From the coast of the Baltic Sea to the hills of Western German wine country, Germany is the largest country in central Europe with culture and old-world charm to match.
The euro has been the standard currency of Germany, and you’ll find you need both cash and credit cards for purchases. To get the most out of your German getaway, familiarize yourself with their currency customs and start comparing your travel money options.
What's in this guide?
- How much should I budget for my trip to Germany?
- Exchange rate history
- Travel card, debit card or credit card?
- How credit cards, debit cards and travel cards work in Germany
- Compare travel credit cards
- A guide to euro banknotes
- Buying currency in the US
- ATM withdrawals
- Where to exchange cash
- Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options
- Cash pickup services in Germany
How much should I budget for my trip to Germany?
Germany is not considered a cheap travel destination — plan for at least $50 a day for budget travel, and between $120 to $300 for average to luxury travel. Compare some of the daily expenses you can expect below:
$10–$25 per night
$25–$65 per night
$140–$250 per night
(plus chips) $4
$15–$30 per dish
|4-course meal at a 5-star restaurant|
$200 per person
|Do||Walking tour of Berlin|
Free (Tip the guide)
Live music at The B-flat Jazz Club on Rosenthaler Straße
|Private WWII and Cold War walking tour of Berlin|
$46 per person
Private Berlin Wall tour
$99 per person (up to 3 hours)
|1 hour private flight over Berlin|
$441 (up to 3 people)
Tour of Jewish heritage in Berlin
$275 (up to 3 people)
*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.
Exchange rate history
The global financial crisis and European debt crisis resulted in instability among global currencies. For the past couple of years, $1 gets you between 0.7 and 0.8 euros. Travel cards and traveler’s checks let you lock in a rate if you think it’s going to be more expensive to buy euros in the future.
Travel card, debit card or credit card?
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Germany. You can also use American Express and Diners Club credit cards; however, they’re accepted in fewer locations.
Some businesses may not accept cards for purchases below a certain amount and some supermarkets won’t take credit cards at all. While it’s important to find a card that’ll let you make over the counter purchases without too many fees, a card which lets you use ATMs without the ridiculous charges is more relevant for a trip to Germany.
A quick summary of your travel money options in Germany
|Travel Money Option||Pros||Cons|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
How credit cards, debit cards and travel cards work in Germany
Using a debit card
A debit card is a good travel money choice to take to Germany. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. Find a bank that waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.
- Tip: Bank of America and Barclays cardholders can avoid the international ATM withdrawal fee as well as the local ATM fee by using Deutsche Bank ATMs in Germany.
Using a prepaid travel card
Travel cards can lock in conversion rates once you load USD. Use it for purchases without worrying about rates each time you spend — debit and credit cards often charge 3% for each transaction. All prepaid travel cards carry euros, and many let you carry more than one currency at once.
Where you save in the conversion rates you may pay in fees. You’ll pay fees each time you load the card, ATM withdrawals and sometimes even an inactivity fee.
- Tip: Most travel cards send you two cards so you have a backup if your card is stolen or lost.
Using a credit card
Credit cards are accepted in large German retailers and mid to upmarket restaurants, for example. While Germans are typically considered innovative, they’re hanging on to cash. In places that do take cards, you’ll find that the EuroCard is the preferred plastic.
Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.
Visa and Mastercard is widely accepted across Croatia, as is Diners Club and American Express at fewer stores and hotels.
Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.
- Tip: Avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash. Cash advance charges will eat up your available credit quickly.
Using traveler’s checks
Move over traveler’s checks, you’re slowly being replaced by ATMs, which make it cheap and easy to get currency. Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get Vietnam dong.
- Tip: Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.
Paying with cash
More than 80% of payments in Germany are made using cash, meaning you’ll often need cash to pay for your transactions on your trip. The best way to get euros is to make an ATM withdrawal when you arrive in Germany using a card that doesn’t charge an international ATM fee.
Compare travel credit cards
Case study: Caroline's experience
Oktoberfest in Munich
Caroline went to Germany on her trip to Europe. She visited Berlin and then traveled south to Munich for Oktoberfest. She visited a number of other countries including France, Belgium, Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
What cards did you take?
- Charles Schwab debit card
Why did you take these cards?
Caroline applied for the Charles Schwab account because it was the best card she found of traveling abroad. With no foreign transaction fee and free ATM withdrawals — and reimbursements for ATMs that charged a fee — she saved hundreds of dollars.
Caroline applied for the BankAmericard because it had a low APR, no annual fee or foreign exchange fee.
Where could you use your cards?
She used her credit card to book her train tickets, car rental and to pay for her hotel. Beer tents at Oktoberfest were cash only and there was no entry fee to get into any of the tents. Outside the festival, Caroline says that her card had limited acceptance in Germany. Most supermarkets didn’t take credit cards and many restaurants, cafes, markets, street vendors and taxis are cash only.
What about ATM withdrawals?
Caroline didn’t pay any ATM fees when she used her Charles Schwab to get euros.
At the beer festival, there were a few ATMs in some tents but they charge a fee. She recommends making a withdrawal at a bank in Munich so you have enough cash to last you the whole day.
What is your travel money recommendation for Germany?
Caroline says German bank ATMs don’t charge fees and she didn’t pay international ATM or currency conversion fees. Making ATM withdrawals will give you peace of mind as it’s an easy was to get euros at no cost and for a great rate.
What are your travel money tips?
If you’re at a bar, in a taxi or at a restaurant, a tip between 5% and 10% is the norm — it isn’t expected but it is polite if the service was excellent. It’s also good practice to round up to the nearest euro if the bill is under 10 euros .
She also says to remember not to leave the tip on the table. It’s considered rude in Germany and other parts of Europe. Give the tip to the person directly.
- Load your card with your choice of 6 available currencies: Euros, British pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos.
- Lock in your exchange rate.
- Use your card abroad at millions of locations.
A guide to euro banknotes
Buying currency in the US
As euros are a major international currency, you won’t have any issues finding a place to get your money changed in the US. Your options include banks and foreign exchange providers such as Travelex. Banks tend to charge a small fee that you’ll find is often more competitive than the foreign exchange provider.
Choosing one service over the other is going to save you a couple of dollars, but it may come down to convenience. Travelex lets you order cash online and pick it up at major airports. Here are a few other options.
ATMs from German banks are free. If you put a US credit, debit or travel card into a German ATM, the screen will either automatically come up in English or prompt you to pick your language.
Where to exchange cash
Banks and exchange offices can change cash in Germany. Some exchange offices (Wechselstuben) offer good rates, but always compare the rate against the market rate before you agree to a deal. Sometimes it might be better to withdraw money from an ATM.
Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options
If you can find a card that has no foreign transaction, international ATM or annual fee, then you’ll save lots on your German vacation. Even if you can get by using just one card for all your transactions, never put all your eggs in one basket.
A combination of debit, credit and travel prepaid cards will ensure that you can make transactions in euros all while giving you access to an emergency line of credit and travel perks. A little homework before you leave can mean the difference between smooth sailing and rough seas.Back to top
Cash pickup services in Germany
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