What is the Best Way to Make Payments in New Zealand?
Let’s jump right into this essential for travelling New Zealand: paying for things. You’re going to need to pay for stuff, whether it’s car rental, bus ticket, a bungy jump or food. So what is the best way to pay in New Zealand? In short, Visa or MasterCard debit and/or credit cards are a favourable option to pay and withdrawal money in New Zealand. It’s also a good idea to have a bit of emergency cash on you. We’ll go through your options in this guide to the best ways to make payments in New Zealand.
By the way, if you want to know how much to expect to pay for things, check out How Much Does it Cost to Travel New Zealand?
Quick Tips for Making Payments in New Zealand
- Contact your bank to tell them you are travelling to New Zealand before your trip to reduce the likelihood of unforeseen “security locks” on your bank card
- Chip-plus-PIN systems are the most widely used type of debit/credit card in New Zealand. Some travellers may have issues with non-chip cards (i.e. swipe cards)
- You need a credit card to hire from most vehicle rentals in New Zealand – see How to Hire a Car in New Zealand Without a Credit Card for more details
- Credit cards are the most widely accepted form of payment in New Zealand but it’s a good idea to have some cash on you for the limited merchants that only accept cash, like public buses, food trucks, etc.
- Tips are not expected in New Zealand for normal services, but it’s up to the discretion of the customer.
EFTPOS, Debit, Credit and Travel Money Cards
Kiwis certainly prefer to use plastic, rather than cash, cheques or mobile payments, so you’ll find that most businesses that you’ll encounter around the country have card machines. Get used to the term “EFTPOS” because that’s what New Zealanders call machines used for debit/credit cards. If you’re asked, “Are you paying EFTPOS?” it generally means paying with a card. Here are some of the common card options available to pay for things in New Zealand.
While EFTPOS may be more commonly referred to as any electronic payment card, a real EFTPOS card is a card that allows you to electronically withdraw or deposit funds into a New Zealand bank account. This is the basic card you will receive when opening a bank account in New Zealand. They can be used in a face-to-face environment when the merchant has a card machine. They cannot be used to make online or phone payments.
Debit cards, like EFTPOS cards, allow you to electronically withdraw or deposit funds into your bank account. In New Zealand, they are commonly issued by Visa or MasterCard which means you can also use them online and to make purchases over the phone. ATMs and banks also accept overseas debit cards, most commonly issued by Visa and MasterCard, but some also accept Maestro and Plus, as long as there is a four-digit PIN encoded. There is likely to be a withdrawal fee for withdrawing currency from an ATM from an overseas bank account, usually around NZ$5 flat fee, and some might charge an additional conversion surcharge of around 3%.
Credit cards are a common payment method for overseas travellers visiting New Zealand. They are a card with a pre-approved amount of credit, which is good for making payment in stores, online and over the phone. The most widely accepted credit cards are those issued by Visa or MasterCard, while American Express, Diners Club and Bankcard are also widely accepted. Credit cards tend to not have a fee for withdrawing cash or paying from a foreign currency, but there is still a currency conversion fee, usually around 3% with MasterCard and Visa.
Travel Money Card
A way to make cash withdrawals and card payments in New Zealand without the conversion and withdrawal fees is with a travel money card. Also known as foreign exchange cards or pre-paid travel cards, these are like credit cards with a pre-approved amount of credit but are accessible in multiple currencies. When making a payment, they work the same as a credit or debit card as long as they are issued by a common type of card accepted in New Zealand, like Visa and MasterCard. Make sure your travel money card has New Zealand Dollars as a currency option.
Cash and Cheques
New Zealand’s currency is New Zealand Dollars (NZD or NZ$) and is the only cash currency accepted. Cash and cheques are payment methods used in New Zealand for face-to-face purchasing. We recommend having some cash on you for the first two or three days of your trip, just in case you can’t access funds from your overseas bank account via card (which can happen with security locks put in place when a card is used overseas). It’s also useful to have some cash on you as a back-up in case you lose your card or you come across merchants that only accept cash.
Coins have values of 10, 20 and 50 cents, $1 and $2; notes have values of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, major hotels and Bureau de Exchange kiosks, which are available in New Zealand’s international airports and in city centres.
Cheques and Travellers’ Cheques
A cheque is a written instruction to pay a specific amount from one bank account to another. With travellers’ cheques, this means the money paid is in a specified foreign currency. Both payment methods have seen a decline in usage in New Zealand, while travellers’ cheques are hard to redeem.
Online and Mobile Payments
Not commonly used by travellers, online banking payments are more likely to be used between locals. Mobile payments are in their early stages of being used in New Zealand, making it not a widely used payment method – yet.
Online banking is accessing your bank account through a secure website, usually your bank’s website, allowing you to make payments and manage your accounts. This is a popular form of payment method in New Zealand, more so between New Zealand bank accounts than overseas bank accounts due to the associated foreign exchange fees. Fees that you can avoid with Forex services such as XE Money or Wise that provide your first international transfer for free. See How to Transfer Money to Your New Zealand Bank Account for more information.
Mobile payments are payments made through a portable electronic device like a phone or tablet. New Zealand banks all offer their own versions of mobile payments, such as Westpac PayTag, ASB Virtual, ASP PayTag, ANZ goMONEY, BNZ and Android Pay, KiwiBank QuickPay, and ANZ and Visa Apple Pay. However, merchants that accept mobile payments, even international ones like Alipay, are quite limited in New Zealand. Therefore, this payment method should not be something to be relied on as a way to pay when travelling in New Zealand.