New Zealand is also a popular destination for backpackers and those on a Working Holiday visa.
New Zealand is home to various mountains and volcanoes (some of them are still active). You can find crystal clear water in Milford Sound, which is a fiord on South Island. Auckland is another popular destination that is an actual port and has many Maori artifacts in museums.
Christchurch is full of gardens, and Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, has a fun red cable car that you must try. As you can see, New Zealand is a fun travel destination.
What may not be fun is getting a high bill from your operator because you decided to roam with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card in New Zealand.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in New Zealand. Let's have a look, shall we?
Table of Contents
Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in New Zealand
New Zealand has 3 telecom providers: Spark, Vodafone New Zealand, and 2degrees. All operators have 3G and 4G/LTE networks. Vodafone New Zealand is the only operator that still has a 2G network.
The country has several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) as well, which are Black+White, Warehouse Mobile, Slingshot, Skinny, Compass Mobile, and Kogan Mobile New Zealand. Only Skinny, Warehouse Mobile, and Kogan Mobile offer prepaid services, which is why they are the only MVNOs that will be discussed in this article.
4G/LTE can be found in many places throughout New Zealand with all operators, including rural areas.
Best SIM Card in New Zealand
If you want to buy a SIM card in New Zealand, I would recommend going with Spark because they have the most extensive coverage in New Zealand. If you are staying in populated areas only, or like to customize your plan, then Vodafone could be an option because they are cheaper than Spark and have My Flex Prepaid, which allows you to set up your own plan in terms of data, minutes, and SMS.
SIM Card Registration in New Zealand
Like most countries in Oceania, you do not have to show your passport when buying a Kiwi SIM card.
New Zealand Prepaid SIM Cards
Spark is the largest telecom provider in New Zealand. Spark also has the most extensive coverage in the country, which makes them a suitable operator for those who wish to drive through New Zealand, those who will go to rural New Zealand, or those who will go to South Island.
Do note that Spark does not have a 2G network anymore, meaning that older phones will not work with Spark. However, those with an old phone will most likely not use mobile data anyway because 2G is extremely slow for modern web browsing.
Spark SIM cards are sold in Spark stores, from authorized resellers, and in many other stores. Top-up vouchers are also sold in many stores, but you can also recharge online with a credit card. Spark also sells their SIM cards at Auckland International Airport and Christchurch International Airport.
Spark sells its basic starter SIM card for 5 NZD ($3.25). Besides that, you can also get one of the following 3 starter packs. All these perks are valid for 30 days. They also come with unlimited SMS and with 1 GB of Spark WIFI per day (so a max. of 30 GB on Spark WIFI monthly):
- 19 NZD: 1.25 GB and 200 minutes
- 29 NZD: 2 GB and 300 minutes
- 49 NZD: 4 GB and 500 minutes
Activating Spark WIFI is easy. Simply connect to a Spark hotspot, and they will require you to sign in. They will send you a code to log-in to your phone. Once you have entered this code, you are signed in and you will not have to sign in again if you decide to connect to a different Spark hotspot.
If you decide to buy the 5 NZD Spark starter pack, then you would want to add a value pack or a data pack. The standard Pay As You Go data rate is 1 NZD for the first 10 MB, followed by 0.30 NZD for the remaining data usage, which is expensive.
The following Spark value packs are available for purchase, which last for 28 days:
- 19 NZD: 1.25 GB and 200 minutes. Activation: text BUY 19VPROLL to 258
- 29 NZD: 2 GB, 2 GB social data, and 300 minutes. Activation: text BUY 29VPROLL to 258
- 49 NZD: 4 GB, 2 GB, and 500 minutes. Activation: text BUY 49VPROLL to 258
The apps that count towards your social data are Facebook (Messenger), Spotify, and Twitter.
If you are not interested in calling or texting when in New Zealand, then you should consider Spark’s Data Lower Packs, which come with more data for “lower “prices. The Data Lower packs last for 28 days and are listed below:
- 20 NZD: 1.5 GB and 1 GB of social data. Activation: text BUY 20DATALOVER to 258.
- 40 NZD: 4.5 GB and 1 GB of social data. Activation: text BUY 20DATALOVER to 258.
