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. Surprisingly, traveller’s cheques are still redeemable in Tonga’s banks. As for other payment methods, you can leave the travel money card at home. Find out more about each way to pay in Tonga in the guide below.
For more money advice, see 10 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in 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”.
Coins come in values of $1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.
Notes come in values of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5.
See our complete articles on What is the Currency in Tonga? for more information.
Cash (Tongan Pa’anga)
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.
ATMs in Tonga
Plan where you are going to withdraw cash from, as ATMs are only available at Fua’amotu Airport, Nuku’alofa, Neiafu (Vava’u), Pangai (Ha’apai) and ‘Ohonua (‘Eua). If going elsewhere, take enough cash with you for your entire stay. Check out How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Tonga? for an idea of typical prices and budgeting tips.
Foreign Exchange Bureaus
Foreign exchange bureaus are more just as abundant in Tonga than ATMs, with exchange bureaus found at Fua’amotu Airport, Nuku’alofa, Neiafu, ‘Ohonua and Pangai. In our experience, the local exchange bureaus offer better exchange rates than exchange bureaus overseas in New Zealand and Australia, for instance.
Credit and Debit Cards
For ease and security, paying by credit or debit card is a popular payment option for most travellers. However, using credit cards in Tonga is very limited with only around 200 electronic payment outlets in the country. In short, most businesses only accept cash.
However, for the 200 outlets in Tonga that do accept credit card, here are a few things you need to know.
Which Credit/Debit Cards are Accepted in Tonga?
Typically, Visa and MasterCard are accepted in Tonga.
Credit/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.
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 bank. 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 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday and some with limited hours on a Saturday.
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.
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.