New Zealand draws in tourists at a rapid rate, more than 3 million per year. Because of this huge influx of people, competition among SIM card providers is fierce. This is good news if you are visiting New Zealand for pleasure or business, as you will be able to choose from many options. A prepaid SIM card can cut down on expenses instead of incurring charges from your home network.
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Mobile phone carriers in New Zealand
There are three major mobile phone networks in New Zealand:
Together, the trio covers 98% of the population with either 2G, 3G or 4G/LTE as of 2015. There are a few smaller services that resell the big three’s services in different packages. These include:
- Skinny mobile
- Skinny direct
- Warehouse Mobile
An Australian tourist or businessperson visiting New Zealand can get a 30-day prepaid SIM card with 200 minutes, 200 text messages and 1GB of data for NZD$29 (AUD$26.46).
As of 2015, Vodafone’s 4G market covered 84% of New Zealand’s population, with its 3G market covering 97.5% of the population. Vodafone has three packages available for prepaid SIM cards, which all last 28 days. They are:
My Flex Prepay: This plan allows you to combine any number of minutes, texts and data you want, starting with a minimum of 50 minutes, 50 texts and 100MB of data for NZD$11. During your stay in New Zealand, you can bump the data up as high as 3.5GB, the minutes to a maximum of 500 and the texts to an unlimited amount. At the high end, this package costs NZD$47.
A Kiwi Favourite: This plan gives you 750MB of data, 150 minutes to New Zealand and Australian numbers, and unlimited texts to those same two countries for NZD$19.
Big Data Bundle: If you’re ravenous when it comes to data, you can double it to 1.5GB per month along with 200 minutes and unlimited texts for NZD$28.
Additionally, Vodafone offers four 4G Prepay Data Plans and three Prepay Mobile Broadband Boosts to give you even more data.
The Broadband Boosts are for 30 days and cost as follows:
The 4G Prepay Data Plans range in length from 30-180 days and in cost between NZD$20 and NZD$80. They include:
|Plan name||Extra data||Length||Cost|
|Data 20||500MB||30 days||NZD$20|
|Data 30||1GB||30 days||NZD$30|
|Data 50||3GB||90 days||NZD$50|
|Data 80||5GB||180 days||NZD$80|
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NZ Travel SIM
Vodafone offers three SIM card packages aimed directly at tourists. They contain minutes and texts not only in New Zealand but also “back home” - a list of 19 countries including the US. A breakdown of the three plans follows:
Three levels of data boosts are available.
Additional information on Vodafone
If you’re 25 years old or younger, Vodafone offers a special data offer. By confirming your age via Facebook or by showing a photo ID at any Vodafone store, you get 500MB every time you spend at least NZD$20 on a top-up.
Vodafone's APN: vodafone, and website: https://www.vodafone.co.nz/
Spark New Zealand has 97% coverage on 3G but does not have a 2G fallback. Spark has opened its 4G/LTE capability in many cities as well. Spark has three value pack offers on prepaid SIM cards for visitors and tourists. Two of them come with a free subscription to Spotify. Here’s a comparison:
|Talk||150 minutes||100 minutes||200 minutes|
|Text||Unlimited (NZ)||Unlimited (NZ)||Unlimited (NZ)|
|Bonus material||1GB Wi-Fi/day||1 month Spotify||1 month Spotify|
Spark also has two special offers if you need more data than minutes or texts during your stay in New Zealand.
|Data||1.5GB +1GB Facebook, Twitter, Spotify||4.5GB +1GB Facebook, Twitter, Spotify|
|Activation code||BUY 20DATALOVER to 258||BUY 40DATALOVER to 258|
1 month Spotify
1 month Spotify
Like Vodafone, Spark has specific SIM card plans if you are likely to be making calls and texts both domestically and internationally. The list of countries includes: Australia, UK, US, India, China and more. Here’s a breakdown:
|Plan details||NZD$29 Card||NZD$49 Card|
|Length of validity||1 month||2 months|
Spark also offers a number of straight data packages that are ideal for travellers who find their trip extended by a week, a month or more. Data add-ons for prepaid SIM cards are as follows:
|100MB||7 days||NZD$3||BUY DATA100|
|300MB||7 days||NZD$10||BUY DATA300|
|1GB||30 days||NZD$20||BUY DATA1GB|
|3GB||30 days||NZD$50||BUY DATA3GB|
|5GB||90 days||NZD$90||BUY DATA5GB|
Any of these packages can be updated by texting the code to 258. To cancel them, replace “BUY” with “END” in each package code.
Spark also has a “social” package available in which you can get 1GB/month of data spread across Facebook, Twitter and Spotify for NZD$9/GB. Activate this package by texting "BUY 9SOCIAL" to 258. To check your credit balance, text “bal” to 333.
