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.
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.
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
In terms of money management, your holiday to New Zealand won’t require a whole lot of preparation, but there’s still a couple of things worth considering in advance:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The main banks operating in New Zealand are Kiwibank, ANZ Bank New Zealand, Bank of New Zealand, ASB Bank and Co-operative Bank. HSBC also has a New Zealand subsidiary.
Valentina Cipriani is a writer at Finder UK. She writes news, features and guides about banking and credit cards, helping people to improve their financial lives. She holds an MA in International Journalism and loves taking complicated topics apart and giving them back to the readers in a clear and easy fashion.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.