How to spend smart traveling in Germany - Travel cards | finder.com

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 so much culture and old-world charm, travelers can’t miss taking the trains to explore the charm of Germany.

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 option is right for my trip?

Compare travel cards for Germany

Rates last updated February 23rd, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
0% of transaction value
$0
$10 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
2%
of transaction value
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
0% of transaction value
$0
Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    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:

    BerlinBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
    sleepSleepHostel
    $10–$25 per night
    2-star hotel
    $25–$65 per night
    5-star hotel
    $140–$250 per night
    foodEatCurrywurst $2.50
    (plus chips) $4
    Midrange restaurant
    $15–$30 per dish
    4-course meal at a 5-star restaurant
    $200 per person
    cameraDoWalking 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.

    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.

    USD to EUR for the last 10 days

    Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 15 Feb 16 Feb 17 Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Feb 22
    1 USD = 0.8095 Inverse: 1.2354 0.8020 Inverse: 1.2468 0.7998 Inverse: 1.2503 0.8060 Inverse: 1.2408 0.8060 Inverse: 1.2407 0.8057 Inverse: 1.2412 0.8064 Inverse: 1.2400 0.8107 Inverse: 1.2336 0.8143 Inverse: 1.2281 0.8113 Inverse: 1.2327

    USD to EUR for the last 10 months

    Apr 2017 May 2017 Jun 2017 Jul 2017 Aug 2017 Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017 Dec 2017 Jan 2018
    1 USD = 0.9167 Inverse: 1.0908 0.8943 Inverse: 1.1183 0.8929 Inverse: 1.1200 0.8588 Inverse: 1.1645 0.8476 Inverse: 1.1798 0.8368 Inverse: 1.1950 0.8507 Inverse: 1.1755 0.8464 Inverse: 1.1815 0.8433 Inverse: 1.1858 0.8159 Inverse: 1.2256
    How to send money to Germany

    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 OptionProsCons
    Debit cards
    • No currency conversion or international ATM fees
    • Convenience
    • If your card is stolen, or you become a victim of fraud, the thief could gain access to your entire bank balance.
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Comes with a back-up card
    • Load USD and spend in a variety of currencies
    • Easier to manage expenses
    • All travel cards support euro
    • Some cards take time to load money
    • Lots of fees
    Credit cards
    • 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
    • Cash advances are expensive
    Traveler’s checks
    • Acceptance
    • Security
     

    • Fees for purchase and cashing
    • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    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.

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    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?

    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.

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    A guide to euro banknotes

    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.

    ATM withdrawals

    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.

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    Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Germany

    Details Features
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info
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