My American credit and debit cards are charging me roughly three percent in foreign transaction fees every time I use them in New Zealand (and in any country I’ve visited). Individually, the fees don’t seem so harmful. But a few of them on any given statement make it feel like it’s death by a handful of papercuts.
The short-term solution is to take it
is to pay cash via using Westpac ATMs because Bank of America has an agreement to allow withdrawals without fees. Update, January 11: Bank of America charges a three percent currency conversion fee on withdrawals from Westpac ATMs; it will not charge the $5 usage fee. Excuse me as I curse under my breath as I type this, but I will be so freaking happy to close my account with BoA.
The long-term solution is to
use my BoA statements as fire kindleConsumer NZ or Canstar do a good job of comparing and contrasting New Zealand credit cards, their perks, APRs and whatever else. Qantas (OneWorld) and Air New Zealand (Star Alliance) reward cards are widely available, helpful for American-Antipodean families.
I like the look of this one: The Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Platinum card allows users to earn one Airpoint (equal to $1) for every $75 spent. But, it comes with a $150 yearly fee. There are cheaper cards, but the threshold for earning Airpoints is higher. So, you’re faced with a tradeoff.
As for a Qantas card, you can find a card through ANZ that will give you 25,000 points after the first purchase and no fee for the first year. It is an enticing deal; a quick run through the Qantas points calculator shows that an Auckland-Wellington roundtrip would be 12,800 miles.
My hunch is to get a card that will run up points on an airline that flies directly to the West Coast from Auckland (then book onward flights on Southwest or Virgin America when needed). Qantas stopped its AKL-LAX route in 2012.To my knowledge: Air New Zealand is the only airline to fly direct and nonstop from Auckland to Los Angeles and San Francisco (United codeshares with Air New Zealand). And there’s murmurings of another more eastern U.S. destination for Air New Zealand in the next year.
Although on second thought: You can use Qantas points on the low-cost carrier Jetstar, meaning those points could go to a couple of long weekends in Australia or New Zealand.
Virgin Australia cards could earn points that can be used on Virgin America or Delta. But Virgin Australia codeshares with Air New Zealand on trans-Tasman flights anyway. Not that this is a strong sway in any direction, but in that case, just go with an Air New Zealand card, right? Or go with the Qantas card?
Figuring out what card to get will take some more digging. I’m not completely sure what way to go. A good one will make our every day purchases fee free, and our trips across the Pacific more affordable.