How to pay for things in New Zealand

If you’re travelling to New Zealand from abroad you’ll probably want to know the best way to pay for things upon arrival.

We know that travelling to a new country can be challenging so having your currency sorted in advance can be a great relief.

Nobody wants to be caught short!

From small daily purchases to more significant ones, we’ll ensure you’re aware of all of your options so you can choose the best form of payment for each scenario.

Let’s talk money…

Inserting a credit card to a payment terminal.

Paying for things in New Zealand

Payments Accepted in New Zealand stores

Cash

We use New Zealand dollars (NZD) in New Zealand.

No other currencies are accepted.

Cash is accepted in almost all stores, though since COVID, some prefer contactless forms of payment (like credit cards).

However, it is very seldom you’ll come across a store that doesn’t take cash.

Pro tip: We recommend carrying a small amount of cash when visiting from overseas – even if you prefer to put most purchases on your credit/debit card.

Various New Zealand dollar notes.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in Aotearoa NZ.

Visa and Mastercard are most commonly used, with American Express and Diners Club also being accepted in some stores.

Most shops will allow you to use your credit card without any extra fees.

However, some stores add a fee (up to approximately 3%) to cover the costs of you using your card.

Other small stores (convenience stores, or as we call them, dairies) don’t accept credit/debit cards because of the fees they are charged. In these cases, cash comes in handy.

Pro tip: It’s best to have your credit card loaded with a 4-digit pin if possible. If you can’t do this (which is generally our American friends), be sure to read the FAQ at the bottom of this article.

Debit cards

Debit cards work in much the same way as credit cards, only instead of having access to money on loan, you’ll spend your own money.

Just like credit cards, debit cards are not always accepted in small stores, and using them sometimes attracts a fee (in addition to the fees your bank may charge).

Practical tips for using credit cards & debit cards in New Zealand:

Our cards have 4-digit pin numbers. If you do not have a pin (or have a 6-digit pin), you are able to sign for purchases.

If asked, choose ‘credit’ on the payment terminal.

If you’re given the option to pay in NZD or in your home currency, choose to pay in NZ dollars. The exchange rate you are given from your bank will be better than what you get at the terminal.

Travel money cards

Travel money cards have come a long way over the years.

Not long ago, we travelled with a money card and struggled to find ATMs that would allow us to withdraw our funds… and there’s no way we could have used it to make a purchase in a store.

Now though, travel money cards (which often work just like debit cards) can be a real viable option for overseas travel.

We LOVE our Wise card and highly recommend it.

It allows us to load up multiple currencies at once, gives us two free ATM withdrawals a month, and most importantly, allows us to use our card in stores with no fees (unless the shopowner passes these on).

What’s more, it offers much better currency conversion fees than banks and allows you to easily transfer any unspent money back into your normal account.

EFTPOS

EFTPOS was an incredibly popular way for locals to make payments in NZ.

With the rise of credit cards and debit cards, they are not used quite so often now, but many kiwi still make use of them.

If you have an EFTPOS card from overseas, you can use it in New Zealand when you see the ‘Plus’ logo.

Chances are though, you will only use an EFTPOS card if you have a New Zealand bank account. So unless you’re planning to move to NZ, this form of payment is unlikely to be of use to you.

Cheques and traveller’s cheques

Cheques and traveller’s cheques are no longer accepted in New Zealand.

Don’t bring them with you to New Zealand.

What is the BEST way to pay for items in New Zealand?

Form of paymentProsCons
CashCash is widely accepted, and by taking the maximum withdrawal each time, you can save money on credit card fees.If you lose cash, you’re less likely to get it back or to be covered by insurance.
Credit cardIf you lose your credit card, your funds will still be safe. You’ll enjoy a period of interest-free loan.Some stores don’t accept credit cards and others charge a fee. This is on top of the fees you will be charged by your international bank.
Debit cardFunds are safer than cash, like a credit card.Some rental car companies don’t accept debit cards, and some smaller stores will charge you extra for using payWave.
Travel money cardStore international currencies in advance to make the most of good exchange rates. Shop like a local, without any fees.If a store doesn’t accept credit cards, they won’t accept a travel money card either.
EFTPOSFunds are safer than cash, like a credit card.These cards are only available to people with local bank accounts. They often aren’t accepted online or outside of New Zealand.
A 'no credit' sticker on a payment terminal in New Zealand.
Photo: Wikipedia.
trying to plan your visit to New Zealand but

Feeling overwhelmed?

