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.
What's in this guide?
- Why you'll need a combination of travel money options
- What should I budget for my trip to New Zealand?
- Travel card, debit card or credit card?
- How the different travel money products work
- Compare travel credit cards
- Buying currency in the US
- Cash pickup services in New Zealand
- Find travel insurance for your trip to New Zealand
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.
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.
Vegan and vegetarian dinner
Dinner at a mid-range restaurant
|Escape room games
$20 per person
16,500 ft. tour
|Waitomo Caves and
Rotorua Day Trip
*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.
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||
|Prepaid travel money cards||
|Credit cards for travel||
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.
Compare travel credit cards
Case study: Mike's experience
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.
- Load your card with your choice of 6 available currencies: Euros, British pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos.
- Lock in your exchange rate.
- Use your card abroad at millions of locations.
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.
Cash pickup services in New Zealand
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
Don’t let your vacation turn into a nightmare, compare travel insurance policies today.
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