Want the best prepaid SIM card for your iPhone, Android device, Windows Phone, iPad, tablet or pocket 3G-wifi device in New Zealand?
Avoid costly trans-Tasman roaming fees on Telstra, Vodafone or Optus, and pick up one of AusBT's roadtested SIM card recommendations for your business trip.
Regular SIMs, microSIMs (for iPhone 4, 4S, iPads and many newer Android devices) and nanoSIMs for your iPhone 5 are fairly available.
For the business traveller looking for a prepaid SIM, the real choice is between NZ Telecom's XT 3G network and upstart 2degrees. A price war between the two has yielded new great deals over recent months.
(Third option Vodafone NZ is about as good as its Australian counterpart -- not very. The network's weak and the pricing isn't competitive, so we don't recommend it, but note that Vodafone AU has some relatively inexpensive data roaming bundles in NZ)
All three major telcos (Telecom, 2degrees and Vodafone) have basic prepaid SIMs available -- but the real value and convenience comes when you add on one of the prepaid bundles that comes with minutes, texts and data for $19 (A$16) or a big slug of extra data.
Don't forget -- you'll need to make sure your phone is "unlocked" from your network before it'll work with another network's SIM! For more on that, check out our article outlining everything you need to know about getting a local SIM for your phone.
How NZ prepaid SIMs work
Things work a little differently in NZ than they do back home in Australia.
You buy your SIM in standard, micro and nano variants. Telecom's SIMs are $5 (A$4), while 2degrees' SIMs are $10 (A$8).
(Vodafone's cost $30 (A$24), but that includes the first month of your minutes, texts & data add-on.)
Once you have your SIM, you can use the basic pay-as-you-go rates:
- 2degrees: 44c a minute and 9c a text (same rates to Australia), 50c per MB of data. Calling rates halved to 22c a minute if you top up once every 30 days.
- Telecom: 44c a minute and 20c a text (91c a minute and 30c texts to Australia), $1 per day for up to 10MB of data, then $1 per extra MB on the same day.
- Vodafone: 49c a minute and 12c a text (to Australia), $1 per day for up to 10MB of data, then $1 per extra MB on the same day.
It's all about the bundles
But it makes much more sense for smartphone users or anyone looking for mobile data to get one of the add-on bundles.
The add-on bundles are either pure data or a mix of minutes, texts and data. They auto-renew if your account is in credit, unless you instruct your provider otherwise. You can add extra data bundles on as well, with some limits -- check out the terms and conditions for more.
We've outlined the best bundles -- for smartphone users and for people who need gigabytes of data -- below.
If you're picking up your SIM in a 2degrees or Telecom store, ask them to activate the bundle you want then and there. You'll need to credit your account beforehand, so it's a little convoluted to do over the phone.
Pick Telecom for at-the-airport convenience too: there's a store in Auckland Airport's international terminal arrivals area.
2degrees' Auckland Airport shop is outside the terminals, near the Ibis Budget hotel (previously the Formula 1 hotel) -- convenient enough if you're driving, but not if you're taking the airport bus or a cab.
Best smartphone bundle for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone
Both networks have a decent $19 (A$15) pay-as-you-go combo pack, great for smartphones (and even tablets).
Telecom's $19 Big Value Pack gives you 60 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of data.
2degrees' $19 Combo Packs include one for 50 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of data, or 30 minutes/3000 texts and 600MB data. (Bonus: 22c per minute calls to Australia if you top up once a month. Check with the store for details and conditions.)
(Network number three, Vodafone, has a similar smartphone $19 plan for 50 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of data, if you really want to be on Vodafone's poor network.)
Best data bundles for mobile data
2 degrees is far in the lead here: 1GB for $20 (A$16) 3GB for $50 (A$40), 12GB for $99 (A$79).
That 12GB deal is too good to pass up, especially when you take into account that you can avoid getting rorted by hotel Internet packages every night.
Note that this is only valid in the city areas where 2degrees operates -- although this is now most of populated New Zealand. We roadtested it in Wellington and have no complaints.
Telecom offers add-on data bundles, useful if you're heading out into rural NZ and need some Internet: 2GB for NZ$50 (A$40), but up to a max of 4GB per month.
Whether you're slipping a SIM into your pocket wifi/mifi device, laptop or USB dongle, 2degrees is definitely the way to go unless you're heading out into rural New Zealand, where 2degrees' coverage isn't as wide as Telecom's coverage.
Some more for your bookmarks...
Among Australian Business Traveller's extensive expert roadtested guides that help you get online when you're on the road, check out:
- The best SIM cards for France: Orange or SFR
- Telecom NZ's world-beating $10/day roaming option for monthly contracts
- Review: Droam's global roaming pocket wifi hotspots
- We roadtest Singapore's best local SIM card for data: Starhub
- How to turn your iPhone or iPad into a wireless hotspot
- Take advantage of new "Euroaming" SIMs in the UK to get online across Europe
For more expert guides to getting online when you're travelling, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.