Abstract Two new d10 metal complexes with tetrazolate-1-acetic acid, [Zn(1-tza)(Cl)(H2O)] (1) and [Cd(1-tza)(phen)(NO3)] (2) (1-Htza=tetrazole-1-acetic acid, phen=1,10-phenanthroline), have been prepared, and their structures have been characterized by single-crystal X-ray diffraction. The flexibilities of 1-tza ligands result in 1-D helical chained structures of the two obtained complexes, in which the 1-tza ligands adopt different coordination mode: 1 with μ2-kO1: kN4 and 2 with μ2-kO1, O2: kN3. Compounds 1 exhibits a nonracemic enantiopure topology while compound 2 reveals to be mesomeric structures. The crystal packing in 1 and 2 is controlled mainly by hydrogen bonds and face-to-face π–π stacking interactions, respectively. Photoluminescence studies show that 1 and 2 exhibit strong luminescence. Moreover, compound 1 exhibits a second-order nonlinear optical coefficient equal to that of potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP). The thermal stability of the two complexes has also been investigated.