How to Dine for Free in New Zealand

Budget travellers have to make sacrifices to fulfil their dream of world travel. When saving for your trip you’ll have to forgo that daily coffee, eating out, the latest phone and so on. Once you finally have enough to begin your trip it is necessary to budget carefully on the road too. Eating and drinking out, in ‘western’ countries at least, is a luxury most backpackers and budget travellers can rarely afford. They say time is money, but for backpackers the reverse is true – Money is time: more time on the road, that is.

However, if you visit New Zealand on your travels there’s a way to eat and drink out for free. That’s nothing. Zero. Nada. Diddly squat… Well, 20 cents for a text actually. As close to free as can be. Read on.

Several months ago I had just begun working in Chapel bar in Auckland when a chap came in and ordered some food and a drink. I rang it through and it came to $34. When I asked for payment he produced two codes on his cell phone. I was bewildered and asked my manager for assistance.  

She took the customer’s phone, checked the codes on a tablet beside the till and served him. He walked away with a beer and a number, awaiting his food. He didn’t pay a cent. My curiosity was naturally piqued.

It transpired that the Chapel Bar participates in a New Zealand-wide loyalty scheme called Eftplus which is very popular, particularly in the hospitality industry.

Here’s a little background on Eftplus

Julian Cox, a customer-rewards enthusiast, one day had to turn down an offer of a loyalty card because his wallet was already stuffed full of them. It occurred to him that he had stumbled upon a first-world problem that was likely quite common. Along with his eventual business partner Marcus Hoefliger, he set about finding a solution. Why not create a rewards program based on one card? The card you actually use to make purchases. And so Eftplus was born.

Here’s how Eftplus works

For anyone not familiar with New Zealand financial transactions, Kiwis use a system not dissimilar to a debit card. It’s called Eftpos and works pretty much the same as a debit card except that you can only use it in person (but don’t worry, if you don’t have a New Zealand bank account an international credit card will also work).

All sign-ups are completed online, although the process begins by the customer texting his/her email address and the establishment name to 4664. You recieve a reply via text and an email is sent to your email inbox with directions on how to complete the process.

Here’s what you can get free from Eftplus

Cox and Hoefliger came up with a loyalty system where customers give only part of their card numbers on sign-up (for security reasons) and receive bonuses based on their purchases using that card in the establishment. Typically, you’ll be sent a voucher for $10 for every $200 spent, but sometimes that’s higher (see below). But there’s more.

Offering such a program isn’t enough to get people to sign up. It takes a little time and effort and the carrot has to be a bit bigger. Consequently, there is almost always sign-up bonuses as well as other perks. These rewards differ from place to place. Some are excellent, others not so much.

Let’s take the Chapel Bar as an example

First thing’s first. You send a text: chapel (space) your email address to 4664. You will then receive an email to your inbox with a link to where you fill in your profile. Upon completion of your profile you’ll get a voucher for a glass of wine or a beer, typically worth $9 – not bad for five minutes work. You don’t even need a smart phone: vouchers are sent via text as well as email and are just short numbers. 

But here’s the kicker. Chapel give you a $25 voucher on your birthday. If you are a traveller, it is entirely possible that your birthday won’t coincide with your stay in Auckland, of course. Not to worry. Do you know that although the Queen was born on 21st April, her birthday is celebrated in New Zealand on the first Monday of June? It’s a matter of convenience. If it’s good enough for Her Majesty… Nobody checks.

Chapel Bar also give you $25 for every $250 you spend there, which is ten percent by my reckoning, but if you’re being as frugal as you should be as a budget traveller, unfortunately you’ll not be able to claim this. If you’re a local, a flash-packer, or intend to stay for a while, of course that’s not be sniffed at.


I’ve used the Chapel Bar as an example, but remember rewards differ from place to place. Some rewards are better than Chapel, some are not as good. They are also subject to change at the bar or restaurant’s discretion. I’ve linked some of the Eftplus participating establishments below. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of participants online, so this list is far from exhaustive.

The name of the establishments and their respective codes are listed below. To join the program text the code, leave a space and then your email address to 4664. For example, for Velvet Burger I would text: ‘velvet myemail@gmail.com’ to 4664. I have added links to the establishment’s Eftplus page so you can have a look at their offer first. Texts cost 20c.

Auckland

Velvet Burger – velvet
Fort Street Union – union
The Fox Club – thefox
Chapel Confessions – chapel
Freeman and Grey – freeman
Longroom – longroom
Little India – curry
Gina’s Italian Kitchen – ginas
La Zeppa The Firefly Society – firefly
Snapdragon Secret Garden Society – snap
Montrose Cafe Bistro Bar – montrose
Crave Collective – crave
Seafood Central – sc
Tuihana Cafe – tuihana
Gables Kitchen and Bar – gables

Wellington

Foxglove – fq
Green Man – greenman
Bruhaus – bruhaus
Electric Avenue – hoff
Five Stags – hoff

Bay of Islands

Alongside Bar – alongside

Dunedin

Alibi Bar – alibi

Wanaka

Amigo’s Mexican Grill – amigos

Queenstown

Searle Lane Bar and Rotisserie – searle

New Plymouth

Crowded House – crowd

Hamilton

The Eatery and The Keg room – eatkeg

Nationwide

Little India – curry
Speights Ale House – speights
Velvet Burger – velvet

Like I said, there will be many more participating bars and restaurants throughout New Zealand. I would suggest doing a search on Google with the keywords ‘Eftplus’ or ‘loyalty’ and the name of your location. Also, wherever you are in New Zealand, keep an eye out for these promotions being advertised in the establishments themselves. You often find them advertised in bathrooms, I find.

Any more suggestions are very welcome. I’ll edit the post to accommodate them. Comments also always welcome.

So that’s it really. Get yourself a free feed and have a free beer on me. Cheers!