Spark's APN: internet, and website: https://www.spark.co.nz/
2° joined the market in 2009. 2° cards are most commonly found at grocery stores in major cities. The starter price is a flat NZD$5 and is known as the Prepay Plus. It can be topped up with vouchers sold in stores or online with a credit card. The default rate on data is NZD$0.05/MB, but there are better deals to be had with the following data packages:
|Data volume||Validity||Price||Activation code|
|100MB||1 month||NZD$6||BUY 100MB|
|300MB||1 month||NZD$10||BUY 300MB|
|1GB||1 month||NZD$20||BUY 1GB|
|3GB||1 month||NZD$50||BUY 3GB|
Text the activation codes to 233. To end a data plan, replaced “BUY” with “STOP” in the code.
2 degrees also has an offer for which you can consume as much data as you wish inside of a timed limit. These plans are as short as 5 minutes for NZD$0.50 and as long as 24 hours for NZD$6.
2° APN: internet, and website: http://www.2degreesmobile.co.nz/
MVNOs in New Zealand
There are four mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) doing business in New Zealand. All four provide low-cost SIM cards that can be used for a few days. They are:
Skinny Mobile is owned by Spark, and your device must be capable of 3G 850 MHz to be effective. You can purchase a card online or at one of several stores affiliated with Spark, including:
- The Warehouse
- Harvey Norman
- Paper Plus
You can top up at more than 6,000 retail locations or by using a pre-registered debit or credit card online. Purchasing data plans can be a bit of a head scratcher. You must start by buying either a weekly or monthly combo before you can purchase add-ons. The weekly and monthly combos are as follows.
|Plan name||Cost||Data||Minutes (NZ)||Texts (NZ)|
|Plan name||Cost||Data||Minutes (NZ)||Texts (NZ)|
Once you’ve acquired a weekly or monthly combo, you can choose the following add-ons.
7-day add ons
30-day add-ons (not available for weekly combos)
Skinny Direct is a second brand of Spark, but it’s only available online and your SIM card gets linked to your credit card. You must remember to cancel online when you want the contract to end; otherwise the plan will keep renewing.
Skinny Direct is generally only for use by New Zealanders, and they must include a mailing address to acquire a card. However, there’s an easy hack to get around it.
- Buy a Skinny Mobile SIM card without any credit on it.
- Register the Skinny Mobile SIM card.
- Sign up on Skinny Direct and click the option to “keep my current number”.
- That will put Skinny Direct onto the card you bought for Skinny Mobile.
There are two data rates for Skinny Direct:
- NZD$30/month: 3GB data, unlimited domestic minutes and texts.
- NZD$50/month: 6GB data, unlimited domestic minutes and texts.
Additional data can be added at the rate of 1GB for NZD$10 per 30 days.
You can purchase cards online or at some convenience stores. There are two cards available:
- Starter pack, which costs NZD$5 but does not have any credit.
- SuperSIM pack, which costs NZD$16 and has a pre-loaded NZD$16 plan with it.
From there, you can purchase one of several data plans.
|Weekly 7||7 days||NZD$7||None|
|Data 10||30 days||NZD$10||750MB|
|Data 16||30 days||NZD$16||500MB|
|Data 19||30 days||NZD$19||1GB|
|Data 30||30 days||NZD$30||1.5GB|
|Data 48||30 days||NZD$48||2.5GB|
Beyond the original plans, you can add on 500MB for NZD$10 or 150MB for NZD$3.
Warehouse Mobile starts at NZD$4 and can be bought online or at 90+ retail outlets. Data costs NZD$0.06/MB and top-ups cost a minimum of NZD$10. Therefore a NZD$20 top-up would get you an additional 333MB of use.
Additional information from TripAdvisor
“2 Degrees is probably your best bet and they do special packages with data. Go to the second one in that link. Buy from most convenience stores of from The Warehouse (a large dept store - there is one in the CBD or Newmarket).”
“I have used both 2 degrees and Vodafone prepay. 2 degrees always seems to be the better deal with lost-cost voice, free texts and a very reasonable data plan. Your handset must be "carrier" unlocked to use 2 degrees.”
“I decided on Telecom, as they do have better coverage. Telecom appear to have lifted their game to match 2 degrees in terms of value bundles, with the added bonus of better coverage outside metro areas.”
Call into a Telecom NZ shop when you get there, pay $5 for a local SIM & phone number and then $19 value bundle will get 100 mins talk, unlimited txt & 500mb of data – should be plenty for 2 weeks browsing interweb”
Pros and cons of New Zealand’s top telco providers
- All three major providers offer 4G/LTE coverage.
- You don’t have to register for a SIM card to purchase it.
- Some good deals are designed just for residents of New Zealand, meaning you have to work around the rules to get a card.
- Skinny Mobile is tied directly to your credit card, meaning if you don’t cancel it, it will keep charging automatic top-ups each month.
Additional question about SIM cards in New Zealand
Q: What is the difference between a SIM card and an MNVO?
A: MNVOs utilise pre-existing wireless networks to offer lower prices on data-only plans. SIM cards generally offer a combination of texts, calls and data.