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Travel money guide: Germany

Packing your bags for a vacation to Germany? Get your travel money in order before you leave.

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.

A credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a good tool for saving on extraneous fees while you shop abroad. Here are all of your purchasing options.

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Germany. You’ll find American Express and Diners Club credit cards are accepted in fewer locations.

Some businesses may not accept cards for purchases below a set 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.

If you can find a card that has no foreign transaction, international ATM or annual fee, then you’ll save on your German vacation. Even if you can get by using only 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.

These are your options for spending money in Germany

Using a credit card

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Germany. You could also use American Express cards and Discover cards with the Diners Club logo — though fewer locations accept them. While Germany ranks high in Europe for accepting new technology like contactless and mobile payments, it’s still largely a cash economy.

If you want to make an ATM cash withdrawal, the German Savings Banks Association (DSGV) ATMs accepts Discover cards. American Express card owners have more ATM options. Look for ATMs from Reisebank, Postbank, Sparkasse and Deutsche Bank, among others. And to save further, find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card .

Carrying a credit card may also give you the added benefit of travel insurance, discounts and the ability to earn miles depending on your provider. If you travel often, it pays to compare travel credit cards to find one that fits your travel needs.

  • Tip: Avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash. Cash advance charges will eat up your available credit quickly.
Pros
  • Access to a line of credit
  • Accepted at most retailers
  • May come with benefits like travel insurance
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • Cash advances are expensive
Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Mastercardcheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
American Expressexclamation point iconMediumcheck mark iconHigh
Discoverexclamation point iconMediumcross mark iconLow

Compare travel credit cards

Narrow down top travel credit cards by welcome offers, rewards and annual fees to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 3 of 29
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

2x miles on every purchase, every day, 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Earn unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card
70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
3 miles per $1 on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases
$50
Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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 – Betterment Checking is a good example.

  • 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.
Pros
  • No currency conversion or international ATM fees
  • Convenience
Cons
  • If your card is stolen, or you become a victim of fraud, the thief could gain access to your entire bank balance.

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.
Pros
  • Comes with a back-up card
  • Load USD and spend in a variety of currencies
  • Easier to manage expenses
  • All travel cards support euro
Cons
  • Some cards take time to load money
  • Lots of fees

Paying with cash in Germany

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.

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.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

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.

  • 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.
Pros
  • Acceptance
  • Security
Cons
  • Fees for purchase and cashing
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
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Germany currency

The euro comes in the denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.

5 Euro banknote10 Euro banknote20 Euro banknote
50 Euro banknote100 Euro banknote

The main banks in Germany are:

  • Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB)
  • Commerzbank
  • Deutsche Bank
  • DZ Bank Group
  • HypoVereinsbank (UniCredit Bank AG)
  • KfW Bankgruppe
  • Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg
  • Landesbank Hessen-Thuringen (Helaba)
  • Norddeutsche Landesbank (Nord/LB)
  • NRW.Bank

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.

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.

Live Rate

= 1.0020

Refreshing in: 60s | Tue, Oct 04, 06:27PM GMT

ATMs in Germany

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. If possible, use a debit card from a bank that doesn’t charge foreign ATM fees, such as Betterment Checking.

Find ATMs in Germany

How much should I budget to travel in Germany?

Germany is’ot 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:

BudgetMid-rangeExpensive
AccommodationHostel
$10–$25 per night
2-star hotel
$25–$65 per night
5-star hotel
$140–$250 per night
MealsCurrywurst $2.50
(plus chips) $4
Midrange restaurant
$15–$30 per dish
4-course meal at a 5-star restaurant
$200 per person
ActivitiesWalking tour of Berlin
Free (Tip the guide)
Live music at The B-flat Jazz Club on Rosenthaler Straße
Free
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.

Case study: Caroline's experience

Caroline profile photo
Caroline

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 numerous other countries including France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

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.

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