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Travel money guide: New Zealand

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

Updated

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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.

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.

AucklandBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
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

skydiveEscape 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 OptionProsCons
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

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months
9x points at Hyatt hotels as a World of Hyatt member, 2x on gyms, commuting, dining and airlines and 1x on all other purchases
$95
Earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
United℠ Explorer Card
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
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Case study: Mike's experience

Mike profile photo
Mike

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.

Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

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

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 0 2 days USD 9.99 1.534 NZD 1,518 No fee for transfers of $5,000 or more to 177 countries, backed by an International Payments Price Promise. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour USD 3.99 1.526 NZD 1,520 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
USD 1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 1.495 NZD 1,465 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
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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
Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
$50,000
$2,000
$1,000
Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
$20,000
$1,000
$600
Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
Travelex Travel Basic
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
Travelex Flight Insure
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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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