About the New Zealand Dollar
Yes, you read that correctly: the currency in the Cook Islands is actually the New Zealand Dollar also known as “NZD” or “NZ$”. The Cook Islands is a self-governing state in association with New Zealand. As the cost for the Cook Islands to have its own currency would be astronomical, it uses New Zealand’s instead, as well as issuing its own fun and unusually-shaped coins and banknotes that can also (and only) be used in the Cook Islands.
In this guide to the currency of the Cook Islands, we will go over money tips, currency exchange, the tax system, the banking system and even the money culture so you know what to expect when it comes to your money in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
What are the Cook Island Coins?!
As we’ve already established, the official currency of the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar but you’ll soon realise that you are handed back odd-shaped coins as change when paying with cash in the Cook Islands. Why?
The Cook Islands issues its own banknotes and coins. The Cook Islands banknotes are rarer, especially the unusual Aitutaki $3 note that has become something of a collector’s item. But you are highly likely to rack up Cook Islands coins coming in unusual shapes, like the triangle $2 coin and $5 dodecagon. Note, however, that you can only spend Cook Islands dollars in the Cook Islands and you won’t be able to exchange them once you leave.
We have a few tips on what to do with them before you leave in our guide, Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips.
Cook Islands Currency Values
The Cook Islands uses both New Zealand Dollars and Cook Islands notes and coins. They are split into the following values:
New Zealand Coins
The Cook Islands uses New Zealand Dollars so the New Zealand Dollar coin values are: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, $1 and $2.
New Zealand Bank Notes
Sticking with the New Zealand Dollar, the New Zealand notes have a value of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
Cook Islands Coins
The Cook Islands also issues its own coins that can be used in the Cook Islands but cannot be exchanged overseas. The Cook Islands coin values are: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, $1, $2 and $5.
Cook Islands Bank Notes
They also issue their own bank notes. The Cook Islands banknote values are: $3, $10, $20 and $50.
Cook Islands Currency Culture
In this section, we will cover a few aspects of the money culture in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, as a couple of things may be different from back home.
Tipping in the Cook Islands
Although it is always appreciated, tipping is not mandatory in the Cook Islands. Tipping is mostly reserved for outstanding service and it is absolutely up to you to decide to tip and to choose the value. Check out Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers for more information.
Cash or Card?
Most stores, restaurants and accommodations in Rarotonga and Aitutaki accept foreign credit and debit cards as long as they have a four-digit PIN encoded and are Visa or MasterCard. There are some minor instances where you’ll only be able to pay with cash, such as at markets and on the bus. You can, however, make withdrawals of New Zealand Dollars at ATMs in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, while there are also currency exchange bureaus on these islands.
Note that you will only be able to pay with cash in the other outer islands. Learn more about how to pay using our guide, What is the Best Way to Pay in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Swedish Rounding/Cash Rounding
Because the smallest coin that the New Zealand Dollar offers is 10 cents, all prices will be rounded up or down to the nearest 10 cents. If you are using a credit or debit card, however, Swedish rounding does not happen, as you will pay the exact price.
Currency Exchange in the Cook Islands
Currency can be exchanged in banks and local currency exchange outlets in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Local exchange rates tend to be better than what’s found overseas, except in New Zealand. Find out more in The Best Places to Exchange Currency in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
There are no restrictions on how much cash you can bring into the Cook Islands, but you will need to declare, complete a cash reporting form and pay duty on more than NZ$10,000 through Customs. Find out more in What to Declare When Arriving in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
When withdrawing money from an ATM in the Cook Islands, the money will be in New Zealand Dollars. ATMs are available in Rarotonga and Aitutaki in locations listed in Information, Shops & Services on Rarotonga and Information, Shops & Services on Aitutaki.
What are the Exchange Rates Like for the New Zealand Dollar?
The New Zealand Dollar has quite an advantageous exchange rate when compared to the US, Canadian or Australian Dollar, so if exchanging from these currencies, your holiday just got a little cheaper. Learn more about exchange rates for the New Zealand Dollar in our guide, Is Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Expensive?
Banking and ATMs in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands’ banks are open between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday. You will find a variety of banks on Rarotonga, including the Bank of the Cook Islands (BCI), Back of the South Pacific (BSP) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). Outside of Rarotonga, you have BCI and BSP on Aitutaki and only BCI on the outer islands with a few convenience stores acting as BSP agents. Note that only the banks on Rarotonga and Aitutaki deal in foreign exchange; the banks on the outer islands only deal in local banking.
ATMs are only available in Rarotonga and Aitutaki; not on the other outer islands. Most international credit or debit cards will work in ATMs as long as your card has a four-digit pin code and they are Visa or MasterCard. We recommend letting your bank know before visiting the Cook Islands so that they don’t lock your card for being used overseas.
For details on banks and ATMs across all of the islands, start with our Information, Shops & Services in the Cook Islands.
Taxes in the Cook Islands
There are a limited number of taxes in the Cook Islands that are likely to affect visitors, including Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Departure Tax.
Value Added Tax
All goods and services purchased in the Cook Islands are subject to a 15% Value Added Tax known as VAT. The VAT of a purchase is typically included in the advertised price unless stated otherwise.
The Cook Islands Departure Tax is included in your flight ticket price and is not collected at the airport. International passengers are charged NZ$71.77 for Departure Tax from the Cook Islands.
Learn more about the taxes in the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Currency of the Cook Islands
What are the most asked questions about the currency in the Cook Islands? Find out here and get your own Cook Islands currency questions answered!
Do the Cook Islands Have Their Own Currency?
The official currency of the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar but the Cook Islands also issue their own banknotes and coins that can only be used in the Cook Islands.
What is a Cook Island Dollar Worth?
A Cook Island Dollar is worth NZ$1, which is equal to approximately AU$0.91 and US$0.63.
What Currency is Currently Used in the Cook Islands?
The currency currently used in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar.
What Money Do You Use in Rarotonga?
The money you use in Rarotonga is New Zealand Dollars, as well as Cook Islands-issued banknotes and coins.
More About the Cook Islands Currency
That’s it for our complete guide to the currency of the Cook Islands but that’s by no means the end of our money advice! Check out the following guides for more tips:
- 20 Tips to Save Money in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- What is the Best Way to Pay in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
- How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Finally, plan your entire budget for your trip using How Much Does a Trip to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Cost?