There are many types of credit cards available in New Zealand including low interest, rewards and business options. Finder’s free service makes comparing credit cards simple. Here’s a guide to help you navigate your choices and understand the features, fees and rewards.
Compare credit cards in New Zealand
* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards Finder has access to and are not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of the terms “best” and “top” are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.
A credit card is an unsecured revolving line of credit that you can use to make purchases and pay bills. The three major credit card networks used in New Zealand are Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Visa and Mastercard are issued by banks and financial institutions, and American Express issues its own cards.
Based on your perceived ability to make repayments, you are assigned a credit limit, which is the maximum amount of money you can use on your credit card. Some cards have higher limits than others, but also require a higher income.
Unlike a debit card that uses your own money to make purchases, when you use a credit card, it is the lender who pays the retailer. At the end of your billing cycle (once a month), you receive a statement that tells you the total amount you owe for that period. You can either pay the balance off in full or pay an amount that is equal to or greater than the minimum payment due. The bank or financial institution makes money on fees and the interest that accrues on your revolving credit.
Credit card issuers have been offering increasingly shiny rewards, signup bonuses, and travel perks to lure new customers. This can be very helpful if you pay your bills on time and in full. If you don’t you might offset any rewards gained by paying more in fees and interest.
Do I meet the eligibility criteria?
Like with personal loans and mortgages, banks have certain criteria that you must meet to be eligible for a credit card.
At a minimum, you should:
Be at least 18 years of age
Be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident (you may also be eligible on a work visa)
Have a regular income with the ability to meet repayments
The amount of income that you need to be earning differs between financial institutions and also depends on which card you are applying for. Cards with higher credit limits and more benefits tend to have a higher income requirement. For example, the American Express Platinum Edge requires a minimum income of $50,000, compared to the BNZ Lite Visa which only requires an annual income of at least $15,000.
If you are temporarily in New Zealand for work or study, or you’ve just moved here, you may be eligible for a credit card. Banks like ANZ and ASB have dedicated migrant banking teams that can help get you set up with the financial products you need.
What types of credit cards can I compare?
There are different types of credit cards available, and each has specific features and benefits designed to suit a variety of needs. When you know what you want from a credit card, you can narrow down your comparison to a few cards. To help you do this, we have outlined the major credit card categories below:
If you have an existing credit card debt, a balance transfer credit card can help you save on interest charges and pay off your debt faster by offering you a promotional low or interest rate for an introductory period. In most cases, after the promotional period has ended, any debt remaining from the transfer attracts a higher, standard interest rate. Promotional periods can be anywhere from 6 to 24 months. Westpac is currently the only bank to offer a reduced rate for the life of the balance transfer.
When considering a balance transfer card, keep the following in mind:
What is the balance transfer offer? There are a few ways to compare how competitive an offer is. The introductory rate you’ll be charged on a balance transfer card is usually low or 0%, so this is something you’ll want to consider. The length of the balance transfer period also differs, though it generally falls between six and 24 months. You’ll want to choose a balance transfer offer that will allow you to pay off your debt before the offer ends.
What’s the revert rate? If you don’t think you can repay your existing debt within the promotional period, consider whether the revert rate will attract more interest and how this will impact the savings you’ve made.
How much can I transfer? Many providers set limits on the percentage of the credit limit you can transfer. If your existing balance exceeds the limit, you may want to consider a card with a higher credit limit.
A rewards card can be a worthwhile way to get something back from your spending. Whether you’re a frequent flyer, loyal customer or big grocery spender, you can find a rewards credit card to suit almost any lifestyle. If you want to earn rewards for your credit card spending, pay attention to the type of rewards program available. Some credit cards have their own rewards programs, such as the BNZ Advantage Visa Platinum. Others are linked to existing programs, such as the ANZ Airpoints Visa Credit Card.
The major draw of this type of card is earning points that can be redeemed for rewards. Depending on the card you use and the promotions in place, you may be able to earn bonus points when making certain types of purchases or shopping with a particular retailer.
