Setting up

Setting up

Setting up a bank account

5 Major Banks

There are plenty of different banks available in New Zealand. Many offer a special international student package, so it is wise to compare options. The five major banks in New Zealand are:






Opening a Bank Account

Go into any branch of the bank and explain that you’d like to open an account. Make sure you take ID with you. Most banks will need to see your passport, visa or driver’s licence (if you have one) as well as proof of address – you can bring a special letter from your school or a household bill. You can then apply for one of the following:

Credit Card
A credit card allows you to purchase goods and services and pay later. You use this as a credit system where you can have a continuing debt subject to interest paid on this debt. There are a range of credit cards offered by banks. You can choose from low interest, low fee or choose one that offers cash and travel rewards.

Eftpos Card (cash card)
A cash card is like currency where you can make payments or withdraw cash from your bank account. It requires you to have the funds in the account.

Debit Cards
An increasingly popular option among New Zealanders is Visa or MasterCard debit cards.They work like a credit card and allow you to use credit services (i.e. online services) using the money in your account.

Getting Cash/Making Payments


Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are plentiful in shopping centres and all around the city. They offer a fast, easy and convenient way to take cash out of your bank account. All you need to do is insert your bankcard, type in your PIN number and select the amount you would like to withdraw. Your card will pop out, along with your money and a receipt. Some ATMs offer different language features, so you can choose your native language to guide you.

Online Banking

All the major New Zealand banks allow you to transfer funds, pay bills and manage your accounts online. Be sure to ask for your internet banking options at your local branch.

Money Transfer

If you are going to receive money from overseas you need to have the following information:

New Zealand bank account name.
New Zealand bank account number and BSB.
Address of the bank your account is with.
If you are going to send money overseas you will need to have:

Bank account name and account number.
The overseas bank sort code.
International Bank account number (IBAN) (Europe only).

Managing Your Expenses

A good way to manage your finances is to work out your weekly costs. The Cost of living calculator is an easy tool to do this:

Setting up in your Accommodation

You may be living in a halls of residence, homestay family or with family/friends.

Halls of Residence

The halls of residence will have a good orientation but if you have problems with any aspect you should talk to the Halls Manager.


It is always difficult to live with a new family particularly of a different culture. Some simple tips to make the transition easier include:

Talk to your homestay family about
Their expectations for day to day protocols.
Any needs you may have.

Some basic etiquettes include
Showering: most New Zealanders would shower once a day/2 days unless exercising. Towels will be provided for a few days use and are usually placed on the towel rail.

Laundry: your host family will do your washing; however you will be required to put your dirty washing in the laundry washing basket.

Internet: you should check the internet allocation that your family has as not all NZ families have broadband or have large allocations. If allocation is in excess then a charge is made to the family.

Family Interaction: try and spend time with your family watching TV or over meal preparation so that you practice your English and also get more confident with them. Spending too much time in your room can be negative for getting to know the family.

Meals: make sure you are home for meals or advise the family if you will be late. It is good to also talk about any foods that you cannot eat or dislike so they can avoid these. It is common in some families to have family members make their own lunch with all ingredients provided for your choice. You should expect that this might happen.

Setting up internet

You will probably want to set up internet in the flat. There are a whole range of different plans and contracts available from many service providers. Make sure you do your research and choose the plan that best suits your usage. Try to find one that includes a wireless modem or router, otherwise you’ll have to buy these separately. Plans usually include a download limit and the higher the cost per month, the more downloads you receive. You can often sign up to a year or more, and the longer you sign up for, the cheaper it gets.

Internet Providers

For a list of providers’ and their packages on offer, please click here.

Insurance – Arrival

Medical insurance

Medical insurance is compulsory for all international students. We strongly recommend that you purchase Student safe insurance, the preferred provider for all universities in New Zealand. You’ll then receive free health care at Student Health and Support for most consultations and the insurance company will be billed directly. Policy details can be found at

Alternatively, students can purchase health insurance through agents who offer Uni-care, Southern Cross, Orbit Protect and other options.

List of Insurance Company:

Student Safe
Southern Cross
Orbit Protect

Getting Connected

Being able to communicate with family and friends at home and overseas is important and there are many ways to do this.

Mobile Phones

Most people in New Zealand have a mobile phone. Unfortunately the phone from home might not work here. There are ways around this, but most short term travellers purchase a cheap mobile phone on a pre-paid deal, meaning you pay for what you use and aren’t locked into a monthly contract. You can purchase pre paid SIM cards (and rechargeable credit) from almost anywhere – supermarkets, service stations and mobile phone outlets.

Alternatively, if you are planning to stay longer than a year, you can sign up to a plan, which can often provide greater value (and better phones) but comes with a fixed term contract (usually 24 months).

