It is difficult for most of us to imagine life without a bank account. How would you get paid or pay for somewhere to live? And what about buying things or paying bills?

For a small group in society, having no bank account is a daily reality. These individuals are sometimes described as ‘unbanked’. They are people who would like to have a bank account but face significant barriers to accessing one.

We asked research consultancy Thinkplace to look at this issue in New Zealand, so we could better work out how to include these people.


The report.

The Westpac NZ Access to Banking in Aotearoa Report was released in April 2023. It aimed to understand the impacts of not having a bank account, the groups who were most affected, and the barriers standing in their way.

Read the full Westpac NZ Access to Banking in Aotearoa report here.

Read our media release here


ThinkPlace spoke to nearly 60 agencies, including government departments, social service providers, advocacy groups and budget advisors.

Interviewees reported that rough sleepers, youths without family support, prisoners coming out of jail and refugees were among those less likely to have a bank account.

The mostly commonly mentioned barriers to obtaining an account were:

  • A lack of ID documents and proof of address 
  • Bankruptcy or insolvency
  • Poor credit ratings
  • Financial and digital literacy
  • Fear of judgement
  • Anti-social behaviour and
  • Location of bank branches.

Making banking more accessible.

We are taking several steps to address issues identified in the report, but we acknowledge more needs to be done to help all New Zealanders access banking services.

Some of the things we have done or will be doing include:

  • Launching ‘New Start’ with the Department of Corrections, helping soon-to-be-released prisoners to access ID, a bank account and debit card
  • Partnering with Oranga Tamariki and VOYCE Whakarongo-Mai to help young people aged 15-17 in care access a bank account and financial education
  • Introducing a new process to better assess bank account applications for individuals who may have previously been declined due to their high-risk status, for example individuals with a history of bankruptcy
  • Making branches more welcoming for marginalised customers by introducing additional training for staff and security guards, and other measures.

If you are an external agency trying to help someone access a bank account, or would like more information about this research, please get in contact with us by emailing