Posted by: Vallere | May 13, 2011

Friday’s Flipside Five: Currency

Today’s FFF will be all about the differences between American and Kiwi currency. Not just what it looks like (because there are enough differences there to do a whole FFF post), but also on how it works when you want to buy something.

1) The Look

New Zealand money is hands down prettier and more interesting than American money. It is more colorful, it has nifty see-through bits, and it has pictures of not just famous people and buildings, but also of native plants and animals.

2) Change You Can Believe In

While America has pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters, New Zealand has 5 different coins, and only one of those has an American counterpart. Kiwis have ten cent, twenty cent, fifty cent, $1 and $2 coins. There used to be a five cent coin as well, but it has fallen out of circulation. The coins, like the notes, are visually interesting. While each features HRH on the face, the reverse has a picture straight from Kiwi culture. The $2 has a Great Egret, the $1 has a Kiwi and a silver fern leaf, the $0.50 has the boat Endeavour and Taranaki, the $0.20 has a Maori carving of Pukaki and the $0.10 has a Maori warrior head.

3) Why no pennies and nickles?

Because all the prices in NZ are rounded to the nearest ten cent. Fantastic!

4) But but…what about tax??

 You don’t have to worry about tax when you pay for something. The price you see on the sticker is the price you pay. Tax is already added in and accounted for. And this is for everything. No more wondering whether a certain item at the grocery store will hit you with a food tax versus an item tax. No more thinking you got a great deal on a hotel room only to be sucker punched with a huge tax on checkout. What you see is what you pay. This might be one of my top 10 things that I love about NZ!

5) Orderly 

 All of the Kiwi notes are sized to make them easy to find. I’m not sure if it was done specifically to help those with visual impairment, or if it was done just to help keep people from grabbing a $50 thinking they had a $5, but the effect is beneficial in both cases. The notes get incrementally shorter as the value goes down. You can see this in the photo at the top…the $100 note is longer and wider than the $50 note, which is longer and wider than the $20, and so on.

Their coins make tons more sense than American coins, as well. For example, back when the five cent was still being used, it and the ten cent coins were copper colored, with the five cent coin being smaller than the ten cent coin. The twenty and fifty are both silver, with the twenty cent being smaller than the fifty cent. The $1 and $2 coins are gold, with the $1 coin being smaller than the $2 coin. Simple. Orderly. Makes me wonder who on earth decided that an American nickel should be bigger than a dime.


Well, that’s it for this week! If there is any topic you’d like me to cover in an FFF, or just in a random post, please let me know. The longer I live here, the less things are sticking out to me as “different”, so I almost feel like I’m going to run out of ideas for FFFs! 

Also, please pass the blog link along to any friends who might be interested in what life is like in New Zealand, and please keep leaving comments! Hearing from friends back home is such a boost for me!



  1. Totally cool post. I love it!

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