Using a credit card in New Zealand

New Zealand isn't the easiest place to reach, but once you get there, you can travel around and shop easily - here's how to make the best out of your plastic and cash.

If you survive the 24-hour (or more) plane trip from the UK to New Zealand, enjoying the country will be a piece of cake. The North Island is more for travellers who want to enjoy the cities and discover the Maori cultural heritage, while trips to the South Island tend to be more nature-focused, but in both cases you don’t need to worry about payments and cash too much.

All credit cards are widely accepted, including Amex (but as usual not all retailers will take it). You can probably go a whole holiday without needing a single note of the local currency, although carrying some of it around in case of emergency certainly can’t hurt.

The New Zealand dollar, which is sometimes affectionately referred to as the “kiwi dollar”, can be exchanged before travelling to the country – but general card acceptance and a good network of ATMs make it unnecessary.

The best thing you can do for yourself before leaving for New Zealand is getting a solid credit card or debit card that doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, so that you can spend all your budget in excursions, souvenirs and good food – down to the last penny.

Cash machines in New Zealand

You shouldn’t have any issues finding ATMs in New Zealand, as there’s a widespread network of them both in the main cities and in the smaller towns.

Just keep in mind that if you’re in for a holiday in nature, for example, a road trip enjoying the beautiful landscape of the South Island, you may have to drive for a while to go from one town to the other and enjoy the comforts of civilisation, including ATMs.

Most of them won’t charge any fees to let you withdraw money, although very local ones may sometimes be an exception to the rule.

Chip and PIN, contactless, or magnetic strip and signature

Cards usually have chip and PIN in New Zealand, and contactless is also commonly used.

If your card only has the magnetic strip and no chip, you may find it difficult to have it accepted.

Is it safe to use my card in New Zealand?

New Zealand isn’t known to be an especially risky place to use your credit card, but it’s still worth following some basic safety rules:

  • Keep your card physically safe. The best way to do it is to keep it on you, preferably in a closed pocket.
  • Don’t keep your PIN and card in the same place. Not in New Zealand, not in London and not in your hometown.
  • Choose your ATM wisely. Be aware of your surroundings while withdrawing cash. ATMs inside the banks are generally safer than those on the street, and you should always shield your PIN with your hand and make sure no one’s watching you while you type it in.

Credit card fees in New Zealand

New Zealand is a convenient place to shop using your credit card, but you should still watch out for fees:

  • Foreign transaction fees. With most credit cards, you’ll be charged somewhere between 1% and 3% for every non-sterling transaction, which means that the equivalent of a £200 purchase could cost you up to £6. Read the small print of your credit card’s Terms and Conditions and consider getting a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees – there’s a good range of them available on the market.
  • Currency conversion fees. While carrying out a transaction, you may sometimes be asked if you want it in the local currency or in pounds. The local currency is the smart choice to get a better rate, especially if you have carefully selected a card that comes with fee-free spending abroad.
  • Cash advance fees. Most credit card issuers will charge a fee on cash withdrawals in addition to the foreign transaction fee. Considering that, with most credit cards, cash advances start generating interest from day one, as a rule of thumb you shouldn’t use your credit card to withdraw cash as it can turn out unbelievably expensive.
  • Merchant fees. Unlike in Europe, it isn’t illegal for retailers to charge an extra fee for card payments in New Zealand. However, most don’t do it, and those who do must display a sign that warns customers about it.

Here’s a fairly typical section from a credit card’s Terms and Conditions showing non-sterling usage fees that are pretty standard.

section of credit card summary box document

Additionally, you can get an idea of costs by using these online currency conversion tools from Mastercard and Visa.

What is a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is calculated (and charged) when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum £3.00”.

Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in New Zealand

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
1 - 8 of 20
Name Product Finder Score Finder score Purchases Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Representative APR Incentive Link
Santander All in One Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 15 months reverting to 23.9%
£3 per month
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
29.8% APR (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Maximum of £10 cashback paid per month. Cashback paid monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
118 118 Money Guaranteed Rate Card
3.6
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
49%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
49% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 49% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 49% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Yonder Credit Card
Finder Award
Yonder Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
29.94%
1 month for £0, £15 per month thereafter
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
66.7% APR (variable)
First month free for new members, £15 p/m thereafter. Plus, 10,000 bonus points. Earn 5 points per £1 spent and up to 25 points per £1 at selected partners. Membership includes worldwide travel insurance, no FX fees and use your points towards any flight.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.94% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 66.7% APR (variable).
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The Ulster Bank Credit Card Mastercard
4.7
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £350, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
The Royal Bank Credit Card
4.7
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
NatWest Credit Card
4.7
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
Halifax Clarity Credit Card Mastercard
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
23.94%
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
23.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 23.9% APR (variable).
Virgin Money Travel Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 9 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
24.9% APR (variable)
Enjoy exclusive offers and rewards on the Virgin Red app.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
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How to prepare before travelling to New Zealand

In terms of money management, your holiday to New Zealand won’t require a whole lot of preparation, but there are still a couple of things worth considering in advance:

  1. Consider travelling with more than one card. Amex is widely accepted in New Zealand, but just like in the UK, not all retailers will take it. If you want to take advantage of the rewards but also make sure you can pay by card anywhere, you may want to carry both an Amex and either a Visa or a Mastercard. You can also leave one of them in the hotel as a backup should you somehow lose the other.
  2. Think no foreign transaction fees. Considering how expensive they can quickly turn out, it’s always worth browsing for a card that comes with no foreign transaction fees, even if you just use it for travelling.
  3. Keep your bank informed. Some banks may block your card if they detect a transaction made very far away from home such as in New Zealand. It’s worth making your card issuer aware of your travel plans, just in case.
  4. Keep the emergency number handy. Look up which number you need to call if your card is lost or stolen and you need to have it blocked or replaced.
  5. Also carry a bit of cash. You may not be a fan of cash, and you won’t need to use loads of it in New Zealand, but it’s a good idea to have some ready in case of emergency.

How to use a credit card in…

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.
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Written by

Valentina Cipriani

Valentina Cipriani was a writer at Finder UK. She wrote news, features and guides about banking and credit cards, helping people to improve their financial lives. She holds an MA in International Journalism. See full profile

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