Whether you're hitting the slopes near Queenstown, glacier hiking on the West Coast or sailing in the Bay of Islands, the land of the long white cloud has always been a popular destination for Aussie travellers.
Find out how much money you'll need, the best ways to access your money and our best tips for handling money while you're in New Zealand. Cards are widely accepted here, even if it's just for your morning cuppa, so check out our comparisons to find the best one for your trip.
Compare your travel money options for New Zealand
Take your pick of prepaid cards, debit cards or credit cards as well some cash-in-hand for a stress-free trip. Gone are the days when you needed to carry a stack of travellers cheques around.
How many dollars do I need to bring to New Zealand?
$25 - $50 per night
2 star hotel
$30 - $130 per night
5 star hotel
$80 - $850
Vegan and Vegetarian diner
$8 - $10
Dinner at a midrange restaurant
$40 per person
5 star restaurant
$100 per person
Escape room games $20 per person
Waitomo Caves and Rotorua Day Trip $250
Skydive from 16,500 ft. tour $425
*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.
Exchange rate history
While the Australian and New Zealand dollars are not at parity, for the past 3 years, 1 Australian dollar will get you about $1.10 - $1.15 New Zealand dollars. If you think the Australian dollar will weaken and it will be more expensive to purchase New Zealand dollars, you can lock in a rate by purchasing traveller's cheques or loading a travel card.
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 21 November 2017
Which should I opt for: travel card, debit card or credit card?
If you're wondering about card acceptance, it works in New Zealand the same as Australia. ATMs are everywhere and nearly all businesses accept EFTPOS payments, which you can use for contactless purchases and to get cash out over the counter when you use your debit card. To give you an idea, 75% of all transactions in New Zealand go through the Paymark system (Paymark provide EFTPOS terminals to businesses), so there's no issue using your Visa and Mastercard credit card or debit card. American Express cards are accepted in fewer places than Visa and Mastercard. ATMs are available in most towns with the major banks represented: ANZ, ASB, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) and Westpac. Some ANZ branches are branded as The National Bank.
Travel money options for New Zealand at a glance
Travel Money Option
Debit cards for travel
Ability to use your ATM card in most places while in New Zealand
Protected by PIN & chip
Debit cards will not incur an interest rate as it uses your own money from your transaction account
International ATM withdrawal fees may apply
Most of the debit cards will charge an additional currency conversion fees
Not a credit product. No emergency funds available though a cash advance facility.
Prepaid travel money cards
Ability to hold New Zealand dollars on almost every prepaid travel on the market
Ability to lock in the exchange rate for the funds that you 'load' on to the card before you go
Secured by PIN & chip technology
Emergency card replacement and backup cards
Easily reloadable via a secure online platform
International ATM withdrawal fees, card issue fees and initial load fees may apply
Reload fees could be high
Some travel cards charge for inactivity fee
Credit cards for travel
Protected by PIN & chip
Some credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance
Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
Emergency card replacement
Withdrawing cash can be considered a "cash advance" and can charge you fees and high interests
Card scheme anti-fraud guarantees don't apply in a credit card with a positive balance
Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Attracts an annual fee
Have the added security of needing ID to be cashed
Availability to cash at banks
Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
Card schemes such as Mastercard give you a money back guarantee if you're a victim of card fraud
Expect to be charged a commission when cashing your cheques
Fees for purchasing and cashing travellers cheques may apply
Currency exchange rate varies over time
Greater payment flexibility
More difficult to manage expenses
Higher risk of theft
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
How the different travel money products work in New Zealand
Using a debit card
Like in Australia, you can use a debit card to make ATM withdrawals, purchases over the counter and get cash out using EFTPOS in New Zealand. Most of the debit cards available to Australians will charge an additional fee for currency conversion when you transact in New Zealand dollars. There's also the international ATM withdrawal fee to think about.
If you have a Westpac card, you can use it at Westpac ATMs without incurring ATM withdrawal fees thanks to the Global ATM Alliance.
Using a credit card
Credit cards can be used in a similar number of places in New Zealand and Australia. If you want to apply for a credit card to use overseas, start by looking at the credit cards we've listed in the comparison table. Look out for cards that don't charge a currency conversion fee when you're transacting in a currency other than Australian dollars. Some cards also offer up to a number of interest-free days when you pay your balance in full before the end of the statement period, which could help you save on interest costs. Some credit cards also offer complimentary travel insurance, which could save you the time and money you'd need to organise your own.
Don't use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM if you can avoid it. Credit card withdrawals are considered cash advances and will usually incur high interest and a fee. You can avoid some of these fees by loading your own money onto a credit card. Note that the card scheme anti-fraud guarantees don't apply if you're using a credit card with a positive balance.