Money FAQ and tips

Should I get NZD at home or in New Zealand?

It is often cheaper to withdraw cash from an ATM at your destination, so for people travelling to New Zealand, we generally suggest waiting until you arrive.

How much cash should I get out for my New Zealand trip?

Many people like to use debit/credit/travel cards for purchases whenever possible, however, we still recommend having some cash. For many, $100 NZD is enough to cover small purchases when cards aren’t accepted, but as you’ll be charged a flat withdrawal fee, we normally suggest getting out more (as it will save you money in the end).

Where can I exchange international currency in New Zealand?

Currency exchange desks can be found at international airports but they are known for uncompetitive exchange rates. Most banks have stopped offering currency conversion services. Instead, try to find a currency converter in a major city – or better still, leave your international currency at home and just withdraw what you need from an ATM.

I have AUD or USD – are you sure I can’t use it in New Zealand?

Foreign currencies are not accepted in New Zealand.

I can’t load a 4-digit pin to my credit card. Is that a problem?

Without a pin, you will not be able to withdraw cash from an ATM. You will, however, be able to make purchases in-store – the shopkeeper will just ask you to sign the receipt to prove your identity.

There’s one place this can be a problem though…

Unmanned petrol stations – I’ve heard they can be a problem for credit/debit cards without a pin number?

That’s right – if you don’t have a pin loaded to your card, you’ll need to have your signature checked manually, but that can’t be done at an unmanned petrol station.

If you can’t have a pin loaded to your card and you expect you’ll need to use an unmanned petrol station (most commonly found in remote, smaller towns – particularly in the South Island), you might like to purchase a Prezzy Card or MTA gift card (don’t get a voucher). Both of these will allow you to spend NZD as if you’re a local.

Or, ensure you top up in larger towns/cities and try to avoid doing so late at night (particularly in smaller towns) – this will give you the best chance at having a ‘real’ person serve you (and check your signature).

Are contactless payments accepted in New Zealand? What you need to know…

Yes, contactless payments are widely accepted in New Zealand – payWave is most common but we also use Tap & Go, Apple Pay and Google Pay, among others.

Occasionally smaller stores will require you to insert your physical debit or EFTPOS card (as payWave costs them more to offer) or they will charge you a small fee for using payWave, but most offer contactless payment at no cost to you.

If you want to help a shopkeeper out, it’s best to swipe or insert your EFTPOS or debit card, rather than tapping it.

If using payWave or a contactless form of payment, you will need to enter your pin number for purchases of more than NZD200.

If a shop charges an extra fee for credit card or a use of payWave on a debit card, will I know?

Yes, if there is an additional fee, you will be told. You’ll have the option to choose a different (and free) method of payment if you prefer.

I normally use contactless payment at home on my phone. Do I need a physical card for New Zealand?

Yes, we recommend travelling with at least one physical card for stores that don’t accept payWave.

How much money can I withdraw from an ATM at one time?

This depends on your bank and the ATM that you’re planning to use. If you need to withdraw a large sum of money (to pay for a car or motorhome, for example), you will need to do this over a number of days.

Do I need to do anything else before leaving home for New Zealand?

We recommend letting your bank know you are travelling abroad so they don’t put a block on your cards.

Will I be charged fees by my credit card company abroad?

Most credit cards incur fees when used for foreign currencies, yes. Check with your bank to be sure.

Can I use my bank cards at farmers’ markets and fairs?

Cash is commonly used in temporary markets but more and more people are offering card payments.

We hope this article has given you to confidence to hit the ground running when you arrive.

If you have questions, why not join us in NZTT…

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