The best NZ debit & credit cards of 2020

There’s a large number of debit & credit card options in NZ, so it can be a little daunting when picking one out. That said, there isn’t nearly as much competition as the USA or Australia, so it’s actually possible to decide the definitive best cards.

A huge amount of research went into the post—we hope it saves you some time and money.

If you have any questions at all, tweet myself @consindo or @multithreddy, who was a huge help writing this guide.

Before we start

While you can save some money with credit cards, there are definitely better ways to save money. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Buying fewer things
  • Finding a cheaper price (visiting a different store, or find a better utility provider)
  • Not paying credit card surcharges (many utility providers will offer a 2-3% discount for direct debit payments)

This guide assumes you pay off your full balance each month. Make sure you do this, otherwise you’ll incur interest.

It’s also worth nothing that the “break even” calculations assume that you value 1 Airpoints Dollar = 1 NZD. If someone offered to trade you $100 cash for 100 Airpoints, you probably wouldn’t do it.

The best debit card

Westpac Airpoints Debit Mastercard

While you’ll never need to carry cash in Aotearoa, you will need a debit card. Many merchants will not accept credit cards, due to the high interchange fees (around 1.6% for credit). Due to COVID-19, there’s recently been an increase in acceptance as banks have waived contactless debit fees, but it’s unlikely to last—you’ll still need a debit card for now.

The Westpac Airpoints Debit Mastercard is the only debit card in NZ with rewards. While the fees are low, the rewards are also low, so you will still need to spend a reasonable amount to break even. I wouldn’t open a Westpac account to get this card—you would probably be better off finding a fees free debit card, such as the BNZ Flexi Debit Visa.

That said, if you’re a student, this card is free. You probably can’t get a credit card either, so just get this.

Westpac Airpoints Debit Mastercard

Westpac Airpoints Debit Mastercard

  • Rewards: 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $250 spent.
  • Card Fee: $15 p.a. (break even after $3,750 spend)
  • Additional Features: Apple Pay
  • Also consider: BNZ Flexi Debit Visa

The best FX/travel card

TransferWise Debit Mastercard

The TransferWise Debit Mastercard is great everywhere except New Zealand. It doesn’t have the EFTPOS application on the SIM, so it’s subject to the higher Debit Mastercard fees (~1.2%), and won’t be accepted anywhere where credit isn’t.

Despite this, it’s great outside of the country and for online shopping & subscriptions in foreign currencies. TransferWise has the best foreign exchange rates, no card fees, and also makes it really easy to receive foreign currency. I used this card exclusively in the USA & Australia last year, and also continue to use it to pay for all of my USD online subscriptions.

You will save money if you get this card.

Another option is the Air NZ OneSmart. It rewards you with 1 Airpoints dollar for every $100 spent overseas, and $200 spent locally. However, the foreign currency rates are not as good as TransferWise, and it suffers from the same Debit Mastercard acceptance problems.

TransferWise Debit Mastercard

TransferWise Debit Mastercard

  • Rewards: None
  • Card Fee: $0 p.a.
  • Additional Features: Free ATM withdrawals up to NZ$350/month, Google Pay.
  • Also consider: Air NZ OneSmart

The best free credit card

ASB Visa Light & SBS Visa Credit Card

For the best free card, we have two winners, depending on what you’re looking for.

The ASB Visa Light is handy for larger purchases. It doesn’t charge any interest for 6 months on purchases over $1000, so it can definitely cushion the blow for items such as appliances, jewelry, or electronics. It’s also just Visa, so has wide acceptance—much more convenient than signing up to store finance, or even pay later companies such as Afterpay.

The other free card to consider is the SBS Visa Credit Card. It has no card fees, but offers $1 cashback for every $150 spent (paid quarterly). It’s better than a lot of credit cards that charge fees, including ASB who charge $40/year for the same reward rate.

I would get the ASB Visa Light for the occasional large purchase, and also pick up the SBS Visa if you aren’t going to get a more premium cashback or airpoints card.

ASB Visa Light

ASB Visa Light

  • Rewards: None
  • Card Fee: $0 p.a.
  • Additional Features: 0% p.a. on $1000+ purchases for 6 months (this is technically a floating rate, but hasn’t changed in the last three years), 0% p.a. Balance Transfer for 6 months, Apple Pay & Google Pay.

SBS Visa Credit Card

SBS Visa Credit Card

  • Rewards: $1 cashback for every $150 spent (paid quarterly)
  • Card Fee: $0 p.a.
  • Additional Features: None

The best credit card for groceries

American Express Platinum Edge

American Express isn’t widely accepted in NZ (and their contactless standard, ExpressPay even less so). However, the cards are accepted at most large retailers including all major supermarkets and gas stations—luckily, they have a card just for this.