Using a prepaid travel card
You can hold New Zealand dollars on pretty much every prepaid travel on the market. The benefits of a travel card include that you can load Australian dollars and convert the funds to New Zealand dollars at a fixed rate of exchange. This means that you can spend in New Zealand without paying extra for currency conversion. You also get a backup travel card, which could come in handy if you lose your card.
There are drawbacks too, there are a number of fees on the front and back end such as international ATM withdrawal fees, card issue fees, initial load fees, reload fees and some travel cards even charge for inactivity.
Using traveller's cheques
Traveller's cheques have been replaced by other travel money products such as debit cards, credit cards and travel money cards. A cheaper way to get cash in New Zealand is to make an ATM withdrawal, especially so if your card provider has a relationship with the bank which owns the ATM. The main advantage of traveller's cheques is they can be replaced if they're lost or stolen, and only you can cash them. The card schemes (Mastercard for example) give you a money back guarantee if you're the victim of card fraud. This means traveller's cheques are often more hassle than they're worth.
Paying with cash in New Zealand
Save on foreign currency exchange fees by using products which lets you make cheap ATM withdrawals. Currency exchange offices charge a commission to exchange Australian dollars as well as making money off a margin applied to the exchange rate.
Skiing in Queenstown: the adventure capital of the world
Mike says Queenstown is recognised as providing the best overall skiing experience in New Zealand. The snow, the nightlife, the food and the atmosphere are all top notch.
Where did you go?
Mike visited the Coronet resort, which is about 20 minutes away from Queenstown. He stayed in the city for a couple of weeks and did the commute each day. He also skied at The Remarkables and Cardrona peaks.
The Citibank Plus Transaction account is Mike's transaction account in Australia. There's no account keeping fee and Citibank offer free global transfers to a number of countries. The Citi Plus doesn't charge for currency conversion or international ATM withdrawals, which made it a perfect card for Mike to use in New Zealand, or anywhere in the world. Mike also took the Citibank Clear Platinum Visa credit card. He applied for this card before he left so he could get the 0% on purchases promotion available to new cardholders. He used this card as much as he could for over the counter purchases and paid the balance of his purchases back in the following months when he started working again.
Where could you use these cards?
Mike says he could use his debit and credit card almost everywhere. On the mountain to pay for his ski pass, rental and drinks at the end of the day. Mike says small purchases like coffee and hot chocolate are mostly cash only. In Queenstown he used his card at restaurants, at bars and clubs. He took the shuttle to the mountain and back every day and he used his card to purchase 10 tickets at a time from the Queenstown Snow Centre.
What about ATM withdrawals?
Mike says he used an ATM a couple of times, but was mostly able to pay with his Citibank Visa Debit Card. He says he got cash out when he made purchases with the Citibank Plus Visa a couple of times. He was able to get up to a hundred dollars on each occasion, but he says it really depends on the merchant and how much cash they have in the till. When he did use the ATM, he had to pay the local ATM operator fee because Citibank ATMs were hard to find. There were no issues with card acceptance at New Zealand ATMs.
What are your travel money tips?
Mike says if you're travelling by shuttle bus to the peaks, purchase the tickets in bulk. A single ticket costs $15, there's a discount if you purchase packs of 10 or 15 tickets at a time.
You can bring the Australian dollar equivalent of $10,000 New Zealand dollars with you from Australia hassle-free. If you take any more than this, you have to declare your cash when you pass through customs. You will get a better deal if you wait to get your money changed in New Zealand, even better still if you make a withdrawal from an ATM rather than use a money changer. If you want to get your money changed in Australia, have a look at these companies, they can sell your foreign cash. Travelex and Australia Post have outlets at major airports, you can make an order online and collect the New Zealand cash before you get on the plane.
When you use your credit card, debit card or travel card to make a purchase in New Zealand, the card scheme exchange rate applies to the transaction. When you use your card for over the counter purchases, you'll get a rate which is a touch above the market rate. The same when you make a withdrawal from an ATM.
Why you'll need a combination of travel money options
Whether you're doing a quick business trip or taking a long holiday, it's good to have a couple of ways to access your money. Choose a mix that suits your needs. Travel cards can be used to pay in New Zealand dollars, the same with travel friendly debit cards; however, most travel cards apply an international ATM withdrawal fee. A credit card gives you access to an emergency line of credit and can be used for interest free purchases, and some cards offer extras like insurance as well.
If you have any questions about travel money for New Zealand, get in touch with us using the form at the bottom of the page.
Find travel insurance for your trip to New Zealand
New Zealand is a favourite for Aussies heading overseas. New Zealand offers Australian travellers a wondrous land to explore, from its ski fields to its volcanic hot springs, there is plenty things for the family to enjoy.
But with every journey comes and element of risk, which is why there is travel insurance. Luckily, Australia and New Zealand are part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA), which mean that you are covered by New Zealand's public health care system. However, travel insurance protects travellers against far more than just health issues. Travel insurance covers the following:
Jacob Joseph was a writer and video journalist for Finder.
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