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Using a credit card in Turkey
Save money when you're in Turkey by using a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
Despite its old world charm, Turkey is a credit card friendly country. While Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted by merchants, you can use your American Express in some establishments – usually larger shops, hotels and higher-end restaurants.
Although cards are widely accepted, Turkey remains a mostly cash-based society, especially in smaller towns and villages. If you plan on eating food from street stalls or small establishments, visiting markets or taking public transportation, you’ll need cash.
Compare credit cards for use in Turkey
What credit cards can I use in Turkey?
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards, however American Express credit cards are accepted – especially at expensive hotels and restaurants.
Although you should avoid making a cash withdrawal using your credit card, American Express owners can choose ATMs from Akbank, Vakifbank, Garanti and Turkiye Bankasi among others.
Potential credit card fees in Turkey
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued by Canadian providers come with a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. You’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards offered in Canada that charge no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Turkish lira with your credit card, always choose the local currency of lira. 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 alliance, 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 Turkey
You’ll need cash if you’re planning to shop from street vendors, market stalls, or if you’re going to use public transportation including taxis and dolmuş (a shared mini-van taxi).
ATMs are widespread across Istanbul and other cities, and can usually be found on the streets, as well as within banks, shopping malls and transportation hubs.
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 Turkey accept credit cards?
Most taxis in Turkey accept cash only, however there are some that may accept credit cards.
Also, don’t expect to find Uber rides in Turkey, as Uber was declared illegal in 2018.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Turkey?
Using a credit card in Turkey is safe, but exercising caution is advised. Keep these tips in mind:
- 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. Credit card fraud does happen in Turkey, especially in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara. 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 are common in Turkey, especially in larger cities like Istanbul as well as tourist locations like Bodrum and Antalya. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse at all times, especially on public transportation and on busy streets.
How to prepare before travelling to Turkey
Credit card usage in Turkey is safe, but you should use your card with caution.
- 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. American Express cards are not as frequently accepted, but if you frequent high-end establishments, you may be able to use your Amex sometimes.
- 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 Turkey, it will have a good 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 Turkish lira or make use of travellers’ cheques. Having cash is a must if you’re planning to haggle, use a taxi or purchase items from street or market vendors.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Turkey:
- 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.
- 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 Turkish lira or cash in travellers’ cheques.
Using a credit card in …
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