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!!

12 August 2014

Welcome to Middle Earth

While hitchhiking is still going strong in New Zealand many are instead choosing to make use of the cheap bus and even airfares to get from A to B.
Here are some links to help you explore the possibilities:
Some cities and regions have embraced the cycling community providing sections of streets marked for cyclists, like Wellington and Hastings in the North Island.  Others have widened pathways to provide for pedestrian and cycle traffic besides.  Which is all well and good for in-and-around town, but long-haul touring is not for the faint-hearted as you share the road with traffic sometimes traveling as fast as 90/100kph.
A new cycle can set you back thousands with most road/touring bicycles averaging between $2000 and $4000; but you can buy second hand bikes and after the initial cost you provide the 'fuel'.
There are four main national bus lines, who do direct fares and hop-on-hop-off tickets.
Direct fares are those which you are in one place and want to go to another - you pay only for that particular route on that particular day.
Hop-on-hop-off tickets are when you pay a set capped price for the opportunity to travel x number of routes within a time frame, but as you choose.  So a 5-fare in 14 days ticket would allow you to travel 5 different routes within 14 days when it suited (as long as there is an availability of seats).
Intercity Flexitrips  or regular fares
Both Intercity and Naked advertise $1 fares (if you can get them).
This definitely could be a viable option for the independent traveler, and while new models can range anywhere between $8000 and $25000 most fall under $14000; second hand ones might be an economical option.
Be aware though that you will need to have a valid motorcycle license separate from your car license.
A scooter varies in price between $2500 and $9000, is much slower (top speed 50kph) but does not require a motorcycle license if under 50 cc.  (It is classed as a moped on the NZ drivers license system).  Second hand scooters are listed here.
Your on-going costs would be petrol and insurance; and possibly a little maintenance.
The main national carrier is Air New Zealand, only challenged by competition in certain main centres.  As a result they hold the monopoly on internal airfares.
Having said that you might, and that is a slight might, be able to take advantage of their grab a seat fares as long as you are flexible to travel on certain days and plan a little into the future.
The prices can be as low as 1/3 of the regular lowest fare.  These fares probably suit the person traveling in one direction (and a few weeks out) rather than someone wanting a return flight, as there is no guarantee that you will get both fares for the discounted amount.
Kiwi Rail run three train routes in the North and South Islands.  Currently a one-way adult fare from Auckland to Wellington (Northern Explorer) by day is $99, with children $69, and deals for families too.
Then there is the 4 1/2 hour crossing of the South Island from Christchurch to Greymouth (Tranz Alpine); and the 5-hour summer-season-only Christchurch to Picton trunk line (Coastal Pacific).
The cheapest we could get for a family of 7 being 3 adult fares and 4 children was $438 on the Tranz Alpine.  I guess one could justify this amount if taking the train got you from one place you were to another that you needed to be.  It seems however a little on the expensive side for a half day activity for a family.  If though we were visitors to NZ I think it would be justifiable as you'd take in a lot of scenery in such a short time frame.  You could even land in Christchurch, take the Tranz Alpine to Greymouth, hire a rental to get you south to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, return up the west coast via Punakaiki to Picton and catch the ferry to Wellington to traverse the middle of the North Island on the Northern Explorer all in 3 days if you timed it just right.  Economical and interesting routes that let you see a bit of both islands with the added advantage that you didn't have to do all the driving.
The main nation-wide rental car companies are:
If you are flexible you may be able to score re-location rentals, where a company needs to get their vehicle back to a certain point within a certain time so they offer it at a very cheap rental or sometimes free.  Look for 'relocation deals' on the above websites. 
There are many, many companies that operate within towns, and regional areas, so here are those who advertise in the Yellow pages too. 
For the Kiwis reading this, did you know that several councils have banded together to promote day-to-day carpooling within their local areas as an idea via the Let's carpool website
As New Zealand is made up of 3 main islands in a vertical line (between the 165th and 176th E meridians), there are ferries that can take passenger and vehicles from one to the next.  We've written about the 2 that run between Wellington and Picton through the Cook Strait.  The other is between Bluff at the southern point of the South Island and Oban, on Stewart Island across the Fouveax Strait.



There you have it folks a basic round-up of possible modes of transport for exploring both land and sea.  This list is by no means comprehensive but includes the main providers we know of. (Let us know if you think we need to add others).  It is also aimed at one or two people, or visitors more than locals - with a family your mileage may vary - with ours it's the reason we drive our van.