If you do not care about social data, then you can get the following barebones Spark data packs that will last you 28 days:
- 3 NZD: 100 MB. Activation: text BUY 5DATA to 258.
- 15 NZD: 1 GB. Activation: text BUY 15DATA to 258.
- 20 NZD: 2 GB. Activation: text BUY 20DATA to 258.
If you only want to use a handful of social apps, such as Facebook (Messenger), Spotify, and Twitter, then you can buy the Spark Social Package for 9 NZD that comes with 1 GB for the 4 apps. You have to text BUY 9SOCIAL to 258 to activate the social package.
Do note that all the plans I have listed above auto-renew. If you will leave New Zealand within 28 days and have only topped enough to buy a single package, then you do not have to worry about the auto-renewal.
If you are staying for a prolonged period and do not feel like having the same plan again, replace BUY with END to deactivate your data pack. For example, if I want to end the 20 NZD 2 GB data pack, I would text END 20DATA to 258.
To check your balance, text BAL to 333.
If you need to change your Spark APN settings manually, then you need to add the following under APN: “internet”.
Vodafone New Zealand
Vodafone New Zealand, just Vodafone, is the second-largest telecom operator in New Zealand. Although Vodafone sold its brand to another company called Infratil in 2019, the Vodafone brand will remain intact.
Like Spark, Vodafone has an extensive network throughout the country, but their coverage is slightly worse than Spark.
My partner used Vodafone, their Travel SIM, when he was visiting New Zealand and had a good experience with it.
Vodafone sells 3 different starter packs. Vodafone Pay & Go, Vodafone My Flex Prepaid, and Vodafone NZ Travel SIM. The first two are sold for 2 NZD in various stores, including Vodafone stores, while the Travel SIM is sold at airports for at least 19 NZD.
The Vodafone My Flex Prepaid allows you to customize your plan to your liking. The plan will stay active for 28 days. You can add data, minutes, and SMS to your plan. The lowest amount of data is 250 MB and costs 13 NZD. The most you can get is 40 GB for 65 NZD. All plans come with 50 minutes and SMS included, but more can be added.
The whole set up may look intimidating at first, but it isnot. Let’s see the data allowances and the prices you will have to pay:
- 13 NZD: 250 MB
- 15 NZD: 500 MB
- 16 NZD: 1.25 GB
- 19 NZD: 1.5 GB
- 20 NZD: 1.75 GB
- 23 NZD: 2 GB
- 28 NZD: 2.5 GB
- 31 NZD: 4 GB
- 38 NZD: 8 GB
- 40 NZD: 10 GB
- 55 NZD: 25 GB
- 65 NZD: 40 GB
From here, you can add minutes to New Zealand (Kiwi) and Australian numbers:
- 0 NZD: 50 minutes (included already)
- 1 NZD: 200 minutes
- 4 NZD: 300 minutes
- 7 NZD: 400 minutes
- 9 NZD: 500 minutes
- 12 NZD: unlimited calls
Finally, you can add SMS:
- 0 NZD: 50 SMS (included already)
- 1 NZD: 500 SMS
- 2 NZD: unlimited SMS
Let’s have an example. I want 4 GB of data, no minutes because I will not be calling anyone while traveling in New Zealand, and unlimited SMS because I like to text a lot. I would pay 31 NZD for 4 GB, 0 NZD extra for 50 minutes because they are already included, and 2 NZD for unlimited SMS, which totals to 33 NZD.
To play around with the customization settings, you have to go to the Vodafone website and select the perks you want for your plan. The same can be done on the My Vodafone app. Go to Plan & Add-ons and select Manage my plan. Once you are done, press Buy now if you want to activate the plan now or Save changes if you adjusted your plan for the upcoming renewal.
You do need to have enough credit on your account for any of these plans to work. You can top-up online on the Vodafone website, the Vodafone app (both the site and app accept international credit cards), or buy vouchers in many stores throughout the country.
To check your balance, text MYADDONS to 756.
You can also get the Vodafone NZ Travel SIM, which is sold at airports. Although more expensive than Vodafone My Flex Prepaid, the travel SIM is cheaper than the standard data plans and comes with international minutes and SMS.
