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Using a credit card in Hungary
Avoid these common credit and debit card fees when travelling in Hungary.
Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards are widely accepted in Hungary and it’s easy to pay for food, accommodations, tourist attractions and much more with plastic. However, some smaller establishments will only accept cash, as well as small towns and villages that are located away from common tourists spots. While you can rely on your card for many purchases, it’s sensible to travel with at least some cash on you at all times.
Compare credit cards for use in Hungary
Which credit card issuers are accepted in Hungary?
Visa and Mastercard are both widely accepted in Hungary, while American Express can be used at many ATM’s – but not all merchants will accept Amex cards. OTP Bank and Euronet ATMs, among others, accept American Express cards.
Potential credit card fees in Hungary
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued by Canadian banks charge foreign transaction fees. These fees usually cost 2.5% of the total transaction amount, and you’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a couple of credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. When paying with your credit card, a merchant may ask if you’d like to pay in Canadian dollars or Hungarian forint. Always choose the local currency. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to unfavourable exchange rates and currency conversion fees. To avoid this, always pay in the local currency and let your bank do the currency conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate. Unlike a purchase interest rate, the cash advance rate is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds – there is typically no interest-free period. To avoid this interest rate, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, apply for a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance, such as Scotiabank.
ATMs in Hungary
ATMs are easy to find, especially in larger cities like Budapest. You’ll also come by ATMs in most towns and villages, however cash tends to be dominant in smaller places. Most ATMs accept international credit, debit and prepaid cards, but you’ll need a four-digit PIN to make a cash withdrawal.
When making a withdrawal, use an ATM branded with a Hungarian bank in order to save money. Independent machines tend to charge extra fees. Euronet ATMs are particularly renowned for poor exchange rates.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, you should avoid doing this unless it’s an emergency. As mentioned above, you’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction – there’s usually no grace period with this type of transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, it’s best to use your debit card.
Do taxis in Hungary accept credit cards?
Most taxis in Hungary have POS terminals that accept Visa, Mastercard and sometimes even American Express credit cards. When you pay, make sure it’s in local currency to avoid dynamic currency conversion (DCC) fees.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Hungary?
Yes it’s safe, although you should exercise the same level of caution as you would in Canada.
- Keep your PIN secure. Don’t write down your PIN anywhere. When entering your PIN, use your other hand to shield the screen from curious onlookers and hidden cameras.
- Choose ATMs carefully. Try and use ATMs located in public places and banks, preferably withdrawing cash during the daytime. Avoid ATMs in isolated areas.
- Keep your card physically safe. The crime rate in Hungary is low, however big cities like Budapest can put you at a higher risk of becoming the victim of pickpocketing or fraud. Use common sense to help ensure your card’s safety and carry at least two credit cards on you in case your primary card gets lost or stolen.
How to prepare before travelling to Hungary
- Carry suitable cards. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit card brands worldwide, with American Express fairly widely accepted in larger cities in Hungary.
- Avoid foreign transaction fees. If you don’t have a card with no foreign transaction fees, think about getting one before you go. Foreign transaction fees usually cost 2.5% – and they can add up quickly if you use your card often.
- Notify your bank of your trip. In an effort to minimize fraudulent transactions, banks temporarily block cards if they detect suspicious activity. If you don’t let your bank know that you plan to travel to Hungary, you might end up with a blocked card.
- Keep emergency numbers handy. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you’ll need to call to get a replacement card sent to Hungary. Make sure you write down your bank or credit card providers phone number and have it easily accessible at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. An affordable way to access cash is to use your debit card at an ATM. Exchanging Canadian dollars for forint is also possible at banks and currency exchange kiosks. Avoid currency exchanges at hotels and airports due to high transaction fees and poor exchange rates.
Ask yourself these questions in order to avoid common credit card related problems when travelling in Hungary:
- Which cards will I use? Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted brand of credit cards in Hungary, but you’ll find a few businesses that accept American Express. Consider taking at least two credit cards with you on your travels in case something happens to your primary card.
- 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 overseas travels – no matter where you’re going.
- What fees will I face? Find out if your credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees. Remember, you can easily avoid currency conversion fees by paying in the local currency instead of Canadian dollars.
- How will I get cash? Your options include using your Canadian debit card at a local ATM, exchanging Canadian dollars for Hungarian forint 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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