What you can redeem your points for will vary from card to card. Some allow you to redeem points for flight rewards, fuel discounts or shopping. Others can be used for cash back, to redeem merchandise or even to donate to charity.
You can usually earn rewards faster with cards that have a higher annual fee or credit limit.
Keep in mind the following points when considering a rewards credit card:
What are the associated costs? Typically the higher the rewards the higher the card costs, so be careful. While some rewards cards charge no ongoing annual fees, others charge higher annual fees in the hundreds of dollars. The more features the card has, the higher the fee is likely to be.
Are there limitations? Your card provider might not let you earn more than a given number of points in a calendar year, and your points can also expire after a set time frame.
How much do I need to spend? Think about the number of points you will need to redeem rewards and how much you will need to spend on your card to reap the benefits. If you need to change your spending habits just to get a small reward, it may not be beneficial in the long run. However, if you use your credit card for most purchases and pay off the balance each month, rewards will be easier to obtain while keeping your finances under control.
Airpoints credit cards
Some rewards credit cards are linked to the Airpoints frequent flyer programme. You can earn Airpoints Dollars while you spend, and depending on the card, you may also enjoy other travel benefits such as complimentary insurance, flights or airport lounge access. As with other rewards credit cards, when you’re looking for the best Airpoints cards, you need to look at the number of points you earn per $1 spent, the card fees and any complimentary extras to make sure it is worth it for you.
Credit cards often come with promotional features for new customers that are designed to add upfront value to the card you choose. Some of the most popular introductory offers include:
balance transfer interest rates
Reduced or $0 annual fees in the first year
Cashback, gift cards or flight vouchers
What should you keep in mind when comparing introductory offers?
If you are comparing credit cards with introductory offers, make sure you check the ongoing features to get a true sense of the value the card will provide in the long term.
Also look at the length of the introductory period and any other conditions you need to meet to claim the offer available. For example, a reward card offering bonus points might require you to spend a certain amount of money in the first few months you have it, while a balance transfer offer might only be available if you include your transfer request when you apply.
Cards with low interest
Low interest credit cards are designed to save you money on your balance by offering a competitive rate of interest. Some of these cards may offer a promotional low or interest rate for purchases, while others offer a low ongoing interest rate. If you regularly carry a balance on your credit card, a low rate option could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest every year.
How much can I save with a low rate card?
To see how much value a low rate card offers, let’s compare a $1,000 debt on a credit card with an interest rate of 18% p.a. and a card with a lower rate of 12% p.a. If you only paid the minimum, it would take 7 years and 9 months to pay off the 18% p.a. card and would cost $861 in interest. With the low rate card, it would take 5 years and 10 months and cost $393 in interest – that’s a saving of 1 year and 11 months and $468 in interest charges.
Business credit cards
Business credit cards offer specific features designed to make financial management easier across a company, such as additional credit cards for employees, individual pre-set spending limits and accounting tools. If you are comparing business credit cards, make sure to consider which extra features you need (including rewards programs) as well as the interest rates and fees.
Travel credit cards
You can use almost any credit card when travelling but some cards come with specialised features and benefits to help you save you money on every trip. Depending on the card you choose, perks could include complimentary overseas travel insurance, car hire coverage, Airpoints, hotel offers, airport lounge access and no foreign transaction fees.
To compare travel credit cards, consider how often you will actually use these features as well as the ongoing card costs, so that you can find one that offers value for money and covers your travel needs. If you are keen to take advantage of free travel insurance, check what the requirements are. You may need to pay for half or all of your travel bookings on your card before you are eligible.
Gold, platinum and black credit cards
Gold, platinum and black credit cards are premium options designed for bigger spenders. They have higher credit limits and additional benefits that come in handy both at home and abroad. You can usually earn rewards faster than with a standard card, but you can also expect to pay a higher annual fee.
