This is an increase of 14.6 percent since February 2015.
The spending growth was particularly evident in the South Island. Otago had a 27 percent increase in foreign spending from 2015, showing picturesque places like Queenstown and Milford Sound continue to draw in tourists.
In contrast, Gisborne (3.8 percent increase) Hawkes Bay (4.7 percent increase) and Wellington (3.5 percent increase) only had a modest increase in tourist spending.
Australia was the biggest spender in terms of country of origin, spending more than $54 million in February. This was followed by the UK ($38.727 million) and US ($36.284 million).
South Korea had the biggest growth in spending from 2015, up 30.9 percent.
Paymark’s chief marketing officer Tim McFarlane noted that while the data doesn’t distinguish whether the card holders were tourists or people living in New Zealand using overseas cards, it’s reasonable to assume a large proportion of the cards were used by tourists.
“We can’t see whether these cards are carried by tourists but the spending in tourism destinations would seem to suggest a large percentage are visitors,” he said.
“Some cards of course will be carried by residents in New Zealand who continue to use their offshore cards and accounts for local purchases.”
This correlates with data from December, which showed visitor numbers hit their highest ever monthly level at more than 3.1 million for the year.
This was driven by increasing numbers of tourists from China.
McFarlane said the cards used in New Zealand in February came from 161 different countries, showing the scope and strength of the tourist market.
Meanwhile, Statistics New Zealand reported retail spending using electronic cards was $4.6 billion in February 2016, up $393 million (9.3 percent).
The largest increases in spending were in the hospitality and consumables categories, showing food and beverage are going from strength to strength.
Consumables (food and liquor retailing) was up $32 million, or 1.8 percent, and hospitality was up $13 million, or 1.6 percent.
Fuel had the biggest downfall out of all the categories, decreasing 2.1 percent.
Transactions in the retail industries rose 0.7 percent when seasonally adjusted and 1.2 percent in the core retail industries (excluding fuel).
This was a slight improvement on January’s 0.4 percent rise in spending.
Statistics New Zealand business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said that because 2016 is a leap year, this had to be taken into account when making comparisons with 2015.