Travel money cards for New Zealand

TAMIKA SEETO
Finance Journalist · 29 January 2021
Are you hoping to visit New Zealand once the travel bubble opens?

Although overseas travel is currently off the cards, it may be possible for Aussies to cross the ditch in the coming months. While no specific dates have been put forward yet, in January 2021, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she holds the “ambition” that a trans-Tasman bubble could be launched in the first quarter of 2021. This would allow quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, assuming both countries keep the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum.

While we wait for the bubble to open, you might want to start planning your trip. As well as deciding what sights to see, it’s also worth sorting out how you’ll access your cash. One way of withdrawing money and making card payments while you’re in New Zealand could be to use a travel money card.

New Zealand Travel
Travel between Australia and New Zealand may be possible in early 2021. Source: Naruedom Yaempongsa/Shutterstock.com.

Compare travel money cards for New Zealand

The following table displays a snapshot of travel money card products on Canstar’s database that can be used for travel to New Zealand, sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) then by provider name (alphabetically). Check upfront with your provider to confirm the details of a particular product, and whether it meets your needs, before deciding to commit to it.

How do travel money cards work?

Travel money cards can be a convenient way to access your money overseas once international travel restrictions allow. You can exchange your Australian dollars for a foreign currency (such as New Zealand dollars) and load them onto your travel money card. Once you arrive at your destination, you can then use the card to withdraw cash and make card payments in-store and online wherever the card is accepted. In this way it is similar to a debit card.

You’ll usually be able to reload your card with extra funds if you need to while travelling. Depending on the card provider you choose, you can also typically load multiple currencies onto the card. This can be helpful if you are travelling to several different countries.

Is a travel money card the right option?

Depending on the type of traveller you are, travel money cards can be useful for a number of reasons. For example:

  • They allow you to lock in the exchange rate in advance of your trip, so you don’t need to worry about fluctuations while you travel.
  • They are designed to be easy to use and work in a similar way to a debit card.
  • You can typically load multiple currencies onto the card.
  • The card is generally not connected to a credit card or transaction account, meaning if the card or its details are stolen, you can at most only lose the amount that is loaded on the card.
New Zealand travel money
A travel money card can be a good way to access New Zealand dollars while you’re overseas. Source: Ton Anurak/Shutterstock.com.

There can also be potential disadvantages to using a travel money card, such as:

  • You may be worse off if the exchange rate improves after you’ve locked in your rate.
  • Travel money cards can come with various fees, such as currency conversion fees, ATM fees and inactivity fees.
  • Not every merchant in New Zealand will necessarily accept payment by travel money card.
  • Some travel cards have a reload delay, so it may take up to several days for you to be able to access money you load onto the card.
  • The currencies available will vary depending on the travel money card, so in some cases you may not be able to load the currency you want.

Travel money cards won’t suit every situation or every traveller and you may want to consider a combination of different options, such as cash, as well as a travel credit or debit card.

What exchange rate will I get?

The exchange rate on a travel money card will vary depending on when you load your money onto it. Exchange rates can fluctuate regularly, so it’s a good idea to check with your travel money card provider as to what the current rate is when you are loading money onto the card.

The exchange rate can also vary depending on the travel money card provider and it may be different to the official exchange rate quoted by the RBA. Many providers also charge a currency conversion fee on top of the quoted exchange rate. Other providers may not charge a ‘conversion fee’ as such but will factor the cost of the conversion into the exchange rate offered. The exchange rate and fee can vary from card to card, so it’s worth comparing cards to see what each one offers.

On top of the exchange rate, it’s important to consider other fees that apply, as well as the features and terms offered by the provider of any travel money card you are considering.

What to be aware of when travelling to New Zealand

In terms of card versus cash usage, New Zealand tends to be very similar to Australia. The majority of businesses in New Zealand will typically accept card payment, particularly Visa and Mastercard.

Much like Australia, New Zealand does have a bit of a reputation for being an expensive place for travellers. So, if you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, it could be worth drawing up a budget to help you manage your spending, so you have enough New Zealand dollars in your pocket (or on your travel money card) for the things you really want to see and do.

Tipping is not customary in New Zealand. Like in Australia, you don’t have to leave a gratuity for service at restaurants or cafés unless you feel the service is truly exemplary. Even then, a 5%-10% tip will usually be enough. For tours, tipping is a bit more common given their services are targeted towards tourists. So while tipping is not obligatory, if you feel your tour guide did an especially good job, tipping a few dollars will likely be appreciated.

New Zealand travel
New Zealand has a reputation for being an expensive destination. Think about drawing up a budget for your trip to avoid overspending. Source: skyearth/Shutterstock.com.

Travel insurance for New Zealand

Another consideration when planning a trip to New Zealand is travel insurance. This could provide a level of financial cover for things like:

  • cancellation costs for flights, accommodation and tours
  • overseas emergency medical expenses (beyond the reciprocal publicly-funded health care)
  • travel delays/forced changes to travel plans
  • cover for theft or lost luggage and personal items

There are some insurers on Canstar’s database that have indicated they will offer COVID-19 related cover to Australians who visit New Zealand once travel restrictions are lifted.

If you are planning on participating in adventure activities in New Zealand, check if your travel insurance will cover these activities. Remember to check the terms and conditions that apply.

The table below displays a snapshot of travel insurance policies rated by Canstar with links to providers’ websites, sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) then by provider name (A-Z). These results are based on a couple aged 18-59 travelling to New Zealand. Check upfront with your provider and read the PDS to confirm the details of a particular product, and whether it meets your needs, before deciding to commit to it.

Cover image source: Leelakajonkij/Shutterstock.com

This article was reviewed by our Sub Editor Tom Letts and Finance & Lifestyle Editor Shay Waraker before it was published, as part of our fact-checking process.

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