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Kiwi travelling to USA money/simcard please help!

3 Sep 2012 miss_meg asked


Kia Ora all,

First time heading to the states and I am unsure on what to do about my simcard and using money (i.e. cash/credit card) If there are any kiwis out there that have travelled to USA that have some hints that would be SO helpful!

I am with Vodafone on pre-pay and have a nokia that is able to connect to the net. when i went to europe earlier in the year i just put like $40 on my phone before i left and was careful about how much i txted and didnt answer any phone calls because i know it charges you even to receive them! looking for something where i can txt home really cheap and has good calling rates so i can catch up with the family back home. i've done a bit of research on global sim cards but most on offer appear to be australian based so im not sure how it works :-/

a girl on my europe trip bought a simcard in london and it cost her something crazy like 0.10 to txt and 0.40 per min to call home! just wondering if its worth risking waiting till i get to USA to find something but would rather have it sorted before i go

I bank with ASB and have been recommended by the travel agent to use like a pre-loaded travel credit card thing where you can put up to 9 currencies on it but you get charged for withdrawals etc so im not sure if its easier to just get USA $ before i leave or risk paying $7NZD per ATM withdrawal overseas (isnt that ridiculous?!) does anyone have advice?!

my friend and i are doing LA to the BAY departing 24/04/13 so still have a bit of time thankfully!

appreciate any help and advice

Cheers ~ Meg

  • Read the responses 9 responses so far
  • 3 Sep 2012 jarks said


    You might wanna have a read of this post re: SIM card for the USA. A lot of responses are about Australian providers, but there are a few about buying a SIM locally.

    The ANZ travel card seems to have much lower withdrawal fees.

    I got one of these from Australia’s ANZ and it’s worked perfectly. I’ve used in on 2x trips and various online shopping sites. I’m sure it would work in the same one (with some differences on fees).

  • 3 Sep 2012 miss_meg said


    Hey Jacquelyn, Thanks for that I did see that thread but it wasn’t really applicable because in NZ we don’t have any of the providors mentioned (main two are vodafone and telecom) but I see some people suggested buying a sim card once we get to the states. A girl on my last tour did that in London and the rates were crazy cheap!

    with the travel card are you able to use it like a normal eftpos card or did you mostly use it to withdrawal cash from an ATM? did the fees seem fair to you? ASB has the same kind of plan but I would hate to be stuck not being able to withdrawal cash or being charged to see how much balance i have

  • 5 Sep 2012 jarks said


    Yeah I use it like any normal eftpos/debit card. I mostly used it for transactions (to avoid the ATM fees), but obviously sometimes you need cash, so when I got cash out, I got a fair bit to cover me for a while.

    The fees for the Aussie one is pretty standard (there are about four banks/companies that offer similar cards so all the fees are similar).

    All of these offer online access so you can view how much money you have left online, without being slugged balance checking fees.

    Remember too that the bank that your card is from (in your case ASB) will charge a fee to withdraw cash, but most of the time so will the ATM you withdraw from. So you get charged two fees.

    There are some banks in the US that don’t charge to withdraw, so you don’t get charged twice – the TD bank is one that doesn’t charge to withdraw, so look for their logo and withdraw from them:

    As for the sim, I’ll just be getting one when I get there. Either AT+T or TMobile. They’re the only ones that offer prepaid to non-US citizens.

  • 5 Sep 2012 Aprıl said


    I’m an American going to NZ (so reverse!), but in terms of withdrawing cash, WestPac seems to be a good way to go. I have an account with Bank of America back home, which, in addition to WestPac, is part of Global Alliance ATMS.

    And both Westpac NZ and Bank of America are on there, so you should be able to withdraw money from any ATM within the Alliance with zero fees.
    However, don’t make the mistake I did: if you intend to go this route, make sure you notify your bank so they can put a travel flag on your account. This both activates the Global Alliance thing and puts your account on higher alert for greater security. I didn’t do this and ended up paying $45 in fees I thought I didn’t know I was being charged!

  • 13 Sep 2012 simon said


    Hello Meg
    fellow kiwis here just come off a grand southern tour we used a travelex us cash passport card.You can use it like a credit card for shopping etc.I found that all atm machines charge diff rates but the highest was about six dollars lowest two dollars.We just took out a few hundred out at a time,it is very handy having cash for tipping when out drinking taxi rides etc.We just brought a $20 ph card and use it on pay phones,dep on what tour you do you will be so busy you wont have time to ring home hope this helps

  • 13 Sep 2012 miss_meg said


    Hey Simon,

    Thanks for your reply, we have found a cash passport thru our bank (although it is all linked to ‘Travelex’ you can use it to withdrawal from ATMs for free (only charges you when you withdrawal from an NZ ATM) and its in no way linked to your bank account which is great so we can just put US$ on it and any left over when we get back can be put back into NZ$. Just wondering if anyone had used this because they are only new and I’m hoping they are good value for money but sound pretty good.

    We are doing LA to the Bay, and will both need to be able to use our cellphones which is why we are trying to find the best option with sim cards but thanks for the advice


  • 15 Sep 2012 jarks said


    I’ve not used it but I have seen the “Cash Passport” brand recommended by many people. They have been around for a few years in Australia. Many different companies offer it (kind of like VISA is available through most banks). Do a quick Google search for reviews, or check out TripAdvisor.

  • 21 Sep 2012 Analesha13 said


    Hi there,

    Ive recently got back from Hawaii which is part of the states and im on 2degrees. My phone automatically connected to their carriers. I also pre paid for a data pack while I was there and all was fine.

    I took cash for the most part and then had extra money on the credit card.

  • 23 Oct 2012 miss_meg said


    Hey Analesha,

    When I was in Europe my Vodafone connected to European carries which ended up being really expensive like 80c per txt (and if your txt was over a ‘page’ long it would charge you another 80c no matter how much longer the txt was!) Also charged you to receive calls like $1 per min!

    That’s why I was hoping to find either a really good travel sim or if it’s easier buy a sim card in America which is cheap for kiwi’s to txt/call me and easy enough for me to top up as I go.

    If anyone has any advice that would be great, def going with the travel passport (credit card thingy) too so will be able to give feedback on how it went following the travels :)

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