cleared funds. Please remember - you'll still need to activate your account before you can access any funds.

Not ready to convert to New Zealand dollars?

An ASB Foreign Currency Account, makes it possible to keep your funds in your current currency for as long as you want and convert all or some of it when you're ready. Find out how an ASB Foreign Currency Account works.


Get covered. Protect yourself and your assets

Insuring your move to New Zealand is probably high on your list. However, it's also a good idea to think about how you'll be covered when you arrive. It's important to insure your home, car, health, business and life. Get informed about your options now and come prepared.

Need help?

Email us

We'll help you with your bank account application enquiry before you arrive.

Email us

Visit a branch

When you're here, come and see us at one of our many branches across New Zealand.

Find a branch

Other helpful guides

ASB’s lending criteria and terms apply. Online share trading is provided by ASB Securities Limited, a NZX Firm. This page does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader. As individual circumstances differ, you should seek appropriate professional advice.

Moving to New Zealand Getting started in New Zealand