Relocating to New Zealand, and looking for your first credit card? We’ve put in our two cents on the best credit cards in New Zealand for expats, what criteria you’ll need to satisfy, and how you can build a credit history there.
June 17, 2021 — 11 min read
If you’re planning to move to New Zealand, or you’ve already shifted there a few months ago, getting your finances into order may seem like a mountainous task. But it won’t be too difficult, as long as you do your research and arrive with a plan.
You can make your daily life as an expat easier by getting a credit card. However, without a credit history in New Zealand, you may find it exhausting to get approval for a credit card without the necessary information (which we’ll get into below).
Here’s our take on the best credit cards in New Zealand for expats, along with the factors you should consider while choosing a card, and the info you’ll require to apply for one.
Just so you know the basics, a debit card lets you buy goods and services, and pay for what you’re buying, then and there.
With a credit card, you can keep buying products and services, but pay for those later.
This means, you’re borrowing money every time you use your credit card. If you don’t repay the balance every month in full, you’ll be charged interest. So you’ll have to make a minimum payment each month.
If you want to borrow a large amount of money for a one-time purchase or for only a particular period of time, a credit card may not be right for you. That’s because instead of one-off purchases, credit cards are meant for ongoing purchases.
For approving your credit card application as an expat, most expat-friendly banks in New Zealand will ask you to prove your:
Residency status. At the time of applying for a credit card in New Zealand as an expat, you’ll need to provide your residency status details, like whether you hold a work or study visa, or a permanent residency visa. Most credit cards are readily available for permanent residency visa holders in New Zealand.
Employment. Many New Zealand credit card issuers will require you to be employed permanently. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the employment criteria before applying for a credit card there.
Income. Some credit card providers in New Zealand may specify the annual income range within which they can approve credit card applications. You may be required to produce a few payslips to prove your income information.
Residential address. To successfully apply for a credit card as an expat, you’ll need to have a valid residential address in New Zealand.
What it actually boils down to is this - what credit card factors do you think are important? Here are some you can consider while browsing different credit cards as an expat in New Zealand:
Account fees. Some credit cards in New Zealand come with annual account fees, while others don’t. Annual fees range from $25 NZD ($18.09 USD) to $290 NZD ($209.95 USD) on an average, depending on the type of credit card you choose. For example, a card with
wonderful rewards (say, travel rewards) may be available for a much higher account fee than a card meant for everyday purchases. Check whether the rewards under a credit card are enough to offset the account fees.
Reward points. Would you want a credit card that can offer you points for hotels and flights? You can get rewards for using some credit cards to buy selected products from eligible merchants, both in-store and online. Not all credit cards in New Zealand offer reward points or travel rewards, though, so pick your card wisely.
Credit limit. It’s the maximum amount of money a bank or any other credit card provider will allow you to spend, using your credit card. The credit card provider typically sets your credit limit based on your credit rating.
A good credit score (between 700 and 900) means you may have a higher credit limit than if your credit rating were lower, in the range of 400 and 600. With a higher credit limit, you can obviously enjoy greater flexibility in spending.
While searching for a good credit card in New Zealand as an expat, check the credit limit under each card, and decide if you’re okay with it. Generally, if you’re new to the country, it might take some time before you’ve established a good credit history and rating. Because of this, banks and other lenders may initially offer you credit cards with lower credit limits.
Based on the factors we’ve mentioned above, here are some New Zealand credit cards you might want to explore as an expat:
ASB Bank in New Zealand offers this awesome credit card without any account fees whatsoever. Like, you won’t have to pay any fee for getting an additional card, and you certainly won’t be paying any fee for additional cardholders.
There’s a low purchase interest rate of 13.50% p.a., while the interest rate on cash advances and dishonored payments is 22.95% p.a. Balance transfers don’t carry any interest rate at all.
You can also add the ASB Visa Light to Google Pay, Apple Pay, Garmin Pay, and Fitbit Pay.
However, you need to make a minimum monthly payment by the due date each month. If you don’t, the bank will charge you a late payment fee of $9 NZD ($6.51 USD).
An amazing combination of travel rewards and low fees from Kiwibank, you won’t find many New Zealand credit cards like this one.
It comes with a $12.50 NZD ($9.04 USD) account fee every 6 months, which means that the annual fee is $25 NZD ($18.09 USD). For every additional cardholder, the account fee would be $5 NZD every 6 months.
The standard purchase rate with this credit card is 16.90% p.a., while there’s a 22.95% p.a. interest rate on cash advances. You’ll get up to 44 interest-free days, if you can pay off your whole balance within the specified timeframe each month.
The Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Low Fee Visa will entitle you to a minimum credit limit of $1,000 NZD ($723.96 USD), a higher minimum than the Kiwibank Zero Visa.
However, the minimum monthly payments, the late payment fee, and the balance transfer rate are exactly the same as with the Kiwibank Zero Visa.
When buying products directly from Air New Zealand, you can earn an Airpoints Dollar for every $140 NZD ($101.35 USD) you spend on those products. Alternatively, every $160 NZD ($115.83 USD) spent on eligible credit card purchases will let you earn an Airpoints Dollar.
