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Using a credit card in Germany
You can use credit cards almost anywhere in Germany – but carry some cash as well.
Despite having one of the strongest economies in Europe, Germany isn’t known for obsessive credit card use. You can pay with plastic in most places, but Germans prefer to use cash – especially for small purchases like a coffee, lunch or public transportation. While Germany is predominantly a cash-based society, most hotels, restaurants and merchants accept credit cards.
Compare credit cards for use in Germany
Which credit card issuers are accepted in Germany?
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Germany. You can also use American Express cards, however they’re accepted in fewer locations. While Germany ranks highly in Europe for the acceptance of new technology like contactless and mobile payments, it’s still predominately a cash-based economy.
Potential credit card fees in Germany
While it’s possible to face all of these fees, it’s easy to avoid each and every one of them by taking the right steps before and during your trip.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most Canadian credit cards come with a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. Every time you use your card in Germany, you will have to pay this fee. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or euros with your credit card, always choose the local currency of euros. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee and the cash advance interest rate. Unlike the purchase APR, the cash advance rate is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds – there is no grace period. To avoid these high fees, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even if you use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM, you will likely have to pay an ATM fee of $2.50 to $5. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that is a member of an international ATM alliance, such as Scotiabank.
ATMs in Germany
ATMs are easy to find in Germany and are typically referred to as Bankomat or Geldautomat. Most ATMs accept international credit, debit and prepaid cards, although you might want to look for the Cirrus or PLUS logo.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
As mentioned above, using your credit card to get cash from an ATM is not recommended. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, it’s best to use your debit card. While you might still have to pay an ATM fee, you’ll avoid the pricey cash advance rate.
Given that more than 80% of payments in Germany are made using cash, you should carry cash with you at all times. Smaller shops, such as bakeries, bars and family-owned restaurants may only accept cash or the German EC card.
Do taxis in Germany accept credit cards?
It depends on the city and district. In some cities, taxis will usually accept credit cards but add a surcharge. If you don’t have cash, order a taxi that accepts credit cards from your hotel or use the mytaxi app to pay with your card.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Germany?
It’s safe to use your credit card in Germany, but you should exercise the same level of caution as you would anywhere else.
- Keep your PIN secure. When using a keypad to enter your PIN, use your other hand to shield the screen from onlookers and hidden cameras.
- Choose ATMs carefully. Try and stick to ATMs in public places and banks and avoid ATMs in isolated areas. If you notice that a keypad is sticky or your card is difficult to insert into the slot, there could be skimmer installed on it. For safety, choose a different ATM.
- Keep your card physically safe. The crime rate in Germany is quite low and using common sense can help ensure your card’s safety. Don’t leave your bag on the floor at a bar or a nightclub and keep your card in sight at all times.
How to prepare before travelling to Germany
- Carry at least two cards. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit card brands, with American Express occasionally accepted in Germany. To be safe, travel with at least two credit cards. If one gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a second one as a backup.
- Avoid foreign transaction fees. If you don’t have a card with no foreign transaction fees, think about applying for one before you go overseas. Foreign transaction fees usually cost 2.5% – and they can add up quickly if you use your card often.
- Notify your bank. In an effort to minimize fraud, banks temporarily block cards if they detect suspicious activity. If you don’t let your bank know of your travels to Germany, you might end up with a blocked credit card.
- Keep emergency numbers handy. Should your card become lost or stolen, you’ll need to call your provider to get a replacement card. Keep important phone numbers accessible at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. Avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – instead use your debit card. Exchanging Canadian dollars for euro is also possible at banks and currency exchange kiosks.
Before travelling to Germany, ask yourself these questions in order to avoid common credit card problems:
- Which cards will I use? Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted brand of credit cards, but you may find some businesses that accept American Express. Take at least two credit cards with you on your travels incase one becomes lost or stolen.
- Does my bank know? If your bank is not aware of your upcoming trip, you may have to deal with a temporarily suspended card. Always notify your bank or credit card provider of your travels before you embark on your trip.
- What fees will I face? If you have a card that charges foreign transaction fees, consider applying for a card that waives this fee. Remember, you can easily avoid currency conversion fees (DCC) by paying in the local currency of euros.
- How will I get cash? Your options include using your Canadian debit card at a local ATM, exchanging Canadian dollars for euro or carrying travellers’ cheques. Avoid using a credit card to withdraw money from an ATM unless its an emergency.
Using a credit card in …
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