Travel and entertainment perks can add value to the card you choose. Some of the most popular benefits include:
Airport lounge passes
Flight and travel vouchers
Ticket and event offers
If you are considering a gold, platinum or black card, keep the following points in mind:
It is important to check the minimum income requirements when comparing gold, platinum and black credit cards, as they are often higher than standard cards. Also, make sure you consider whether the benefits available outweigh the cost of interest charges and annual fees – both of which may be higher on a premium card.
Travel and entertainment perks that come with these cards can add up to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars of extra value, but only if you use them. When you are looking at the complimentary extras during your credit card comparison, be realistic about whether or not you will get value from these features so they offset the cost of any fees.
Cards with no annual fee
A no annual fee card doesn’t charge a yearly fee. Some cards have this as an ongoing deal; others will waive the standard fee for the first year of using the card.
Not having to pay an annual fee can result in savings each year.
If the annual fee is only in place for a promotional period, there may be a high annual fee when it reverts to the standard rate.
Consider the following before applying for a card with no annual fee:
How long is the no annual fee offer in place? You’ll need to confirm whether the no annual fee is in place for the lifetime of the card or only for a promotional period. If it’s the latter, you’ll want to check how long the promotional period lasts and what the annual fee will revert to at the end of the introductory period.
What other fees and rates are involved? Just because there’s no annual fee doesn’t mean there won’t be other fees associated with the card. For example, if the card comes with a higher interest rate or a lower rewards rate, you may find that these overshadow the savings you’ve made on the annual fee. Calculate these figures before applying to make sure the card works for you.
What perks are on offer? Cards with no annual fee often lack additional perks such as high-earning rewards programs or concierge services. If these extra benefits are of value to you, you may want to reconsider what’s on offer.
Want to learn more about a particular type of card?
Click on the links below to find out more and learn which cards you can apply for:
When you compare credit cards, the rates and fees will help you work out the overall cost of each option. Here are the key features to look at:
Credit card annual fees can range from $0 (The ASB Visa Light) to up to $390 for prestige cards (Westpac Airpoints World Mastercard). This fee is usually charged when you first activate your account, then once a year on the anniversary of your account activation.
When you are comparing cards, think about what features will offset the cost of the annual fee so you can find one that is affordable for you. Remember some credit cards only offer a $0 or lower annual fee in the first year, so check the long-term features of the cards you compare to avoid any nasty surprises after the first year.
This is the interest rate that is charged for most of the transactions you make using your credit card. Standard purchase rates range from around 9.95% p.a. to 21% p.a. (variable) depending on the card you choose. If you regularly pay your balance in full, the purchase rate may not be of major concern, but if you think will carry a balance then choosing a card with a lower interest rate will help keep the cost down.
If you pay your balance in full each month, you can usually receive a certain number of interest-free days on purchases during each statement period. Major banks usually offer 44 or 55 days on new purchases.
If you plan to pay off the balance in full for every statement cycle, the number of interest-free days available could be an important factor for your credit card comparison. However, remember this feature won’t be much use if you carry a balance.
Cash advance rate
This interest rate is applied to cash advance transactions, which include ATM withdrawals, foreign currency exchange, bets and other gambling charges. It is usually around 19.95% p.a. to 22.95% p.a. and applies from the time you make a cash advance transaction. While it is a good idea to avoid making cash advances with a credit card, it is important to consider this factor in your comparison so that you know what the potential costs will be for these types of transactions.
Cash advance fee
As well as applying interest to cash advance transactions, you may be charged a one-off fee on cash withdrawals. This is usually around 2% to 3.5% of the total transaction cost. As with the cash advance interest rate, it is a good idea to check this fee when comparing cards so you are aware of the cost of cash advances for any option you choose.
International transaction fee
Most credit cards apply a fee for transactions made in a foreign currency or with an overseas merchant. This fee usually adds 2% to 3.5% to an international transaction and is indicated on your bank statement as an ‘offshore service margin’. If you plan to travel with a credit card or want to use one to shop online with overseas retailers, it is a good idea to look at cards that waive this cost or at least have a lower fee than other options you are considering.
