09 September 2014

A children's bank account money box


With so many financial systems available (or not) around the world, here are a few guidelines about spending and receiving money in New Zealand...



You can use cash!  This is particularly true when EFTPOS terminals are down or simply not available like in a small store or at a market.

For those with children or who like to know the background behind everything, here is a pdf called Explaining Currency about the history and change in notes and coins, including images.



Usually one would use a bank to transfer funds into or out of New Zealand.  The bank charges a fee and gains on the exchange rate too.  Which is all well and good if you are sending from one account to another.

The alternative is using a private company to do the same but most also offer a person to person service and/or a person to cellular phone service as well. This seems popular with our temporary immigrant population who are sending wages back home to other Pacific Island nations. The private companies use agents like a grocery store, ethnic food store or dairy.  I haven't listed names here as I have not had experience with any and remain a little skeptical about what I do not know! 



There are four main cards that are accepted in whole or part in New Zealand:

  • Diners Club
  • American Express
  • Visa
  • Mastercard

Not all vendors will take the first 2 cards but those with EFTPOS will usually take Visa or Mastercard.

Be aware though that some vendors may charge you an extra % if you choose to pay by a credit card instead of using a form of cash.

Don't be surprised that if you apply for any credit card issued in NZ (except Kiwibank's Mastercard Zero) you will be charged an annual card fee, and if they have a reward scheme sometimes there is a fee for that too!



There are also a couple of national credit cards available although I don't know how relevant this would be to someone visiting New Zealand, as the application process would probably preclude you from applying.

Anyway for the record they are:

  • GE Money Visa (In contrast to their Creditline card which is limited to 2000 stores nationwide)
  • Warehouse Mastercard (they also have a Red card which is only for purchasing on credit in their stores)


What is fascinating are the latest credit card statistics which show: 

$2,900,000,000 of debt is put on credit cards per month in NZ


Of that, $2,633,000,000 is charged to NZ cards in NZ

and $268,000,000 is billed to overseas cards used in NZ

$431,000,000 is loaded onto NZ cards that are used overseas


There is currently over $6,103,000,000 dollars out-standing on credit cards in any given month in New Zealand according to the Reserve Bank.



20+ years ago these seemed like the only 'flexible' monetary unit for most folks wanting to travel overseas (apart from business people who had company credit cards).

The system still exists but you are limited to exchanging the travellers cheque for cash at a bank or foreign exchange merchant and using that to make your purchases.  Yes, you pay a fee to buy the cheques and another for cashing them in and are subject to the exchange rate at the time of both.  As a general rule you can not use these to pay a business directly unless you see the rare (American Express) Travellers cheque sign.



You may be here on a working (holiday) visa perhaps so considering a New Zealand bank account is a sensible idea especially if you have regular payments to make for rent and utilities.  Many employers pay directly into a bank account.

The criteria is normally that you must intend to be resident for 12 months or more, and be able to provide sufficient identification documents to validate the application process.  

Having a New Zealand bank account means that you can have a cheque book, a debit card (for EFTPOS transactions), pay others by direct credit or automatic payment, and have things deducted from your account (with your permission) by direct debit.  Most banks offer the facility to access your accounts and services online, or by telephone; as well as in person or via Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) at their branches (and other popular locations).  The services and fees do vary considerably from bank to bank, and account to account.  Fees may include a monthly charge, other ATM fee, transaction setting up fee, cheque dishonour fee, overdrawn fee, manual teller fee .... etc. 



For an explanation and comparison of the pros and cons of our payment types and their security, check out Payments NZ.


Bartering and haggling is not common in New Zealand although with the influx of certain ethnic groups it sometimes seems more prevelant than it once was.  It might be common upon the purchase of a higher priced item to ask or be offered a discount that could be from 5-10% but it is not accepted as universal.  Even charity shops have been seen to display signs to state that the price that is on the clothing is not negotiable by shop staff.


Tipping is also not common - it certainly isn't mandatory.  If anywhere it may be used in a restaurant where you might round the bill total up to the next denomination.  A verbal 'thank you!' for the service you receive is often more valuable to the server.


Some credit card companies have come out with their own branded debit cards.  Like an EFTPOS card with the ability to be used anywhere a credit card is - locally, online or overseas.  The funds come out of your bank account at the time of the transaction.


As an aside to Kiwis wanting to travel overseas, have you seen the likes of the Mastercard multi-currency cash passport?  It's like a pre-paid debit card loaded in one or more of 8 major currencies to values you decide before you take off.  Making it even easier to spend money as you travel!!

26 August 2014

Kiwis are rather proud of our green image, with some going to extreme lengths to protect it.

Our nature reserves cover almost 30% of the country and are cared for by the Department of Conservation.


As we're sure you'll want to come back and enjoy another visit, here are a few tips about how you can help keep New Zealand beautiful too:


  • Put rubbish in a bin - don't litter the roadside or anywhere else.  Many areas also have recycling bins.
  • Use a dump station if you are traveling with a motorhome or caravan - you're not allowed to tip your black or grey water in waterways; and use a public toilet facility if you are out and about.

