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.
Our picks for traveling to New Zealand
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American Express® Gold Card
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What's in this guide?
- Travel card, credit card or debit cards?
- These are your options for spending money in New Zealand
- Compare travel credit cards
- Buying currency in the US
- Cash pickup services in New Zealand
- What should I budget for my trip to New Zealand?
- Find travel insurance for your trip to New Zealand
- Our latest travel deals to New Zealand
Travel card, credit card or debit cards?
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.
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.
These are your options for spending money in New Zealand
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 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
Using a prepaid travel 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.
- 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
Paying with cash in New Zealand
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.
- Greater payment flexibility
- Difficult to manage expenses
- Higher risk of theft
Using 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.
- 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
Compare travel credit cards
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.
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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Here are what some of the banknotes look like:
The main banks in New Zealand are:
- ANZ Bank New Zealand
- ASB Bank
- Bank of New Zealand
- Co-operative Bank
- Rabobank New Zealand
- SBS Bank
- TSB Bank
- Westpac New Zealand
- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (New Zealand) Limited
ATMs in New Zealand
Cash pickup services in New Zealand
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. All prices are in US dollars.
|Meals||Vegan and vegetarian dinner|
|Dinner at a mid-range restaurant|
$40 per person
$100 per person
|Activities||Escape room games|
$20 per person
16,500 ft. tour
|Waitomo Caves and|
Rotorua Day Trip
$20–$40 per night
$25–$100 per night
Prices are for example purposes only.
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 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.
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.Back to top
Our latest travel deals to New Zealand
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