The currency is the New Zealand dollar. After the financial crisis of 1995 the Cook Islands dollar, which had circulated at par with the New Zealand dollar since 1987, was withdrawn. Both New Zealand and Cook Islands coins are in use, however, although the local ones are worthless outside the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands dollar coin bearing an image of the god Tangaroa makes an offbeat souvenir.
Traveler's checks are worth about three percent more than cash at the banks. Changing money on an outer island is difficult or impossible—do it before you leave Rarotonga. The upmarket hotels and restaurants accept the main credit cards, and the banks will give cash advances. Many places won't allow credit cards to be used for petty charges.
A 12.5 percent value-added tax (VAT) is added to all sales, services, activities, and rentals. Most places include it in the price, but some add it on, so ask. Bargaining has never been a part of the local culture and some locals find it offensive when tourists try to beat prices down. The way to do it is to ask for "specials." Thankfully tipping is still not widespread in the Cooks.
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