BUG New Zealand travel guidebook
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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook


BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > New Zealand & Pacific Islands > Travel essentials > Money (New Zealand)


New Zealand is a fairly cheap country to travel around, particularly when taking into account the quality of hostel accommodation. However prices can come as a shock if you’ve arrived here after a couple of months on the road in Asia.


Work out your daily budget by tripling your accommodation cost. Multiply this by the number of days you’re planning on travelling, and add the cost of your airfare and bus/travel passes and you should get a pretty good idea of the costs of travelling around New Zealand.


You should be able to save some money by cooking all your own meals and drinking less alcohol, but there are lots of easy ways to blow through a wad of cash such as a few big nights out on the town or adventure activities such as bungee jumping and sky diving.

Travellers’ cheques

Travellers’ cheques used to be the best way to carry travel money, but they’re not as common now that ATMs and credit cards are so widespread.

It is worthwhile taking some of your money as travellers’ cheques since it is a great backup if you lose your wallet with all your credit cards or if you arrive to discover that your cash card won’t work in the ATM.

The beauty of travellers’ cheques is that they can be replaced if they’re lost or stolen. It helps if you keep a record of your travellers’ cheque numbers in a safe place, preferably a copy with you (but not with your cheques) and another copy at home (or somewhere where someone can fax them to you if you need to make a claim for lost cheques).
Many travellers buy travellers cheques in British pounds, euros or US dollars, which is fine if you’re travelling through lots of different countries. However travellers’ cheques in New Zealand dollars have the advantage of being able to be used as an alternative to cash as long as you can find someone willing to accept them.

If you bring travellers’ cheques with you, make sure that you sign them when you buy them, but do not countersign them until you are ready to cash them. You may also need to have identification such as your passport with you when you cash your cheques.

The most widely accepted brands of travellers’ cheques are American Express, Thomas Cook and Visa. Don’t travel with anything else as many people will not recognise or accept them.

ATMs, credit cards & EFTPOS

Plastic is the preferred way to access your cash while you’re on the road and most cards are widely accepted throughout New Zealand.

There are several types of cards, each with their advantages. Most travellers have at least one credit card, and also a card to draw cash from an ATM (either from an account at home or from a New Zealand bank account).

Credit cards

Credit cards are great for getting out of trouble and are often tied to a frequent flyer programme. One of the main advantages of credit cards is the favourable currency exchange rate as well the freedom to spend more money than you have. Of course this spending can get out of hand and you’ll end up paying for it later on.

The most useful cards in New Zealand are MasterCard and Visa, followed by American Express and Diners Club. In tourist areas you may find some places that accept JCB and – occasionally – UnionPay cards, but Discover card is not accepted in New Zealand.

Most credit cards can be replaced quickly if they are lost or stolen. Call one of the following numbers if you need a new card:

American Express

Tel 0800 656 660
Website www.americanexpress.com

Diners Club

Tel 0800 657 373
Website www.dinersclub.com


Tel 0800 449 140
Website www.mastercard.com


Tel 0508 660 300
Website www.visa.com

ATM & EFTPOS cards

ATM cards are a popular way to access your cash, particularly if your card is part of an international network allowing you to use New Zealand Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs). If the bank that issued your card is part of the Plus, Cirrus or Visa networks you should find plenty of ATMs in Australia where you can withdraw money.

Despite the favourable exchange rate and the ease of drawing your money from a cash dispenser, there are sometimes problems using your cash card abroad. Before leaving home you should check with your bank whether it is possible to use your card in New Zealand. In some cases you may need to change your PIN or even have a new card issued.
Cards issued by New Zealand banks are a lot more useful, working in virtually all ATMs and also at EFTPOS terminals in most shops, hotels, service stations and pubs.

Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) terminals at cash registers at most New Zealand shops allow you to use a New Zealand issued ATM card to pay for goods and withdraw cash from your account. The combination of ATMs and EFTPOS terminals everywhere makes getting a Kiwi bank account essential if you’re planning on staying in the country for more than a few months.

New Zealand bank accounts

If you’re planning on spending a lot of time in New Zealand, your own bank account will make things a lot easier, particularly if you’re planning on finding work.

The biggest banks in New Zealand are ANZ, ASB, Bank of New Zealand, National Bank and Westpac. Since you’ll be on the road, it makes sense to open an account with one of the bigger banks as they have a larger number of branches.

Tipping & bribery

Bribery in exchange for good service isn’t as widely practised in New Zealand as in other countries although tipping is starting to catch on, particularly in fancy restaurants in trendy inner-city neighbourhoods. However even in more expensive restaurants it is quite normal to pay the exact change for your meal. You never tip in a pub or bar, which also means that pub meals are tip-free.

Despite the increasing number of people tipping, the average New Zealander does not tip. Many New Zealanders equate tipping with bribery and would prefer that you save your money and not make it a custom here.

When paying taxi fares it is commonplace to round up the fare, such as paying $10 for a $9.60 fare; but it is not uncommon for a taxi driver to round a $10.20 fare down to an even $10.

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