You will soon become an expert at international banking transactions…
Before you leave the US contact your bank and/or credit card company to let them know that you will be studying abroad here, for how long, and any other countries you plan to visit.
If your ATM card is linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems, your card will work in thousands of cash machines throughout the country. Cirrus is a more widely accepted ATM card; Plus is only taken at ANZ (Australian New Zealand Bank). The advantage to using your American ATM card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. That said, have other sources of money in case your ATM card does not work.
You can use most credit cards in New Zealand but they must be in your name, as it appears on your passport and have a pin set up prior to departure. Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American. Credit card cash advances are considered loans, so interest is charged from the day the advance is made. Before you depart, check with your card company for more information on what services you’ll have where, what fees are involved and what to do if you lose your card.
Travelers checks can be helpful in case your wallet is lost or stolen, or for an initial monetary amount on opening a New Zealand bank account, but are not recommended for everyday use.
You will have the ability to open a bank account on campus at your New Zealand university. It is highly recommended that you open an account as it is required to receive medical and insurance reimbursements.
Once you have opened an account you can transfer money into it either by using your ATM card or by getting someone at home to do it through your bank. This topic will be covered at length during your orientation, and you will have ample opportunity to ask questions if you need clarification. Bank hours are generally from 9 a.m.- 4.30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
When the program is in session, our Resident Director in New Zealand can make emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home. If you find yourself in dire financial straits while traveling, the State Department can help your family transfer money to you (provided you are a U.S. citizen).