Payment cards have become ubiquitous in New Zealand, with many people using them as their preferred payment method. They facilitate faster and safer digital money transfers at payment terminals, ATMs, online, and over the phone. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the difference between two distinctive cards: EFTPOS vs Debit cards. We often use the names of these two types of cards interchangeably but there are some key distinctions that are important to understand from both a merchant and consumer’s perspective.

EFTPOS vs Debit: Key Differences

EFTPOS stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale. The word ‘EFTPOS’ is used very broadly and loosely in New Zealand. It is a name widely used in New Zealand and Australia when referring to in-person card payments (EFTPOS cards, Debit cards and credit cards). Other countries use their own brand names to refer to the same funds transfer system, such as NETS (Singapore). As a society, we also use the word ‘EFTPOS’ to refer to the terminals that take payments. In this blog, any reference to EFTPOS cards means the basic form of card payment issued by banks and offering very elementary payment options (also known as Domestic EFTPOS).

EFTPOS Cards (Domestic EFTPOS)

EFTPOS Cards enable cardholders to make purchases or obtain cash from two sources: an EFTPOS terminal and withdrawals from an ATM. Basically, these are physical or face-to-face transactions and require a PIN number, and uniquely, can only be used in the country they were issued. They are the most basic form of electronic/card payment and are great as an entry level payment option for children as young as 10 years old. An EFTPOS card cannot be used with PayWave. For this reason, they are declining in popularity as more vendors opt for e-commerce/online payment platforms and/or contactless payments in bricks and mortar stores.

Debit Cards

Debit card cardholders can access funds in their account through EFTPOS terminals (including PayWave), ATMs, over-the-phone payments, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and via e-commerce. Unlike EFTPOS cards, transactions can take place without face to face and physical interaction. Debit card numbers can also be supplied to a merchant by a cardholder to service direct debit agreements. Anyone 15 years of age or older may apply for a Debit card. 

EFTPOS vs Debit cards


There are now over 85,000 merchants with more than 170,000 EFTPOS terminals across New Zealand. The closure of bank branches (or reduction in opening hours) has resulted in less cash being withdrawn and deposited and cash is not circulating in our economy as it used to. Carrying a card of some description is now an absolute necessity.

EFTPOS cards and Debit cards are similar in that they only access funds in a transactional or savings account without drawing on credit and there is no ability to spend beyond the limits of the account balance. The greatest benefit of both cards is that the merchant does not get charged for merchant services fee when these cards are swiped or inserted. If a Debit card is used for payWave however, this incurs merchant fees. (Contact your bank for the latest rates).

Schools, fundraisers, and charities will often approach Eftpos Now and stipulate that they will only accept Debit and EFTPOS cards so that they avoid merchant fees. Similarly, the cardholder is also not surcharged because they are not using PayWave nor using a credit card. 

One of the easiest ways to differentiate between an EFTPOS card and a Debit card is by checking the card brand. Most EFTPOS cards are branded with the name of the card-issuing bank, such as BNZ or Westpac. When you swipe an EFTPOS card, you are only given the transaction options of savings (SAV) or cheque (CHQ) and there is no chip embedded in the card. Debit cards in New Zealand are issued on either Visa or Mastercard schemes. This means that they are widely accepted but unlike credit cards, have limited fraud protection.

An EFTPOS card is sometimes issued by banks as a back-up card that has access to the bank account that your Debit card is linked to. This is handy when the bank detects fraudulent activity and cancels a Debit card. Waiting for a replacement Debit card is inconvenient but having the EFTPOS card as a backup provides an alternative means of accessing funds whilst the bank issues the new Debit card. 

In New Zealand credit card transactions outnumber Debit card and EFTPOS card transactions however statistics show that the percentage of New Zealanders using Debit and EFTPOS cards increased from 34.9% in December 2016 to 39.5% in June 2020. It does not necessarily mean that we are becoming averse to using credit facilities, because there is still a big uptake in ‘buy now, pay later’ apps such as Laybuy and Afterpay.

Debit cards


  • Helpful when trying to stick to a budget because there’s no risk of overspending.
  • Great for shopping online.
  • You can use them overseas, as they are widely accepted.
  • No interest is charged on your account.
  • Easy access to cash from ATMs.
  • Easy to apply for.
  • Great for people with a poor credit rating.
  • Immediate visibility of transactions.
  • Can be connected to alternative payment methods like Google Pay or Apple Pay.


  • Some banks may charge extra fees, like monthly service charges or transaction fees.
  • You can be surcharged for a contactless/PayWave transaction.
  • You can’t improve your credit score.
  • No rewards points.
  • Lower levels of fraud protection.
  • No opportunity to spread large purchases over several months.
  • Skimming or card reader fraud takes the funds directly out of your bank account.
  • No access to money if there is nothing in your account.
  • Some fees – although many cards do not charge annual fees, you may have to pay other fees in specific circumstances, such as overdraft fees and international transaction fees.
  • Recurring payments by merchants will be immediate, even if you have a dispute or have cancelled your membership (e.g., gym fees).

Interesting card developments

  • Braille feature – for blind or low vision customers.
  • Recycled plastic.
  • A choice of designs including the rainbow card to symbolise inclusion.
  • Numbers that are more legible.
  • Cards that operate in both portrait and landscape.


In conclusion, EFTPOS Cards and Debit Cards offer a lot of benefits, including convenience, security, and portability. However, they also have some drawbacks, such as limited functionality and capped spending. With debit cards, EFTPOS cards and credit cards dominating payment methods in New Zealand, having a preferred card or combination of each, increases your ability to be versatile and intentional with your spending.

Discover the convenience of working with Eftpos Now. Enjoy 24/7 support and cost-effective rates. Call us now for purchase or rental options on 0800 33 33 04 or visit our EFTPOS terminals page to learn more.