A quarter of Kiwis find it hard to find suitable financial products and services while only a third would know what to do if they were treated unfairly by their bank or insurer.
Those are just some of the findings in a major consumer research survey of 2500 people undertaken on behalf of the Financial Markets Authority.
The regulator asked the public about how they interact with the financial services sector and their perception of their banking, insurance and investment providers.
Samantha Barrass, FMA chief executive, said the survey would provide valuable insights for the FMA as it builds up its knowledge of how consumers see the sector.
"We want to use data and evidence to shape the way we regulate and ensure fair consumer outcomes."
The findings come after the Government passed a law giving the FMA new powers to license and regulate banks and insurers for conduct and culture including how those businesses treat their customers.
The survey found the majority of those surveyed had not had any issues with their financial products in the last year.
The most common problem people had with their investments was it not performing as well as expected followed by unexpected fees and charges and receiving poor customer service.
But very few consumers had ever made a complaint about their financial services provider and only three in 10 felt confident knowing what steps to take if they experienced unfair treatment.
Of those who did make a complaint the outcomes were mixed. Three in 10 said the complaint was not resolved.
Among those who did not make a claim but would have liked to, the perception that it would be ineffective as well as unfamiliarity with the complaints process were key barriers.
Barrass said in her experience one of the important outcomes in any conduct regime was that when things go wrong they get resolved quickly and access to complaints resolution was really important.
"When we have got a research finding of less than a third would know how to complain that says to me do we need to look to firms to do more when it comes to signposting to their customers - not just to outside dispute resolution bodies but also to their own internal resolution process.
"I think when you marry those top three problems up with the fact they are considered to be fair treatment and less than a third would know how to complain you have actually got some really strong beginnings of a dialogue around some initial work around what fair conduct programmes look like."
When it came to what consumers considered to be 'fair treatment' from their provider the three most important factors were for providers to: clearly explain both the benefits and risks of products, be transparent and simplify the small print, and treat people as valued customers.
Kiwis were most likely to trust their bank (67 per cent) and but only 48 per cent said they trusted insurance companies.
Those with higher incomes had higher levels of trust while older New Zealanders and those on lower incomes had lower levels of trust.
When it came to seeking advice and information, online sources and friends and family were the most common and trusted sources.
Young people and those of Maori, Pacific or Chinese ethnicity were more likely to use social media as a source of financial information.
Most people (94 per cent) had a least one banking product with savings, transactions accounts and credit cards the most used.
Women and young people were more likely to use buy now pay later services while credit cards were more popular among older people.
More than 80 per cent had at least one type of insurance product with car insurance the most commonly held.
Cost was the biggest barrier to taking up insurance and a third of those who didn't have it said they were not able to afford it.
More than half of Kiwis had made an insurance claim in the last two years and while most were successful, travel insurance claims were the most likely to be declined.
Consumers who claimed on their travel insurance were also most likely to have had a problem during the claim process including long wait times and poor customer service.
The research found just 21 per cent felt they were in a secure financial position and considered themselves to be flying ahead.
A further 15 per cent considered themselves to be starting to swim comfortably while 37 per cent were just treading water and 27 per cent were either sinking a bit or sinking badly.
Of those surveyed just over half felt they had a good level of financial understanding and on average people were working towards three goals; growing their income, starting to save money and saving for a specific goal like a holiday, home renovations or education.
But despite this most were not happy with the amount of savings they had and over a third did not believe they could afford financial advice or investments.