It's always advisable to bring money in a variety of forms on your New Zealand vacation: a mix of cash, credit cards, and traveler's checks. You should also exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home, or withdraw money upon arrival at an airport ATM.
Most travelers find New Zealand to be very reasonably priced in most things - ludicrously so in some cases, I'm sure. Certainly anyone converting from British pounds or American or Canadian dollars is going to get great value across-the-board.
The New Zealand dollar (NZ$) is based on the decimal system, and there are 100 cents in the dollar. There are coin denominations of 10, 20, and 50 cents and $1 and $2, as well as bank notes in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 amounts.
ATMs -- ATMs are common throughout New Zealand. You'll find them inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations. Some smaller towns in remote locations - on Stewart Island or Great Barrier Island for instance, or in some parts of the South Island's West Coast - don't have ATMs at all.
Most likely, your ATM card is compatible with New Zealand systems. The machines generally accept four-digit PINs, but it always pays to check with your bank beforehand. Also check with your bank about fees for using your card internationally. The Bank of New Zealand accepts ATM cards in the Cirrus system (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com); other banks accept cards in the PLUS system (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com).
Credit Cards -- Most New Zealand businesses take MasterCard and Visa. American Express, Diners Club, Bankcard, and Japan Credit Bank are also widely accepted in major tourist centers, but less so in smaller towns.
You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash. Keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% "foreign transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether it's in local currency or your native currency).
Beware of hidden credit-card fees while traveling. Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use credit and debit cards while out of the country - even if those charges were made in U.S. dollars. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check with your bank before departing to avoid any surprise charges on your statement. For help with currency conversions, tip calculations, and more, download Frommer's convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
What Things Cost in New Zealand
Taxi from the airport to downtown Auckland: NZ$50-90
Double room, moderate: NZ$350-600
Double room, inexpensive: NZ$150-250
Three-course dinner for one without wine, moderate: NZ$70-80
Bottle of beer: NZ$3.50-7
Cup of coffee: NZ$3.50-4.50
1 gallon/1 liter of premium gas: NZ$2.10-2.40
Admission to most museums: Free or by donation
Admission to most national parks: Free