Travel money guide and tips for spending in New Zealand | finder.com

Travel money guide: New Zealand

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Our guide will empower you to have the best combination of travel money when heading to New Zealand

Since the Lord of the Rings, the land of the long white cloud has been growing in popularity as a destination for tourists. But, whether you’re heading across the Tasman to see the Redwoods of Whakarewarewa Forest or to hit the slopes near Queenstown, you should know the best way to access New Zealand dollars — called the kiwi — when you’re there.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

Whether you’re doing a quick business trip or taking a long vacation, it’s smart to have a couple of ways to access your money. Travel friendly debit cards will let you spend in New Zealand dollars, however, most travel cards apply an international ATM withdrawal fee. A credit card gives you access to an emergency line of credit and can be used for interest free purchases, and some cards offer extras like insurance as well. Choose a mix that suits your needs.

Our pick for travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 3x points on dining at restaurants and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
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Compare travel cards for New Zealand

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18 months 0%% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    nz-banner895x300

    What should I budget for my trip to New Zealand?

    The opportunities for exploration and adventure opens up the possibility of blowing your budget. If you want to get around the country, you’ll need to rent a car — and it can be pricey. If you rely on busses or staying in one place, you can budget less than $50 a day. But for a more adventurous vacation, a realistic budget ranges from $130 to $350 a day.

    Auckland Budget Mid-range Expensive
    sleep

    Hostel dorm
    $20–$40 per night

    2-star hotel
    $25–$100 per night

    5-star hotel
    $100–$1000

    food

    Vegan and vegetarian dinner
    $8–$10

    Dinner at a mid-range restaurant
    $40 per person

    High-end restaurant
    $100 per person

    skydive Escape room games
    $20 per person
    Skydive from
    16,500 ft. tour
    $220
    Waitomo Caves and
    Rotorua Day Trip
    $250

    *Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

    Exchange rates using your card

    When you use your credit card, debit card or travel card to make a purchase in New Zealand, the exchange rate set in place by your card applies to the transaction. When you use your card for over the counter purchases, you’ll get a rate which is a touch above the market rate. The same when you make a withdrawal from an ATM.


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    Travel card, debit card or credit card?

    Visa and Mastercard are accepted almost everywhere — nearly 75% of all transactions in New Zealand are done with cards. Get cash over the counter with your debit cards or find a ATM.

    Travel money options for New Zealand

    Travel Money Option Pros Cons
    Debit cards for travel
    • Access to money at ATMs
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Debit cards will not incur an interest rate
    • International ATM withdrawal fees may apply
    • Currency conversion fees
    • No emergency funds
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Ability to lock in the exchange rate
    • Secured by PIN & chip technology
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
    • Easily reloadable via a secure online platform
    • International ATM withdrawal fees, card issue fees and initial load fees may apply
    • Reload fees could be high
    • Some charge for inactivity fee
    Credit cards for travel
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Some offer complimentary travel insurance
    • Interest-free purchases when account is paid in full
    • Emergency card replacement
    • Cash advances can charge high interests and fees
    • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
    • Attracts an annual fee
    Traveler’s checks
    • Security of needing ID to be cashed
    • Availability to cash at banks
    • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
    • Money back guarantee if you’re a victim of card fraud
    • Cashing checks is subject to a commission
    • Currency exchange rate varies over time
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • Difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How the different travel money products work

    Using a debit card

    A debit card is a great travel money choice for NewZealand. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. Find a card that waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.

    • Tip: A debit card can be used to shop over the counter, online and for ATM withdrawals in New Zealand.

    Using a travel prepaid card

    Unfortunately, there are currently no travel cards in the US that allow you to load NZY.

    Travel cards can lock in conversion rates once you load USD. Use it for purchases without worrying about rates each time you spend — debit and credit cards often charge 3% for each transaction.

    Using a credit card

    Look for a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee and has interest-free days when you pay your balance in full before the end of the statement period. Some credit cards even also offer complimentary travel insurance, which could save you the time and money.

    Don’t use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM as it is considered a cash advance and will usually incur high interest and a fee.

    Using a traveler’s checks

    Traveler’s checks have been replaced by debit, credit and travel money cards. A cheaper way to get cash in New Zealand is to make an ATM withdrawal, especially if your card provider has a relationship with the bank of the ATM you use.

    The main advantage of traveler’s checks is they can be replaced if lost or stolen.

    Paying with cash

    Currency exchange offices charge a commission to do the exchange, and they also make money off a margin applied to the exchange rate.

    You can always send your money to New Zealand ahead of time with a money transfer service and have it waiting to be picked up when you arrive.

    Here are what some of the banknotes look like.

    nzbanknotes

    NZcoins

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    Mike goes skiing in Queenstown: The adventure capital of the world

    Mike says Queenstown has the best skiing experience in New Zealand. The snow, the nightlife, the food and atmosphere are all top notch.

    What cards did you take?

    • The Citibank Plus Visa Debit Checking Account
    • Citibank Clear Platinum Visa Credit Card

    Why did you take these cards?

    Mike’s main account at home is the Citibank Plus Checking account because there’s no fee to keep the account open and Citibank offer free global transfers to a number of countries. The account also doesn’t charge for currency conversion or international ATM withdrawals, which made it a perfect card for Mike to use in New Zealand, or anywhere in the world.

    Mike also took the Citibank Clear Platinum Visa credit card so he could get the 0% on purchases promotion available to new cardholders. He used this card as much as he could for over the counter purchases and paid off his balance in full when he started working again.

    Where could you use these cards?

    Mike says he could use his debit and credit card almost everywhere. On the mountain to pay for his ski pass, rentals and drinks at the end of the day. Mike says small purchases like coffee and hot chocolate are mostly cash only.

    In Queenstown he used his card at restaurants, bars and clubs. He took the shuttle to the mountain and back every day and he used his card to purchase 10 tickets at a time from the Queenstown Snow Centre.

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Mike says he used an ATM a couple of times because most of the time he was able to pay with his Citibank Visa Debit Card. He says he got $100 out when he made purchases with the Citibank Plus Visa a couple of times.

    When he did use the ATM, he had to pay the local ATM operator fee because Citibank ATMs were hard to find. There were no issues with card acceptance at New Zealand ATMs.

    What are your travel money tips?

    Mike says if you’re traveling by shuttle bus to the peaks, purchase the tickets in bulk. A single ticket costs $15, but there’s discounts for purchasing packs of 10 or 15 tickets at a time.

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    Buying currency in the US

    If you want to get your money changed, have a look at these companies that can sell you foreign cash. Travelex has outlets at major airports and you can make an order online and collect the New Zealand cash before you get on the plane.

    You can bring the US dollar equivalent of $10,000 New Zealand dollars with you. If you take any more than this, you have to declare your cash when you pass through customs. You’ll get a better deal if you wait to get your money changed in New Zealand, even better if you make a withdrawal from an ATM rather than use a money exchange service.

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    Find travel insurance for your trip to New Zealand

    New Zealand offers travelers a wondrous land to explore, from ski fields to volcanic hot springs, there are plenty of things for the family to enjoy.

    But with every journey comes and element of risk, which is why there is travel insurance to protects against far more than just health issues. Travel insurance covers the following:

    • Trip cancellation
    • Lost luggage
    • Personal liability
    • Lost travel documents
    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info

    Don’t let your vacation turn into a nightmare, compare travel insurance policies today.

    Find out more about travel insurance for New Zealand

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