What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?(c) tongapocketguide.com
What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?

What is the Best Way to Pay in Tonga?

(c) tongapocketguide.com

The Best Payment Methods for Tonga

How should you pay for things in Tonga? Everyone has their preferences when it comes to paying for things overseas with a new currency. However, options are limited when it comes to making payments in Tonga. Cash is the most common and often only accepted payment method in Tonga so withdrawing a few hundred Tongan Pa’anga is essential. Credit and debit cards will get you some way in Tonga, with electronic payment slowly becoming popular. Other forms of payment in Tonga are scarce. Regardless, we compare all of the ways to pay in Tonga in this guide.

How much will you spend in Tonga? Find out in our complete guide, How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Tonga?

Currency in Tonga

First things first, you need to know the currency in Tonga. Tonga uses the Tongan Pa’anga, usually referred to as “TOP” or seen written as “TOP” or TOP$”. Cents are referred to “seniti” and dollars are referred to as “pa’anga” and written with a dollar ($) symbol.

Coins come in values of, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢ and $1.

Notes come in values of $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

See our complete article on What is the Currency in Tonga? for more information.

What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?(c) tongapocketguide.com

Cash (Tongan Pa’anga and Seniti)

Cash is by far the most accepted payment method in Tonga, and very often, the only accepted payment method. For this reason, we recommend to always have cash available. However, like anywhere in the world, most travellers don’t like to travel with all the cash they will need for one holiday for obvious security reasons.

So how can you get cash out in Tonga? We recommend withdrawing and/or exchanging cash every few days, where possible. On the other hand, you don’t want to make separate withdrawals too often to save on withdrawal fees. It’s also best to withdraw as much cash as you’ll need for your entire stay on islands with no ATMs, like ‘Eua, Uoleva Island (Ha’apai), etc.

Get an idea of how much money to have available each day by using our guide, How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Tonga?

How to Get Tongan Pa’anga in Tonga

There are less than 20 ATMs in Tonga so it’s a good idea to plan where you are going to withdraw cash from. ATMs are only available at Fua’amotu Airport, Nuku’alofa, Neiafu (Vava’u), and Pangai (Ha’apai). If going elsewhere, take enough cash with you for your entire stay.

You can withdraw Tongan Pa’anga from ATMs using overseas debit and credit cards (BSP ATMs accept Visa, Cirrus, BSP PacifiCard and sometimes MasterCard, American Express, UnionPay, Plus Card and JCB) but note there will be foreign exchange fees applied by your bank, as well as a withdrawal fee of around TOP$8-$15 from the ATM.

Another way to get Tongan Pa’anga in Tonga is to exchange currency at the local banks or currency exchange bureaus. Banks can be found in Nuku’alofa (Tongatapu), Neiafu (Vava’u), Pangai (Ha’apai) and Angaha (‘Eua). On the other hand, foreign exchange bureaus are more abundant in Tonga, particularly in villages around Tongatapu, as well as the towns listed above. Compare all of your foreign exchange options using The Best Places to Exchange Currency in Tonga.

What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?© TongaPocketGuide.com

Credit and Debit Cards

For ease and security, paying by credit or debit card is a popular payment option for most travellers. However, using bank cards in Tonga is very limited with only around 700 electronic payment outlets in the country. In short, most businesses only accept cash.

However, for the 700+ outlets in Tonga that do accept credit and debit cards, here are a few things you need to know.

Which Credit and Debit Cards are Accepted in Tonga?

Typically, Visa is the most accepted brand of credit and debit card in Tonga, as long as they have a four-digit PIN code. Some vendors also accept MasterCard, BSP PacifiCard, Cirrus, JCB, Union, Plus Card and American Express.

Credit and Debit Card Charges

Your credit/debit card’s issuing bank will likely have a fee for a “foreign currency service”, which is typically 1-3% of the transaction in your home currency. This fee is often also applied when using an ATM in Tonga. Plus, many Tongan businesses apply a credit card fee of 4-5% on each transaction. ATM withdrawal fees for overseas credit cards tend to be TOP$8-$15 per withdrawal. Needless to say, using a credit or debit card can be an expensive form of payment is used frequently.

Learn more about using a bank card to pay your way through Tonga in our guide, Can You Use Your Credit or Debit Card in Tonga? Plus, check out other potential fees experienced while travelling in our Tonga Tax & Tipping Guide for Travellers.

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Telegraphic Transfer (Overseas Money Transfer)

That’s right. Due to limited payment options for Tongan businesses to accept payments from overseas, which may be done when booking tours, transport and accommodation before arrival, it is common for Tongan tourism operators to accept overseas money transfers (also known as telegraphic transfers).

The two main ways to send money to Tonga are via your bank’s telegraphic transfer service or through a foreign exchange broker/money transfer service, such as XE Money or Western Union. The latter tends to offer better exchange rates and a lower commission compared to the exchange rates and transfer fees charged by banks.

To send money to Tonga, you’ll need a few details from your recipient, such as the bank account name, bank account number, Swift code, bank branch name and address, and the recipient’s physical address.

More details on how to transfer money overseas can be found in a guide on our sister website, NZPocketGuide.com, How to Send Money Overseas from New Zealand, with much of the information applicable to those from different countries.

What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?© TongaPocketGuide.com

Traveller’s Cheques

While traveller’s cheques are getting harder and harder to redeem around the world, Tonga’s banks still accept them, giving travellers an alternative option for withdrawing local currency in Tonga.

Banks in Tonga

Tonga has three commercial banks, including Bank of the South Pacific (BSP), ANZ and MBf. There is also the Tonga Development Bank (TDB) and the National Reserve Bank of Tonga (NRBT). All of the banking groups have head offices in Nuku’alofa, with other offices and sub-branches in some of Tonga’s main towns.

Banks in Tonga are open with variable hours between 9 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday.

Can You Redeem Traveller’s Cheques Elsewhere?

According to the Ministry of Tourism of Tonga, traveller’s cheques are redeemable in some shops and accommodations. However, it’s best to assume that most shops and accommodations don’t, so we would not rely on this payment method other than to redeem currency at banks.

What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?© TongaPocketGuide.com

Travel Prepaid Cards/Travel Money Cards

In short, you will struggle to find a travel prepaid card, otherwise known as a travel money card, that has Tongan Pa’anga as a currency choice.

If you have purchased a travel prepaid card to use for other countries around the world, know that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to use it in Tonga. The next best alternative is a credit card if you’re looking for the same security a travel prepaid card offers.

More About the Best Way to Pay in Tonga

That’s it for our complete guide on the best ways to pay in Tonga. For more money tips, check out our other awesome guides:

Finally, plan your entire trip with frugality in mind with The Backpacking & Budget Travel Guide to Tonga.


Robin (Lopini) C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with the Ministry of Tourism of Tonga. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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