Late payment fee
Credit card issuers charge you a fee if you don’t make the minimum payment by the due date on your statement. There is no standard rate for this in New Zealand, with late fees ranging from $2 to $20 across major banks. While you should always aim to pay your credit card off by the due date, checking this fee when you are comparing credit cards can give you an idea of how each option treats late payments and you may want to factor this into your final decision.
If you max out your credit card, you could be charged a fee of around $3 to $20. It is important to consider this cost when comparing different cards so that you know what penalties could apply for different options. It may also help you decide on a sensible credit limit when you apply.
Other fees and charges
You may incur other fees including:
Additional cardholder fees: If you apply for joint or additional cardholders, an annual fee may be charged.
Printed statement fees: If you ask for a printed statement rather than viewing your statement through your Internet banking.
Emergency card replacement: If you lose your card or it is stolen and you need a new one urgently, you may be charged a fee to cover the quick processing and sending of a new card.
Is it possible to have more than one credit card?
Yes, it’s definitely possible to have more than one credit card if you meet the lending criteria. Some people like to have different credit card types to take advantage of different features.
However, don’t forget that credit cards are listed on your credit report and having too many could mean that it’s harder to take out other forms of credit. It can also be tempting to spend more than you can really afford and end up in mountains of debt.
Visa, Mastercard and American Express – what’s the difference?
In New Zealand, Visa, Mastercard and American Express are the major credit card networks used. So what is the difference?
Visa and Mastercard credit cards are issued by banks. In the past, some banks offered both options, but now stick with one or the other. Westpac is currently the only bank to issue Mastercard, with the other major banks sticking to Visa.
For the average user, Visa and Mastercard are both widely accepted around the world and get the job done. There are some subtle differences which we explored in our guide to Visa vs Mastercard.
On the other hand, American Express hasn’t been as widely accepted, but this is improving. Cards are issued by American Express itself, so there are no physical branches to visit.
Each credit card network offers its own benefits to cardholders, but perks tend to be reserved for those with a platinum, black and gold card.
Points to consider before applying for a credit card
If you have more than one credit card, you can not use one to pay off another.
Paying only the minimum amount due on your statement will mean that your credit card debt takes a lot longer to pay off.
While perks and rewards definitely sound appealing at first, higher annual fees and interest rates may outweigh the benefits.
You don’t have to keep the credit card until its expiry date. You can cancel your card at any time or move the balance over to another card with a low or 0% interest rate for balance transfers.
Even if you are offered a higher credit limit than you asked for, you don’t need to keep it. You can reduce your limit to remove the temptation to spend more.
Assess your needs. Before you begin your search, spend some time considering what you want, need and can afford with your next credit card.
Compare your options. Once you’ve decided what type of card you want, it’s time to begin comparing your options.
Are you eligible? Know the requirements for the card application – do you need a minimum income, and do you meet the age limit?
Know your credit history. It can be a good idea to request a free copy of your credit report before applying, so you can correct any possible errors on it and see what the bank will be seeing when they assess your application.
Lower your credit utilisation ratio. If you already have a credit card balance, it’s wise to pay off your existing balances before submitting a new credit card application.
Don’t apply for multiple cards at once or within a short period. You may be tempted to apply for a second card just in case your first one doesn’t get approved, but don’t. Each credit enquiry that a lender makes about your credit history leaves a new mark on your credit file for five years.
Sally McMullen is Finder's credit cards and frequent flyer editor by day and a music maven by night. She's also one half of the Pocket Money podcast. Her byline can be spotted on Yahoo Finance, Dynamic Business, Financy and Mamamia as well as Music Feeds and Rolling Stone. Sally has a first-class Honours degree in Communications and Media Studies (majoring in Journalism and Professional Writing) from the University of Wollongong.
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