“You can’t get a bank account unless you have a job.” The woman behind the counter repeats. No empathy, no humanity. Just boredom.
“But… to get a job here you need a bank account first.” I reply, frowning. She shrugs.
“Sorry. But the banks all agreed it two months ago.”
“But… I’m trying to give you my money. You’re a bank.” I struggle to grasp the concept the woman is outlining.
“There’s nothing we can do. All the banks in Queenstown made an agreement.” I put my backpack down, heavy from so many CVs and cover letters after an exhausting morning of job-hunting. She looks concerned I seem to be settling in rather than leaving.
“Why?” I ask. She sighs, her eyes flick to the queue behind me, all of one elderly man reading the paper.
“Because we can’t spend all day opening short-term bank accounts. We have targets to reach. Our shareholders are losing money because of it. We really can’t help you.” She says it all slowly, as if I had just asked her how to spell ‘bank’.
I leave, feeling slightly numb at the financial system in Queenstown. Then I begin to get angry.
If I were a mid-thirties stay-at-home mum living in town, would they tell me I’d need to get a job before I bank with them? Would they dare to be so presumptuous then? Or if I were a millionaire, would they tell me to go away until I could prove my employment?
I have been stereotyped into Category A: ‘Lazy’ seasonnaire. By being placed into Category A, it is automatically assumed I am:
- Poor (true) so cannot earn the bank any money
- Unlikely to have a job because I am too lazy or irresponsible (untrue)
- Unwilling to commit to longer than a season (it’s none of their business)
- A waste of their time (…)
Seasonnaires are not lazy or irresponsible. I know enough of them who’ve dedicated hours training on the slopes, who’ve studied for years to get PHDs, who’ve managed companies in London, who’re just taking a breather to figure out which path to step onto next. Seasonnaires have all sorts of reasons to follow their passion for snow, haven’t we learnt by now never to judge someone by how they look, what they do, or how much they own??
When I finally did get a part-time job (by divine luck and good timing), I walked back into the bank and found the same woman free behind the desk.
“I’d like to open a bank account with you please.” I say, thinking what a whopping lie that was.
“Do you have proof of address and employment.” She replies robotically, not even looking up from her screen.
“Yes and yes.”
“Does your employer bank with us.”
“Er…No…” I stutter, feeling my heart beat harder slightly.
“Then we can’t help you.” She taps her keyboard some more, and then, sensing I’ve not left yet, finally looks up. Wow. All natural warmth from her eyes has gone, as if she’s worked for years for an organisation that eats souls on toast for breakfast. Oh. Wait.
“Why… can’t you help me.” I ask the eyes slowly.
“You can only open an account with the bank your employer is with. The banks agreed it a few months ago.”
“So even if I came in here and just wanted to open a general account with you guys, as well as having an account with another bank, you wouldn’t let me?” she nods once.
“There’s too many people wanting accounts. That’s just how it is.”
I’m dumbfounded. Isn’t that what banks do? To bank money? How can they just change the rules like that? If all the Queenstown banks can just have a little pow wow over a ferg berger on the beach and say, hey, guys, let’s make it super hard for those young seasonnaires coming into our town to bank anything because they take up way too much of our time, what the HELL is stopping them from making up a load of other financial rules that benefit them and ONLY them?
Oh god. The Queenstown banking crisis is a microcosm of everything wrong with the financial system on a global scale. It’s all just made up numbers, bits of paper, and rules that change to suit whoever it pleases.
“Right.” I whisper, and put away my proof of documents back in my bag. The powerlessness is overwhelming.
“Sorry. We really-”
“ – Can’t help me? Yeah, I’d figured that.”
Rosie’s top tips:
Queenstown banks are refusing to give seasonnaires bank accounts unless they have proof of address and proof of employment.
Dress smart, go alone. You never know, if you don’t look like a seasonnaire, they might not treat you like one.
Your employers must bank with them – it’s a new made up rule.
If you’re not employed, try to prove you have sufficient income.
Kiwi bank are the friendliest bank. Try them first.
Expect a 5 – 7 day wait until you can get an appointment, unless you ask to put your name on a waiting list.
When you get an appointment make sure you bring all your documents with you and your proof of ID.
A lot of the charges – $10 for a debit card/ $5 extras are completely made up. Try to argue your case and get them knocked off.
Why is this happening?
I have been here one week, so am not an expert by any means, but what I can see is Queenstown is currently in a state of change. The town is being swamped with people arriving to work for the season, each year it has become increasingly popular. However, without any housing being built, rent is going higher, and the cost of living becomes more expensive. More people need to get part time jobs to survive the season, and so need to open bank accounts. The banks are saturated with appointments, and their solution is to increase their criteria for those who bank with them, to make it harder so fewer people can apply.