Besides, the Travel SIM allows for unlimited data usage on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest (the more expensive plans allow for unlimited data usage for more apps or all apps), which are referred to as social apps.
The following Vodafone NZ Travel SIM cards are sold:
- 29 NZD: 1.5 GB, 200 minutes & SMS to Kiwi and select international numbers and unlimited data usage for Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Viber, all valid for 30 days.
- 49 NZD: 5 GB, 200 minutes & SMS to Kiwi and select international numbers for 60 days. Unlimited data usage for all social apps for 30 days.
- 59 NZD: 10 GB, unlimited calls & SMS to Kiwi numbers, and 200 minutes and SMS to select international destinations for 60 days. Unlimited data usage for all social apps for 30 days.
- 99 NZD: 20 GB, unlimited calls & SMS to Kiwi numbers, and 200 minutes and SMS to select international destinations for 60 days. Unlimited data usage for all social apps for 30 days.
The select international destinations that are included in your plan are:
- Hong Kong
The countries listed with an “*” are not available with the 19 NZD plan.
When you are out of data, data usage will be shut off. You can buy 1 GB extra for 20 NZD, which is not worth it. But if you do want extra data, text BUY EXTRADATA to 756. Other data packs are available too, which will be listed in the next section.
The Vodafone Pay & Go is the base plan that comes without any allowance. This is actually the worst option because the data packs are so expensive compared to the other plans, including the plans for the Tourist SIM. The following add-on data packs can be added when you are out of data:
- 3 NZD: 300 MB for 1 day
- 6 NZD: 300 MB for 7 days
- 12 NZD: 500 MB for 30 days
- 20 NZD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 45 NZD: 2.5 GB for 30 days
These packs can be added through the Vodafone website or the My Vodafone app.
You can also buy the data-only SIM card that is marketed for tablets and routers, but you can use it for your phone too. The data-only SIM card is sold for 5 NZD (although these data plans are expensive for phones, they may be worth it for tablets). The following plans are available:
- 20 NZD: 500 MB for 30 days
- 30 NZD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 50 NZD: 3 GB for 3 months
- 80 NZD: 5 GB for 6 months
Finally, we have the Vodafone passes, which are the Social Pass, the Chat Pass, the Music Pass, and the Video Pass. They come with unlimited data usage for select apps.
The Vodafone Social pass comes with unlimited data usage for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter. They are sold for the following prices:
- 2 NZD: 2 days
- 5 NZD: 7 days
- 10 NZD: 28 days
The Vodafone Chat Pass can be used for unlimited Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Viber for the following prices and length:
- 1 NZD: 2 days
- 2 NZD: 7 days
- 5 NZD: 28 days
Then you have the Vodafone Music Pass for unlimited Spotify, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Rova, Tidal, and SoundCloud:
- 2 NZD: 2 days
- 5 NZD: 7 days
- 10 NZD: 28 days
Finally, we have the Video Pass for unlimited Netflix, Sky Go, Neon, Vodafone TV, Vevo, TVNZ OnDemand (unfortunately, no YouTube):
- 5 NZD: 2 days
- 10 NZD: 7 days
- 20 NZD: 28 days
You can buy any of these passes on the My Vodafone App. Click on the data allowance circle, press Plan & Add-Ons, go down to Passes, choose the pass you want, and press Buy.
2degrees (2°) is the smallest operator in New Zealand. It also has the “worst” coverage, especially in rural New Zealand on South Island. 2degrees customers can roam on the Vodafone network (3G) because of 2degrees’ roaming agreement with Vodafone. Their 4G/LTE network is not as great as the other two providers, but you will be fine in the bigger cities, many towns, and in the rural areas on North Island.
2degrees has no 2G network as of March 2018, which should not be a big concern if you were planning on using data (because 2G is too slow for modern web browsing), but that also means that your phone cannot fall back to 2G when there is no 3G or 4G/LTE around (which can affect calls and SMS). Luckily, compatible devices can use the WIFI calling feature. All WIFI calls will be charged at local rates, even if you are abroad.