With your Airpoints Dollars, you can pay for hotels, Air New Zealand flights, Airpoints Store products, and car rentals. Don’t worry about your Airpoints Dollars expiring - so long as you’re the primary cardholder on your present Airpoints credit card, nothing of the sort will happen.
You can even top up your Airpoints Dollars by paying a fee in exchange for extra Airpoints Dollars online. The fee would be non-refundable, though, so think it through before buying more Airpoints Dollars.
This credit card will also let you access monthly competitions, where you can win 20 prizes of 100 Airpoints Dollars, or 2 prizes of 1,500 Airpoints Dollars.
With a complimentary membership of Qantas Frequent Flyer, you’ll be saving a total of $99.50 NZD ($72 USD) using Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) Frequent Flyer.
ANZ will automatically credit 0.5 Qantas points to your Frequent Flyer account for every New Zealand dollar you spend on eligible purchases up to $500 NZD ($361.97 USD) in a statement period. For instance, upon spending $400 NZD ($289.57 USD) on selected products, you’ll earn 200 Qantas points.
If your eligible credit card purchases per statement period amount to more than $500 NZD ($361.97 USD), you’ll get 0.25 Qantas points for every dollar spent.
With $1,000 NZD being the minimum credit limit, the total annual fee you have to pay is $95 NZD. This fee includes a $55 NZD ($39.81 USD) Rewards Program Services fee and a $40 NZD ($28.95 USD) annual account fee.
You can add up to 3 additional cardholders, but only when you pay $65 NZD ($47.05 USD) as the annual fee for each cardholder.
ANZ Frequent Flyer credit card comes with an interest rate of 20.24% p.a. on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. You’ll be able to apply for this credit card even if you’re a non-permanent resident in New Zealand, but you must have over 9 months remaining on your visa.
If you want to use your credit card daily, you won’t get a better card than Kiwibank Zero Visa. It hasn’t got any account fee, and its standard interest rate on purchases and cash advances is 13.95% p.a.
You’ll also get a maximum of 55 interest-free days on your card purchases, but only if you pay off the entire balance amount by the due date every month.
The lowest possible credit limit on this card is $500 NZD ($361.97 USD). Balance transfers from a credit card with any other bank will incur an interest rate of 1.99% p.a. for 6 months.
If you don’t want Kiwibank to charge you a late payment fee of $5 NZD ($3.61 USD), you’ll have to make minimum monthly payments of either $10 NZD ($7.23 USD) o 5% of your monthly balance statement.
You can apply for the Kiwibank Zero Visa only if you’re aged 18 or more, and you hold a Permanent Resident visa. Of course, you need to have a good credit history, as well (more on that below).
It’ll take time, so you’ll need to be patient. Unfortunately, your financial history in your country of origin won’t matter in your new country.
This means that once you’ve shifted to New Zealand, you’ll have to start building your credit history afresh. Here are some ways you can go about:
Loans. Whether you’ve taken a personal loan, a car loan, or even a home loan in New Zealand in the past, you need to have repaid each loan within the specified timeframe.
Utility accounts. These include Internet accounts, electricity accounts, telecommunications and energy accounts, post-paid phone accounts, and so on and so forth.
Bank account. If you mean to spend a long period of time in the country, it’s important to open a bank account in New Zealand. This is because, while applying for a credit card, you may be able to show your bank statements to credit card providers to prove you’ve been handling your finances quite responsibly. And there may be greater chances of your card application getting approved, if you decide to apply for a credit card at the bank where you’ve already got an account.
A credit card may be the right product for you if you want to make ongoing purchases and pay later for the purchased goods and services.
Considering factors like rewards and account fees, the best credit cards in New Zealand for expats are:
ASB Visa Lite: The best low-interest credit card
Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Low Fee Visa: The best low-fee credit card with travel rewards
ANZ Frequent Flyer: The best credit card with Qantas points
Kiwibank Zero Visa: The best no-annual fee credit card
To apply for most of these and other credit cards in New Zealand as an expat, you must be at least 18 years old, and you must hold a permanent residency visa.
And even if some credit cards don’t charge any annual account fees, watch out for other fees they may add, like late payment fees.
Speaking of fees, did you know that you can send money from New Zealand to over 130 countries (and over 98 currencies) at competitive rates?
If you’ve relocated to New Zealand, and you’re looking for ways to finance the move or repay a home loan from your bank account in your country of origin, you need look no further. We’ll help you pick the right international money transfer provider.
At Xe, you can look up the currency exchange rates on our free currency converter, before moving straight to sending money and receiving payments over most of the world. Whether you do so online or in the Xe app, you can rely on favourable exchange rates, no third-party fees, and a quick and easy process you can take care of anytime, anywhere.
All set? Take a look at our guide to sending money with Xe. Why not give it a try from your new home?
All currency conversions mentioned are based on the NZD/USD mid-market rate from Xe as on June 8th, 2021, at 11:30 PM PT.