Popular phone companies include:
2 Degrees

Phone Cards

If your parents are not computer smart, staying connected via a phone call might be easier. To keep your costs down, buy a phone card – calls are about 80% cheaper than calls from a home phone. You can purchase phone cards from phone stalls, supermarkets and dairies (local shops).


In New Zealand, there are plenty of places that offer free wireless. You can find Wi-Fi hotspots inairports, cafes, public libraries, McDonalds &on campus (although you may have to sign up to use these – check with your campus first). If you are struggling to find a connection, there are a few Wi-Fi finder apps on smartphones. Just head over to one of these spots, and connect to the web – very easy!


There will be times when you can’t use free wireless – another option is to use a wireless dongle. A dongle is a small USB that plugs into your computer. They are sold by phone companies like 2 Degrees or Vodafone. These are pre paid (you can get some forunder $20) and are excellent for short term use. You can also connect your phone to your laptop and use your phones 3G connection. Avoid using it too much – most phone plans have a low data allowance.


Skype is a good option if you want to see and hear your family and friends at home. Skype is free if the person you are calling has Skype too so make sure your family signs up back home. To download the software click here.

Another voice-based option is Skype credit which also allows you to call foreign mobiles at great rates.

Viber or other free

If you have a smart phone, there are a few free apps that can help you communicate withpeople. Viber is an example of a great app which uses all your existing contacts to make calls and send messages for no cost. Viber uses your 3G connection to connect with other Viber users, so it’s a great alternative to other methods. Best of all, these apps work with any network and any operating system (Android, windows and iOS).

Finding a job

Part time work

You may want to get a part-time job to help support you while studying.

Working offers additional benefits beyond income as having a job will allow you to:

Meet new people (including Kiwis).
Improve your English.
Gain valuable work experience.

International students

International students are able to work but the hours depend on the course of study. Your working eligibility is normally stated on your Student Visa. If not, you can apply for a Variation of Conditions to allow you to work up to 20 hours per week. For more details visit the NZ Immigration website.


Guide to Kiwi Workplaces:

Kiwi workplaces are different. You might not be expecting this if you are from an English-speaking country. This is what you need to know about the working culture in New Zealand:

NZ Working Culture

Finding work

Many casual jobs are advertised on the window/door of the business. Check out the jobs board at your school/institution.

There are some sites to also check where you apply directly through the website:

Student job search lists part-time work opportunities (where students are eligible to apply).
Seek is the largest job website.
Also try Trade Me Jobs.

Working limitations

International students studying in NZ have to meet Immigration law requirements. Your working eligibility is normally stated on your Student Visa. If not, you can apply for a Variation of Conditions to allow you to work up to 20 hours per week. Visit the NZ Immigration website and look under variation of conditions:


Types of work

Most students find work in retail or hospitality industries because of the flexible hours they offer. This includes working at a supermarket or waiting tables at a local restaurant. The added bonus is that a lot of these jobs don’t require much experience before you start.

Employer expectations

Employers will usually require an application that includes a resume (also called a CV).

A resume is basically a record of your previous work experience. Keep your resume short and include a reference – a previous employer or someone who has seen you work or study. Try asking a friendly tutor or get tips on how to write a NZ style CV from here.

Be prepared that you might not always get a response from your application but it is always good to follow up and possibly go in and present yourself.


All employers in NZ are obliged to take tax off wages (PAYE). You will require a tax number which allows you and your employer to pay taxes. You have to fill out a form online and have your passport handy. Allow time prior to starting work to get a tax number – applications can take a month to process. Visit the IRD website for more information.


If you get an interview for a job always prepare. Get a friend to ask you some questions about your skills and your experience, and practice answering them or check out websites which provide information on preparing for interviews.


It is possible to spend your summer holiday working in a company to gain experience in your field of study. It is a good way to find out more about your future career and to build up your CV before graduation. Your institutions may have a career fair where companies set up stalls to promote opportunities for internships or work after graduation.

Alternatively you can visit Grad Connection for work.


Getting involved in the community

Volunteering is one of the best ways to get involved with the local community, and provides great opportunities to meet new people and experience ‘life as a Kiwi’. Christchurch is an especially great place to get involved, as there has been a recent increase in the number of young people volunteering.

Student Volunteer Army

The Student Volunteer Army is a student-run volunteer group that provides opportunities to volunteer every week during term time. Anyone is welcome at their projects – especially students. Christchurch Educated have collaborated with their parent-trust, the Volunteer Army Foundation, to make sure all your volunteering is recorded, and have created a downloadable Volunteer Service Record that you can attach to your CV or resumé.

Volunteering New Zealand:

Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ) is an association of volunteer centres and national and other organisations with a commitment to volunteering. Current member organisations cover emergency services, health, welfare, education, culture, faith based services, community support, ethnic groups, sport and recreation, conservation, special interests, advocacy and international volunteering.

Click here to register as a member of Volunteering New Zealand: