What the heck is EFTPOS? Let's talk NZ money

If you’re heading to New Zealand or you’re here already, one of the first things you might have noticed is that the majority of Kiwis pay for their day-to-day items using their eftpos cards, yes, even if it’s only $2, they’ll swipe each time. It’s really uncommon to pay for things with cash, unless you’re a tourist of course!

Eftpos (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) cards are linked directly to your main day-to-day bank account, which means you can pay for things and take out cash, only using what exists in your bank. Having an eftpos card means you don’t need to carry cash on you, making it much more convenient when you’re buying lots of things or you’re out on the town for a full night of partying. There’s two versions of an eftpos card - an ATM Debit card or a Visa Debit card. We’ll break it down below.

ATM cards, Visa Debit cards and Credit Cards.. what’s the difference?

When you open a bank account in New Zealand, one of the questions you’ll get asked is, “do you want a visa debit card or just eftpos (meaning a standard ATM card)?”. Now an ATM card lets you buy items in any physical shop or business with a swipe or paywave, but a visa debit gives you the extra magic of being able to buy stuff online. You’ll have to be 15 years or older to be able to get one. If you look at the cards side by side, visas just look that slightly bit fancier too and will have ‘VISA’ marked on the front. The other give away you’re holding a visa debit card is if you turn it over and see those three little security numbers on the back. That’s only used for online purchases. Another feature of typically both eftpos cards is the paywave function. You can pay for things by tapping / hovering your card above a payment terminal that has the icon with the four little curves on, instead of punching in your pin. In New Zealand, pay wave is only able to be used for purchases below $80. Anything above this you will need to punch in your pin as usual. This is for safety reasons, incase someone steals you card, however there is nothing stopping them from doing multi $80 purchases!

A credit card you’ll have to apply for, and it uses the banks (or third parties) money to purchase stuff, which you need to pay off each month or pay a minimum amount with interest. Usually credit cards have a limit of $500 up to beyond $50,000.

Does it cost me anything?

It all depends on the bank you are with, but most banks have no fees for actually using your ATM cards to buy stuff. If you take out cash from physical ATM’s of the same bank it’s also fee-less, but if you withdraw from another bank’s ATM then there’s sometimes a $2 charge (depends on the bank). Visa debit cards do have an annual or monthly fee, which is automatically deducted, but it’s a very minimal charge of around $10 per year. Credit cards vary depending if you pay your monthly bill in full or are just paying the minimum amount, but most credit cards charge around 13.5% per year.

What about those three options on the card machine? - Savings, Credit, Cheque

Okay, so you now have your ATM card or visa debit card, why are there all these options to choose when you get to the till to pay? You push in the card and see the options savings, credit and cheque, which do you choose? Well it all relates back to how you set up your bank accounts. If you set up a normal day-to-day account (cheque), then you need to choose the cheque option. If when you set up your account you also created a savings account, then you have the option to take out money from that one too if you select the savings button. The credit option will only work if you have an actual credit card or are using an overseas credit card from back home. So if you are settling in NZ for some time, join our cashless society and start swiping for everything. Even your $2 lotto scratchie.

Fun Fact: The Great British pound (or NZ£ for distinction) was the currency of New Zealand from 1840 until 1967, when it was replaced by the New Zealand dollar.

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