The big main banks here are ANZ/Postbank, Bank of New Zealand, The National Bank (a subsidiary of Lloyds) Trustbank, Westpac ASB (Auckland Savings Bank) and Countrywide (a subsidiary of Bank of Scotland). As is the case in England, all have their own personalities and bank charges and it comes down to a matter of taste.
We found we needed to open a bank account very quickly on arrival in the country. A simple enough task, we came armed with a bank reference and bank draft and were welcomed with open arms.
We were assigned a personal banker, who in addition to sorting out our financial affairs, chatted about schools, hairdressers and decent restaurants and turned our first step into the world of banking in this country into a memorable experience.
You might like to hire a safety deposit box at the bank, for the first six months. Keeping your entire family documents and valuables together in a motel room and during the early days of moving house can be quite a worry. Losing your passport is one thing, losing your birth certificate along with it, could make life complicated.
In addition to the bankers being less formal, the banks themselves are more friendly, with no plate glass or bars between you and the teller.
The currency is New Zealand dollars, with 100 cents to a dollar, the smallest coin being a 5 cent piece. The one dollar coin looks similar to the one pound coin, but is only worth about 40p (at the time of writing).
The decision when to transfer your pounds sterling into dollars is a crucial one. If you have a few thousand pounds to exchange then obviously a few points on the exchange rate can make a huge difference. Keep a close eye on the financial markets to get the best deal, particularly as the dollar is on a floating exchange rate and not fixed as you will be used to.
If you are living in New Zealand when you convert your sterling to dollars, you need to divide your sterling by the current exchange rate to see how many dollars you will get. The exchange rate will be for example .4467 therefore £1.00 / .44 = 2.24 and you will know you will get $2.24 for every one pound.
An exchange rate of .44 would be described as being strong (as it only takes $2.24 to buy £1.00) You would be looking to exchange your money when the dollar becomes weak. Normally expect the exchange rate to be about .38 which means $2.63 for every £1.00.
The banking system here is very fast, cheques are often debited from your account the next day. Eftpos (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) similar to the Switch card in England, can be used to draw out cash when paying for goods in the supermarkets. It can also be used at petrol stations and other selected outlets to draw cash, without having to make a purchase.
If you have sold a property, you might suddenly find yourself with a large sum of money to invest for a few months and I would take advice on this.
Interest rates fluctuate in New Zealand and the return on investments can be quite low. You would need to compare interest rates at the time of your departure, but should you decide to leave your money in England for the time being, make sure you sign a declaration of non residence for tax purposes (available from your bank)
Instant access investments normally attract a lower interest rate, but could prove useful if you suddenly decide the time is right to transfer your money into New Zealand dollars. Offshore investments are another way of doing things, that you might like to investigate.
Be extremely careful when choosing a financial adviser in New Zealand. Fraud in not unknown in this country, particularly in the financial sector.
We left our money presumably safe and sound in England, in Sterling and the pound was devalued by 10% during a rare English currency crises so who knows?