One of the big things we utilise our Bartercard membership for is travel. Bartercard is only available in a limited number of countries, and outside of Australia, New Zealand is one of the bigger ones. This makes it perfect for use when travelling. There are, however, a few caveats that Bartercard won’t tell you. Ironically because they either don’t know or don’t actually understand the problems that exist with the network when you are trading between Australia and New Zealand. It took me a great deal of pushing to finally come up with solutions to some of these issues, and if you are aware of them in advance, you can plan for them so they aren’t a problem.
In New Zealand, most merchants use EFTPOS terminals for Bartercard transactions
In Australia, very few EFTPOS terminal providers have ever been compatible with Bartercard and right now I don’t believe any of them are compatible. That means in Australia we are used to processing all our transactions using the trade vouchers, the mobile app, or the MyBC website.
In New Zealand though, they are much more advanced. Bartercard is compatible with pretty much every EFTPOS terminal provider in New Zealand. This means that most merchants only process transactions this way. Why? It’s so much simpler, especially for staff training, because it’s no different to processing a credit or debit card.
We encountered very few Bartercard members who knew how to process transactions any other way. Rather than making Bartercard a seamless experience this created some big problems for us.
Australian Bartercard cards don’t work in New Zealand EFTPOS terminals
It turns out that while Bartercard is much more usable and accessible in New Zealand, the EFTPOS terminals cannot process Australian cards.
The net result is primarily employees looking confused and unsure about what to do next because they aren’t trained or even aware of any other ways to process Bartercard transactions.
If you contact Bartercard about it, they will just tell you it’s all good, just pay using the app or trade vouchers. This is an ok discussion to have if you are dealing with the owner, but if they aren’t available, our experience was that everywhere outside of New Plymouth, employees didn’t know what we were talking about, nor did most of the owners we spoke to. Also, the app requires mobile data so if there is no wifi you need to be roaming or have purchased a New Zealand sim card.
We found that hotels/motels were typically more likely to know how to use MyBC or vouchers to process transactions, or to at least have processes in place for employees to get all the details and either the duty manager or owner would process it later. This was not always the case though and we did encounter one hotel, in particular, that would not entertain any other payment options, it was either through the EFTPOS terminal or cash. We encountered a number of others that also were not aware of the issue and didn’t know how to process the payment any other way.
Bartercard trade vouchers aren’t a solution
The next recommendation from Bartercard is, of course, to drop into a trade office and pick up a trade voucher book, because every merchant can process Australian cards that way with no problems.
Except, however, that most of the owners we spoke to had never even seen a trade voucher let alone knew what they were. Employees even less so. Owners were sometimes willing to learn, once they confirmed with Bartercard that they are in fact a legitimate method of payment. In most cases though, we’re talking a half hour conversation with the owner followed by them calling Bartercard. So this can easily kill your schedule.
Employees are generally suspicious. The first place we visited on Bartercard was The Hop Garden. This is where we first discovered the problem. They had confirmed in advance that Bartercard was fine, however, it turned out no one knew how to process it any other way so they required us to pay cash instead.
We found one restaurant out of all the Bartercard businesses we visited (excluding New Plymouth) that was willing to give the vouchers a go. The only problem was, it turns out they had no record of their Bartercard number, the 24-hour Bartercard authorisations line can’t give it to you, and it was outside of trade office hours so they couldn’t call their trade office either. Also, the owner was overseas and unreachable.
We spent over an hour with the duty manager that night trying to get it processed. With only one waiter and bartender on besides himself that night, there was a backlog of food coming from the kitchen, and a delay on drinks coming from the bar. It was starting to upset other people and we felt pretty awful. Not to mention, it was getting pretty late. Finally, they decided since the 24-hour authorisations line had confirmed the vouchers are legitimate, they would take it with our details and process the payment when the owner got back. We had a voucher with us so we filled it out with all our details. We also left all our contact info. 6 weeks later, the payment still hasn’t been processed.
Solution: Bartercard gift cards
In New Zealand, you can purchase Bartercard gift cards using your trade dollars. These gift cards work in the New Zealand EFTPOS terminals and behave just like any other Bartercard card. This is the best solution we were able to find.
There are limitations though.
- Bartercard gift cards have a $500 limit.
- You can only get 1 gift card per person in a 12-month period.
Bartercard New Zealand was willing to load $1000 onto our gift cards and issue us two cards, one for me and one for my wife.
The caveats here were that it was not made clear to us (and yes I’ve checked all of our communications) that you can’t get more than 1 gift card per person in a 12-month period. It was only when we ran out 2 weeks out from the end of our trip and wanted to pick up just one more card that we were told that would be an issue. If we had been advised of that clearly, we would have used them differently and skipped a few of the things we did so that they would last us through.
Now, the gift cards did come with a terms and conditions sheet, which I skimmed over. So there probably was something about the 1 card per person limit in there, but it’s not something you expect given you can buy thousands of dollars in gift cards for supermarkets or department stores over the counter without issue. Apparently, there are anti-money laundering laws in New Zealand which are why this limit is in place. Again, odd given how many gift cards I could buy for New World or Farmers without anyone caring. Also odd given the solution is identity verification, which Bartercard Australia has already done, yet Bartercard New Zealand won’t accept that, even though they then send your ID back to Bartercard Australia to do the verification anyway. What? Yeah, I thought so too.
When you land in New Zealand, head to the nearest Bartercard office and let them know you want to buy a gift card for each person. If you think you will need more than the limit, let them know you are just visiting and since Australian cards don’t work in the EFTPOS terminals, ask them if it is possible to put $1000 on the cards instead. They may do it for you if you push for it.
Plan to use your Australian Bartercard as much as possible for accommodation providers as they are the most likely to know how to process cards online or with trade vouchers. Make sure to let them know before you arrive that it is an Australian card though and that they don’t work in the EFTPOS terminals.
Just use the gift card in places where it is higher traffic and they are less likely to have foreign cards come through, for example, restaurants, cafes and stores.