What are the fastest online payments options in NZ?

To keep your cash flow happy, it helps to be able to receive payments as quickly as possible. That way if a customer buys a product, pays a fee, donates money or hires your services, you know the money will be sitting there in your bank account – not pending and, therefore, inaccessible.

Customers want this too. 49% of Kiwis wish sending online payments was faster, and 89% find the idea of a receiving party getting their money instantly either somewhat or very appealing (Payments NZ Consumer Study 2020).

So, let’s focus on speed today. Of the common online payment options in New Zealand, which are the quickest?

How quick are NZ’s top five online payment options?


Time to receive payments: Instant

We know what it looks like to rank ourselves first in our own article, but the reality is that while the majority of online payment options take a few business days to transfer, POLi is instant.

How does POLi work?

POLi, as well as other direct online payment providers, facilitates instant digital bank transfers. What that means is that customers can pay your business securely using their regular online banking account, without having to actually go to their online banking website and type in any reference information.

Because it’s a bank to bank payment, money is generally transferred instantly from account to account.

Credit/debit cards

Time to receive payments: 1-3 business days

Credit and debit card payments have to go through a variety of steps before a customer’s payment lands in the merchant’s account. Depending on the payment gateways and banks involved, this can make the payment take anywhere from 24 hours to a few days.

So how does a card payment work?

There are a lot of players involved in this type of transaction – the card holder, merchant, payment gateway, acquiring bank and card issuing bank.

To keep it simple, think of it this way: When a customer pays online with their credit card, the merchant’s system tells its bank (where their merchant account is held) that they want a payment from the customer. The payment gateway helps facilitate this.

The merchant’s bank has to verify all the details, then ask the customer’s card issuer to send the money. If the funds are approved by the card issuer, the details can be forwarded all the way back down the chain through the same parties until money is, eventually, deposited into the merchant’s bank account.

Google Pay and other mobile wallets

Time to receive payments: 1-3 business days

Mobile wallets like Google Pay are just that – mobile wallets. They’re a place for customers to store their various credit or debit cards in a digital space, as well as other important things like tickets, passes and loyalty cards.

As such, from a merchant point of view, being paid via a mobile wallet is much the same as being paid by a credit card normally.


Time to receive payments: Instant, or up to five business days

PayPal acts as both a payment gateway and self-contained payments app, meaning there are a few different ways to get paid through the app as a merchant. Depending on which one you choose, you could be receiving payments instantly or waiting for a number of days.

So what are PayPal’s options?

PayPal can transfer balances from PayPal account to PayPal account instantly. So, if you allow people to pay your PayPal directly from their own account, you’ll receive money the moment they hit go.

However, getting that money out of PayPal and into your regular bank account is where the delay will take place. But even here, there is a quick way and a slow way.

  • The quick way: If you’re willing to pay a fee, you can transfer money to a linked bank account within minutes. That fee is around 1.5% of the transaction value.
  • The slow way: If you’re willing to wait and don’t want to pay a fee, PayPal also allows free bank transfers to linked accounts which takes typically one to three days, but up to five in some cases.

Learn more: Is PayPal right for your e-commerce website?

Buy Now/Pay Later

Time to receive payments: 2-7 business days

Buy Now/Pay Later (BNPL) are growing in popularity among customers. They allow payments to be split into smaller instalments, making it easier to manage – particularly for people on a budget.

Do merchants also receive payments in instalments?

No. Once a customer chooses to pay with a BNPL service such as Afterpay, the merchant receives the full payment. The customer then pays the BNPL service back.

In terms of timing, payments made through a BNPL service must first be approved and authorised by the service provider. This can take one to five business days. Then the bank must authorise and deposit the payment as well, which can take another one or two days.

That said, most merchants typically receive payments within two days.

Which online payments option to choose

Speed is certainly an important factor when it comes to choosing an online payments provider, but it’s not the only factor.

Consider also how easy the option will be to use for your customers – will they recognise it? Will they feel comfortable using it? Is it a hassle to create the necessary accounts and get started? The answer may not be the same for all demographics.

Efficiency at the back end is also vital. The more manual reconciling your finance team has to do to get the books in order, the more likely it is that there will be some kind of issue. The more automation of reference information a payments provider offers, the happier your team will likely be.

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