Ready to Go to New Zealand
Banking in New Zealand
You will soon become an expert at international banking transactions. Regardless of how much spending money you plan to bring, you will at some point want quick access to your funds. You will also want to protect your money against loss. This section covers your banking options.
There is no single, complete way to manage your money, but we find that a combination of services meets the needs of most students.
New Zealand Currency
The New Zealand unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar, which we abbreviate as NZ$. You can check today's rate by visiting this exchange rate currency calculator.
The easiest way to handle your money is with an American ATM card. The advantage to using your card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. You should check with the issuer to make sure your numerical PIN number will work abroad. You can only draw from a primary (usually checking) account. Cirrus is a more widely accepted ATM card; Plus is only taken at ANZ (Australian New Zealand Bank). Be sure to check with your bank to make sure your ATM card can be used in New Zealand. New Zealand banks currently do not charge a fee for the use of their ATMs, but check with your home bank to see if they assess fees.
Disadvantages Also Exist
American ATM cards are difficult to replace quickly if lost or stolen. Students have told us that they sometimes had difficulty finding cash machines that would accept their American ATM cards. Take your American ATM card with you, but have other sources of money in case your ATM card does not work.
In addition to your ATM card, bring some of your funds in travelers checks - we usually recommend approximately $300. This is a more convenient and the safest way to carry your money. With travelers checks, you have immediate access to your money and checks can be used to open a local bank account.
You decide in which currency to purchase your checks. If you buy New Zealand dollar denominated checks, the exchange rate is fixed at the time of your purchase. US dollar checks have a variable exchange rate based on when you change them. Most banks don't charge a fee for this service but a bureau de change may.
Be sure your checks are from an internationally recognized source such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard, or Cooks. If you are a member of AAA, you can obtain free American Express travelers checks at your local AAA office. (AAA will accept a personal check in payment if you have an American Express card.)
You can use credit cards in New Zealand for everything from drawing cash to buying dinner. Visa and Mastercard are accepted everywhere. You may also draw cash at participating banks; be aware, however, that interest accrues from the first day. Check with your issuing bank for further information.
Previous students have found that American Express is not widely accepted and it is important to note that the Westpac Bank is the only bank that does cash advances on Amex cards.
Drawbacks to Plastic
Even with careful planning and strict adherence to a budget, it is frighteningly easy to overspend. Finance charges can add up quickly if you extend payment on goods or take out cash advances.
Obtaining a Major Credit Card
The card you present overseas must be in your own name as given on your passport. At a cardholder's request (your family), most major lenders will issue a dependent's card.
New Zealand Bank Accounts
You will have the ability to open a bank account on campus at your New Zealand university, and we really recommend that you do this. It costs nothing and is a safe and easy way to manage your money while you are here. It also makes it easier to receive medical and insurance claims as they are always paid in NZ$. To do this, you need to produce your passport and proof that you are going to be living and studying in New Zealand – we will provide you with documentation for this at Orientation. Once you have opened an account you can transfer money into it either by using your ATM card or by getting someone at home to do it through your bank. This topic will be covered at length during your orientation, and you will have ample opportunity to ask questions if you need clarification. Bank hours are generally from 9 a.m.- 4.30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In An Emergency
When the program is in session, our Resident Director makes emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home.
If you find yourself in dire straits while traveling outside New Zealand, the State Department can help your family transfer money back to you (provided you are a US citizen). To do this, your family must wire money through Western Union or their bank, or send a cashier's check or money order to the State Department in Washington, DC. A trust account is established and a telegram is sent to the appropriate US embassy or consulate overseas, authorizing next workday disbursement to you. The State Department fees for this service range from $15-$40.
For further information about this service, check the State Department's website.