Managing Money in New Zealand for Working Holiday


I just wanted to write a post with regards to how I managed my money during my 9-month Working Holiday experience in New Zealand (Jun 2019 – Mar 2020).

To summarize, this post will be about:

  1. How I brought money over to New Zealand
  2. How I set up my bank account
  3. How I brought back my spare cash and when to do so

How I brought money to New Zealand

Now that I’m back home, I can safely declare how much money I brought over to New Zealand and how I did it.

I had brought over $5,000 NZD in cash (which was rather risky but nothing went awry) and top-up about $1,500 NZD in my YouTrip Card.

Why did I use YouTrip?

The main reason as to why I use YouTrip is because I have trialed and tested the exchange rate and it is pretty much similar (or sometimes even better) than the rates at money changer.

Also, there’s an option for you to lock-down the exchange rate by changing the currency all at once, or transfer-as-you-use using the fluctuating daily rates. With their MasterCard Debit capabilities, I was able to make payments for my NZ travel insurance, hostel payments all in NZD, which also means that I did not have to pay for the exchange rate fluctuations.

Another good thing about why YouTrip was so feasible in New Zealand is because 90% of the retailers accept cashless payment including paywave (ApplePay). The remaining 9% retailers accept only EFTPOS (their form of NETS) and 1% only accepts cash (more significantly in the weekend markets). For my entire first month in NZ, I survived mainly on my YouTrip card – making payments at cafes, eateries, grocery stores, petrol, shopping malls etc.

Topping up my YouTrip account was rather seamless too as I used a credit card which I had applied GIRO payments for. This means that my YouTrip money will be automatically deducted from my Singapore bank account and I do not need to worry about paying the bills.

The only downside of using YouTrip was that it wasn’t available on ApplePay which made it a little inconvenient when I travel without my wallet.

If you’re new to YouTrip, you can use my promo code ‘FHSTARS‘ and enjoy a $5 bonus!

Sign up Now!

Note: you will have have to key in a Singapore mobile number and they will send you an SMS with a download link for their app. Alternatively, you can search for the ‘YouTrip’ app in App or Play Store.

<I am still waiting for YouTrip to generate a referral code for my users. They have promised to give a little something so do drop by this page for the referral code!>

Alternative to transferring money: Trust in Online Community

If you’re from Asia, you should be able to find country-specific group chats relating to the ‘New Zealand Working Holiday’ community. How this works is that people who are leaving NZ for good, would want to cash out their NZD while people who are entering would need NZD. The two parties usually meet in such group chats (SG’s one is a Telegram, Malaysia has Telegram and WhatsApp, Taiwan and HK use LINE while China uses WeChat) and both parties will determine the exchange rate (usually follow Google). There’s usually a trust factor as someone will have to transfer the money first. I’ve done this process twice – once to sell and once to buy and they were all complete strangers whom I never met.

Why did I not do a bank transfer?

I wanted to save on the bank fees and I calculated the amount of risk I had for my flight. Firstly, I was flying direct from Singapore to Christchurch (both were pretty safe countries) and I had a place to stay when I arrived (which meant that I wasn’t going to roam the streets) PLUS, I have already secured a bank appointment which means that there was a certainty as to when my money was going to be deposited.

After all, it was still savings of $21.50 (the price of two bottles of wine).

Note: TransferWise is the cheapest option, according to their ‘comparison chart’. I do have friends sharing that InstaREM is a good competitor for overseas remittance but it was a pity they didn’t cater to the New Zealand market.

Another option would be to withdraw via YouTrip which was kind had $5 SGD withdrawal fee (withdrawal limit SGD 5,000) + any additional charges may be applied by overseas banks. Being a skeptic, the ‘any additional charges‘ was too vague for me to consider so I dropped that option. I was too fearful of being stuck with a 3-5% surcharge risk, so I chose the option of transparency, which was to bring the cash over myself.

How I set up my Bank Account

(Information is valid as of June 2019. The banks keep changing their requirements and you may get a different experience during your time; but here’s mine)

According to ANZ’s website, you are able to register for an account (via ANZ) before arriving in NZ.