      <= Dumpstation    |    Toilet =>  

  • Don't remove flora and fauna from public places - it's against the law on conservation land.  Take a photo, draw a picture or send yourself a postcard instead.
  • Think before you light a fire on the beach or anywhere.  It might be romantic to sit around at night but what about the mess in the morning?  Do you have/need a permit (ie Department of Conservation land)?  Is there a local or regional fire ban in place? How will it affect wildlife, flora or fauna?  Could it get out of control?
  • Don't bring anything living or once living into the country - it could be dangerous to life already here.
    New Zealand is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.   
    You will go through biosecurity checks upon entering New Zealand to look for items that are prohibited to import.
    It's best to declare or dispose (pdf).
  • Tap water is safe to drink and better for our environment than bottled water.  Different councils treat their water in different ways, so it will taste different as you travel around the country.
  • There are 3 poisonous spiders - the Katipo; and the Australian Red Back and White Tail.  The Katipo you would never expect to see as they frequent iron-ore sandy beaches and are rare. There is however a poisonous sea slug and a jellyfish to look out for in some waterways. (To give you an idea of 'risk' - I have never seen a Katipo or Red Back, although we've seen the White Tail spider several times and been biten by them. I didn't even known about, let alone seen the slug; and have only seen the jellyfish (dead) a couple of times ever.)
  • If travelling with children make sure you know what is going in their mouths - we have a few poisonous plants.  Unfortunately this brochure (pdf) is not illustrated, so here are the top 10 common plant names with images:

    Arum Lily Black Nightshade Euphorbia 1 / Poinsettia
    Euphorbia 2 Onga Onga Hemlock
    Iris Oleander Foxglove
    Rhus / Wax tree Agapanthus  

    "If you suspect a child has ingested parts of a poisonous plant immediately contact the National Poisons and Hazardous Chemical Information Centre Urgent Phoneline 24 hours a day seven days a week on 0800 POISON / 0800 764 766"

  • In the end I like how Leave No Trace (pdf) summarises our responsibility to the environment in "minimising the impact of your visits to the natural and cultural heritage areas of New Zealand depends on your awareness rather than on rules and regulations."


Want to get a bit more out of your visit and learn to identify 10 of our birds?  Try this online course for free or check out the What bird? website.  One of our favourite birdsongs that really says 'holiday' to us is the Tui because we became very familiar with its sound when we started going to the Coromandel for holidays.  Now we have one in our backyard - that sure is one way of bringing the holiday home!


Remember to pop in to the local Department of Conservation visitor centres on your journey and check out their informative website for far more in-depth information about our natural environment. 

29 July 2014


When you're visiting a new country there will always be comparisons made to what it's like back home, not in the least what things cost.

You can use the grocery prices we posted in our Cost of Living post to compare to what you know you pay.


An interesting community called Expatistan is collecting costs from around the world to draw comparisons of the cost of living between each town. 

From their current data, this is what they say are the differences between living in one of the top 7 countries (& Germany) from whence New Zealand receives the most visitors, and living in New Zealand itself.


  • Australia is 9% more expensive
  • China is 29% cheaper than living in NZ
  • United States of America is 7% more expensive
  • Japan is 26% cheaper to live in
  • Singapore is 31% more expensive than NZ
  • India is a whopping 74% cheaper 
  • Korea is 16% cheaper
  • Germany is 13% more expensive than in NZ


With the growth of this project the data will get more and more accurate, and more helpful for budgeting overseas travel.  It contrasts with other data like the Cost of Living Index at Numbeo though.  So while one may be technically more correct (for those resident long-term), the other seems possibly more humanly correct (for a traveller).


Not-withstanding here are some major currency exchange rates for easy reference:

    How much NZ$1 would buy overseas 2l of milk NZ$2.99
Australia (dollar)   0.90962 2.72
China (yuan)   5.29276 15.82
United States (dollar)   0.85539 2.56
UK (pound)   0.55372 1.66
Japan (yen)   87.1195 260.49
Singapore (dollar)   1.06246 3.18
India (rupee)   51.4039 153.70
Korea (won)   878.138 2625.63
Euro   0.63659 1.90


For those new to foreign exchange, the first column of numbers is what one New Zealand dollar would change to, to spend overseas in those countries.  ie one NZ dollar would change into €0.64 in Europe.   

The last column is what the cost of 2l of milk currently can be purchased for in New Zealand ($2.99) and what that converts to in the above currencies.


A popular foreign exchange rate calculator online is xe.com or download one of the many applications for your cellular phone: Android or Iphone.


While this is over-simplified, the complex version would take into account that the charges for good and services are related to the local wage, interest rates and so many other financial indicators that sometimes we simply can't compare apples with apples.

Here is a video that I found useful in getting my head around the complexities in a simplified way!!
Last but not least New Zealand has 10, 20, 50 cent coins, as well as $1 and $2 coins.  Paper notes come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.  You can see a few of these in the What's our Budget? post.