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Using a credit card in Taiwan
Avoid unnecessary fees when spending in Taiwan by getting a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
You’ll find that Visa and Mastercard are much more popular in Taiwan than American Express, but you can still pay with your Amex card in some places. Despite that, Taiwan is still a mostly cash-based society. Many small, family-owned shops and restaurants will accept cash only, which means you won’t always be able to rely on your credit card.
Compare credit cards for use in Taiwan
What credit cards can I use in Taiwan?
American Express cards are accepted in Taiwan, but not as frequently as Visa and Mastercard.
Although you shouldn’t withdraw cash using your credit card, sometimes emergencies arise. If this is the case, look for Chinatrust Commercial Bank ATMs to withdraw using your Amex. Most ATM machines will dispense cash if you use a Visa or Mastercard.
Potential credit card fees in Taiwan
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued in Canada come with foreign transaction fees. Sitting around 2.5% of the total transaction cost, you’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, you can avoid this fee with a no foreign transaction fee credit card.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Taiwanese dollars with your credit card, always choose the local currency. Paying in CAD with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the 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, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, 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, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM partnership, such as the Global ATM Alliance that Scotiabank is a member of.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid this fee.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card – instead of your credit card – to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
ATMs in Taiwan
Taiwan is still big on cash usage, and most of the small, family-run businesses may not accept credit card payments. For safety, you should always carry at least some Taiwanese dollars on you at all times.
To make a cash withdrawal from an ATM, always use your debit card. ATMs are relatively easy to find in Taiwan: look inside shopping malls, within banks and on busy streets to find them.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. 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, use your debit card.
Do taxis in Taiwan accept credit cards?
In general, no they don’t accept credit card payments. If you want to pay for your ride with a credit card, you can use Uber. Typically, Uber is less expensive than a regular taxi in Taiwan.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Taiwan?
Yes, it’s safe to use your credit card in Taiwan. But for added security, you should always try to:
- Protect your PIN. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. Although rare, card cloning can happen in Taiwan. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft do occur in Taiwan, especially in larger cities like Taipei. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse when on public transportation.
How to prepare before travelling to Taiwan
- Carry at least two credit cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen or if a merchant doesn’t accept Amex.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in Taiwan, it will have a great reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. You should carry at least some cash on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash in order to avoid the cash advance interest rate that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for Taiwanese dollars.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Taiwan:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you head overseas.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees. Remember to pay in the local currency to avoid DCC.
- Where will I get money from? Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also consider converting Canadian dollars to Taiwanese dollars or cashing in travellers’ cheques.
Using a credit card in …
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