2degrees SIM cards are sold in 2degrees stores for 5 NZD and in many supermarkets for 2 NZD (I would recommend finding your SIM card in a supermarket). You can also get the 19 NZD Combo Pack SIM in select stores. The combo pack gives you 1.25 GB and 200 minutes (to both Kiwi and Australian numbers) for 1 month. Recharge vouchers are sold in many stores, and you can top up online with a credit card.
The following monthly 2degrees data packs can be added:
- 10 NZD: 500 MB. Activation: text BUY 500MB to 233
- 20 NZD: 1 GB. Activation: text BUY 1GB to 233
- 50 NZD: 15 GB. Activation: text BUY 15GB to 233
- 99 NZD: 12 GB (for 6 months). Activation: text BUY ZONE 12GB to 233
The 99 NZD plan can only be used in Zone areas (which does not include areas covered by Vodafone.
All plans auto-renew. If you do not want to auto-renew your plan, replace BUY with STOP. For example, instead of BUY 15GB, I would text STOP 15GB to 233.
You can also get a 2degrees combo pack that includes minutes to Kiwi and Australian numbers and unlimited SMS. A combo pack can be activated by texting the activation code to 233. The following combo packs are available:
- 10 NZD: 650 MB and 100 minutes for 14 days. Activation: text BUY 10plan14D
- 10 NZD: 250 MB and 100 minutes for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 10plan1M
- 15 NZD: 1.25 GB and 150 minutes for 14 days. Activation: text BUY 15plan14D
- 19 NZD: 1.25 GB and 200 minutes for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 19plan1M
- 20 NZD: 2 GB and unlimited calls for 14 days. Activation: text BUY 20plan14D
- 30 NZD: 2.5 GB and 300 minutes for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 30plan1M
- 40 NZD: 4 GB and unlimited calls for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 40plan1M
- 55 NZD: 10 GB and unlimited calls for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 55plan1M
- 70 NZD: 25 GB and unlimited calls for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 70plan1M
- 85 NZD: 40 GB and unlimited calls for 1 month. Activation: text BUY 85plan1M
The 85 NZD plan is an unlimited data plan. After using 40 GB, your speed will be reduced to 1 Mbps for the remainder of the plan. 1 Mbps is slow, but you can still browse the web decently compared to 2G speeds.
Just like the regular data packs, combo packs auto-renew. Replace BUY with STOP to stop the auto-renewal. For example, if I want to stop the 20 NZD combo pack, I would text STOP 20plan14D to 233.
Also, if you have any minutes or data left when the plan renews, the allowance will roll-over to the new month. As most travelers do not stay in New Zealand for more than a month, you probably will not be taking advantage of this perk, but it is good to know.
Skinny Mobile is an MVNO that is owned by Spark. Spark started Skinny Mobile to compete with 2degrees because 2degrees is cheaper than Spark themselves. You can order your Skinny Mobile SIM card online to be delivered to your address in New Zealand or buy it in various stores, such as The Warehouse, JB HiFi, and Paper Plus.
A Skinny Mobile SIM card costs 2 NZD and comes with no credit. Recharge cards are sold in many stores throughout New Zealand. You can also top up online with a credit card.
The following Skinny combo plans are available. Minutes and SMS can be used to call and Australian and Kiwi (NZ) numbers unless stated otherwise. For example, if I only state “(NZ)”., then the minutes and SMS can only be used to calling or texting Kiwi numbers.
- 5 NZD: 100 MB, 60 minutes (NZ), and 750 SMS (NZ) for a week
- 9 NZD: 250 MB, 100 minutes, and unlimited SMS for 28 days
- 16 NZD: 1.25 GB, 200 minutes, and unlimited SMS for 28 days (with roll-over)
- 26 NZD: 2.5 GB, 300 minutes, and unlimited SMS for 28 days (with roll-over)
- 36 NZD: 4.5 GB and unlimited calls and SMS for 28 days (with roll-over)
- 46 NZD: 12 GB and unlimited calls and SMS for 28 days (with roll-over)
- 66 NZD: 30 GB and unlimited calls and SMS for 28 days (with roll-over)
- 77 NZD: 40 GB, reduced to 1 Mbps after full consumption, and unlimited calls and SMS for 28 days
The combos can be activated (and deactivated) online, and they auto-renew.