The American Express Platinum Edge earns you membership rewards, which you can exchange for airpoints, cashback, and many other things. The reward rate for groceries is particularly good—you receive the equivalent of 1 airpoints dollar for every $50 you spend at supermarkets. Airpoints isn’t the only loyalty program though: you can exchange membership rewards for other airlines at a rate of 1.5 miles/points for every dollar you spend on groceries. Exchanging points for cashback greatly depends on how much you are exchanging at one time. You can also maximize your rewards by purchasing gift cards at supermarkets, and then using them at other stores—good for more expensive items.

While the card fee of $149 p.a. is relatively high, you receive a complimentary direct domestic return flight (with bags!) each year. It basically pays for itself, so you may as well get it and take the high reward rate for certain purchases as a bonus.

There’s also the occasional Amex offer, domestic travel insurance (rare in NZ), and as it’s a global card, you’ll be able to get Bank Feeds in software such as YNAB.

American Express also offer a free airpoints card that rewards you with 1 airpoints dollar for every $100 spent on any purchase. Even though it’s better than the Platinum Edge for everything that isn’t groceries or fuel, you should just use a regular credit card for those purchases.

American Express Platinum Edge

American Express Platinum Edge

  • Rewards: 1 airpoints dollar for every $50 spent on groceries, $75 spent on petrol, and $150 on other purchases.
  • Card Fee: $149 p.a. (break even after $7,450 spend on groceries)
  • Additional Features: Free domestic return flight each year, complimentary domestic & international travel insurance (35 days), Amex offers.
  • Also consider: American Express Airpoints

The best credit card for cashback

BNZ Advantage Visa Platinum

If you’re after cashback, the BNZ Advantage Platinum is for you. It has a reasonable cashback rate (paid monthly), and doesn’t require you to spend a minimum amount each year. It also has a number of extra goodies, including price protection—a benefit that is very rare in NZ.

Choose whether you want this airpoints or cashback, and then use this card for most of your spending (except foreign currency & groceries).

The other cashback card to consider is the SBS Visa Credit Card—detailed above in the best free credit card section.

BNZ Advantage Visa Platinum

BNZ Advantage Visa Platinum

  • Rewards: $1 cashback for every $90 spent (paid monthly)
  • Card Fee: $90 p.a. (break even after $8,100 spend)
  • Additional Features: International travel insurance (90 days), purchase protection, price protection, Apple Pay & Google Pay.
  • Also consider: SBS Visa Credit Card

The best credit card for airpoints

Westpac Airpoints Platinum Mastercard

All of the Airpoints Platinum cards in New Zealand aren’t particularly different—they all have similar reward rates, travel insurance, fees etc.

While the Westpac Airpoints Platinum Mastercard earns status points at a slightly reduced rate to the Kiwibank Airpoints Platinum (they offer 1 Status Point for $200 spend), the Westpac card includes 12 months extended warranty and 90 day purchase protection. I think most people will find the extra insurance more compelling.

Choose whether you want this airpoints or cashback, and then use this card for most of your spending (except foreign currency & groceries).

Westpac Airpoints Platinum Mastercard

Westpac Airpoints Platinum Mastercard

  • Rewards: 1 airpoints dollar for every $75 spent. 1 Status Point for every $225 spent.
  • Card Fee: $150 p.a. (break even after $11,250 spend)
  • Additional Features: Complimentary international travel insurance, 12 months extended warranty, 90 days purchase protection, Apple Pay.
  • Also consider: Kiwibank Airpoints Platinum Visa

Notable mentions

Flight Centre Mastercard

The Flight Centre Mastercard is the only credit card in NZ without international transaction fees. It’s kinda weird really, given that it’s a store card. You also get $1 in Flight Centre credit for every $100 you spend and they also support Apple Pay & Google Pay (I’m looking at you, Kiwibank!)

Westpac World Airpoints

The Westpac World Airpoints is the only premium credit card in NZ. It has a great airpoints earn rate, as well as other benefits including concierge and lounge access. With a card fee of $390 per year, it probably works out if you spend a lot of money (the card fee is halved), or travel frequently internationally.

The Westpac hotpoints World card also exists with largely the same benefits, and it’s technically the highest (non Amex) cashback card in NZ (~1.4%).

American Express Platinum

The American Express Platinum is a charge card with a fee of $1,250 a year. It’s a game of balancing the benefits with the annual card fee. If you travel internationally frequently, it may work out for you, but you probably won’t be traveling internationally much for a while.

Kiwibank Platinum Visa

The Kiwibank Platinum Visa offers no rewards or cashback. It costs $80 per year.

I have no idea why you would get this.

Phew. We got there. I hope you found this helpful! A huge amount of research went into this post—thanks to @multithreddy again for helping me out.

If you have any questions or comments at all (about any NZ card honestly), tweet us @consindo & @multithreddy.