Follow the instructions here for more info.

To summarize the steps, 

(Before arriving in New Zealand)

  1. Apply for the account online (Choose between Go, Freedom and Online account)
    • I haven’t figured out if Go or Online makes more sense.
  2. Submit your documents – Visa, Passport etc.
  3. Pre-book your branch appointment (My friend in QT couldn’t get an appointment for 2 days)
  4. You can transfer funds into your account (even before you arrive)

(After reaching New Zealand)

  1. Visit the branch to activate to complete identity check.
    • Requires New Zealand Proof of address
      • My friend mentions like the Hostel/Hotel you stay in can use their letterhead to write a letter or something
    • Tax Identification number (from home country)
      • For singaporeans, it should be our NRIC
    • Copy of Passport & Visa (would be good to prepare this beforehand)

(My experience)

My host prepared a really simple letter for me. Basically it just states that me (my name) is staying at the above address. She also gave her mobile number in case the officer needed clarification. There was also a sign off by her. In addition, she provided a photocopy of her electricity bill as ‘proof’ of her address. It was a good to have but not necessarily compulsory according to the officer.

I opted for the ANZ Debit Card and you have to pay $10 annual fee per year which was deducted upon my first transaction.

Well, the best part of being on ANZ is that you will get to customize your own card for free (technically you kind of paid $10). This is an optional service and you have to request for it on your own online.

Click the link here:

They have a super long list of guidelines on what cannot be on the card which includes all copyrighted images including images of celebrities, brands and even words/phrases are not allowed! I wanted to try to see if ‘flyhoneystars’ was allowed but I decided to give up and chose a photo which I’ve taken that has a bit of meaning to me. Do note that they will take 2 days to approve your image and another 5 to 7 days for the card to be sent to you.

When making payment via EFTPOS (their version of NETS), always select chq, not savings or current. I have no idea why but that’s the way it won’t fail.

Also, their PIN is 4-digits and not 6-digits. I have no idea why too. I always thought 6-digit would have been more secure.

How I brought back my spare cash

If you have spare cash in your account and you would like to bring them back to your home country, PLEASE WAIT TILL YOU GET YOUR TAX REFUND!

Unless you have requested for an early tax refund, most people will receive their tax refund in 4 to 8 weeks after the tax year ends on 31st March. Most of my friends receive the tax refund in mid-May. For myself, I requested for the early tax refund in early March and received the money in early April. I do know cases of other people who manage to get their tax refund in two weeks!

To be eligible for early tax refund, you need to provide an air ticket proof that you’re leaving the country (for good) and acknowledge that you will no longer be earning any money in New Zealand during your remaining time. The whole process was quite a headache for me and I had to call the IRD department twice to make some clarifications.

Well, the initial plan was that I wanted to sell my balance NZD in the group chat to new Singaporeans going over to New Zealand but with the current situation of COVID-19, I would have to wait a really long time as no one knows how it would end. As a result, I decide to use TransferWise to bring my money home (now that the SG dollar is rather weak).

Assuming if it’s your first time using TransferWise, you will be entitled to a discount applicable up to the transfer of $1,000 SGD (Discount of 7.40 NZD, left image).

If it is not your first transfer, you will have to pay 0.68% fees which is rather reasonable in comparison to their alternatives.

One thing to note, in order to enjoy these attractive rates, you have to use your local bank accounts to make the transactions and the process is a lot simpler when the accounts belong to your names. Identification documents (passport or NRIC) has to be uploaded in order for your transaction to be processed. It may be slightly inconvenient but I believe it is very necessary to prevent money laundering.

And if you’re wondering.. would it have been better if I brought home NZD (in cash) and visited the money changer to get back SGD?

Well, the answer is no! You would in fact be losing out on $10 (even without the first-time user discount).

Anyway, here’s my TransferWise referral link where you can receive a discount for your first transaction!


2 other articles that you may be curious about

Alternative, you can read my entire New Zealand Working Holiday series here.

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