If you are out of data, then you can add one of the data add-ons:
- 4 NZD: 200 MB for 7 days
- 8 NZD: 600 MB for 7 days
- 10 NZD: 500 MB for 28 days (not for 5 NZD plan)
- 15 NZD: 1 GB for 28 days (not for 5 NZD and 9 NZD plans)
- 25 NZD: 2 GB for 28 days (not for 5 NZD and 9 NZD plans)
Just like the combos, the add-ons auto-renew if your combo pack auto-renews.
You can also get the Skinny Mobile NZ Holiday SIM card, which is aimed for travelers. It is sold in the Hub Convenience at Christchurch Airport and Paper Plus in Queenstown Airport. The SIM card comes in two variants:
- 26 NZD: 1.5 GB, 100 minutes and 200 SMS to NZ & AU numbers, and 100 international minutes for 14 days
- 46 NZD: 3 GB, 200 minutes & SMS to NZ & AU numbers, and 200 international minutes for 60 days
The international destinations are:
- Hong Kong
- The Netherlands
Warehouse Mobile is an MVNO that uses the 2degrees network. Warehouse Mobile SIM cards are only sold in Warehouse stores for 1 NZD that comes with 5 NZD in credit. You can also order it online and get it sent to your address in New Zealand. Once you have your SIM card, you have to dial 800 to activate it (follow the instructions given by the robot).
Recharge cards are sold from 5 NZD, but you can also top up online (with Visa cards only, unless you have a Kiwi credit card, then you can use MasterCard too). The following data packs, which are called Pick’n’go, are available for 31 days:
- 4 NZD: 500 MB. Activation: text Buy 4Data to 801
- 8 NZD: 1.4 GB. Activation: text Buy 8Data to 801
- 30 NZD: 4 GB. Activation: text Buy 30Data to 801
Unused data will roll over for up to 90 days.
Kogan Mobile New Zealand
Kogan Mobile New Zealand, just Kogan Mobile, is an MVNO using the Vodafone network. Kogan Mobile SIM cards have to be ordered online, which is why they are listed last. It is recommended that you pre-order your SIM card, as it can take a few days before you receive it in the mail.
All of Kogan Mobile’s plans include unlimited calls and SMS to New Zealand and Australia. All plans are to be bought on the Kogan website. Upon purchase, you get a voucher in your mailbox (email).
The Kogan Mobile plans are sold for 30, 90, and 365 days. The following monthly plans are available:
- 18 NZD: 1.5 GB
- 34 NZD: 4 GB
- 57 NZD: 15 GB (often sold for 5 NZD during promotions)
- 70 NZD: 32 NZD
The following plans are available for 90 days. Prices are advertised per 30 days, but you pay 90 days in advance:
- 50.70 NZD (17 NZD/month): 4.5 GB (1.5 GB/month)
- 91.50 NZD (30.50 NZD/month): 12 GB (4 GB/month)
- 153.60 NZD (51.20 NZD/month): 45 GB (15 GB/month)
- 188.70 NZD (63 NZD/month): 96 GB (32 GB/month)
Finally, you have the yearly plans, which are interesting for those staying in New Zealand for a year (like backpackers or those on a New Zealand Working Holiday):
- 181.30 NZD (14.90 NZD/month): 18 GB (1.5 GB/month)
- 343.10 NZD (28.20 NZD/month): 48 GB (4 GB/month)
- 575.50 NZD (47.30 NZD/month): 180 GB (15 GB/month)
- 708.10 NZD (58.20 NZD/month): 384 GB (32 GB/month)
Do note that if you are out of data with the 3-month or yearly plans, you will not be able to use data until your plan “renews” or replenishes. If you want more data, you would either need to wait until the plan replenishes (every 30 days) or buy a new data plan. You can, unfortunately, not get the data for the upcoming month earlier.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in New Zealand
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in New Zealand
Getting a SIM card from Spark would do you well when considering a Kiwi SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other Oceanian Countries
Visiting other countries in Oceania? Check out my Oceania SIM card buying guide, covering other Oceanian nations, such as:
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:
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Learn About Your Phone Travel Options
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