Using a credit card in Bhutan

Hiking the Himalayas? Here's how to get the best out of your credit card and your cash on holiday in Bhutan.

As an enchanting destination nestled in the Himalayas, Bhutan offers a unique cultural experience and breathtaking sites. If you’re planning a trip to Bhutan, knowing how to navigate the local financial landscape is important.

While Bhutan primarily operates on a cash-based economy, the use of credit cards is gradually gaining popularity. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide on using a credit card in Bhutan, including acceptance, fees, currency considerations and essential tips to ensure a smooth financial experience.

Acceptance of credit cards in Bhutan

Credit cards aren’t widely accepted in Bhutan, particularly outside major cities and tourist areas. It’s recommended to carry sufficient cash to cover your expenses, as many establishments prefer cash transactions, including small shops, local markets and rural areas. If the establishment takes credit cards, Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted credit card networks in Bhutan.

Currency and exchange rates

The official currency of Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN). It’s advisable to exchange your currency for BTN upon arrival in Bhutan, as local businesses primarily deal in cash. Foreign currency exchange services are available at banks and authorised exchange counters in major cities like Thimphu and Paro. It’s important to know the current exchange rates and any associated fees to get the best value for your money.

What about fees?

Before using your credit card in Bhutan, familiarise yourself with the fees and charges associated with your card. These may include foreign transaction, currency conversion and cash advance fees. Contact your credit card issuer to understand the specific charges that may apply while using your card in Bhutan.

Cash machines in Bhutan

ATMs in Bhutan are limited and mostly concentrated in urban areas. While some ATMs accept international cards, carrying enough cash is advisable, as you may not always have access to an ATM. Cash advance fees and higher interest rates often apply to credit card withdrawals, so it’s recommended to use ATMs as a last resort.

The table below serves as an example of how much extra you may pay to use your credit card in Bhutan.

section of credit card summary box document

Additionally, you can get an idea of costs by using these online currency conversion tools from Mastercard and Visa.

What is a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is calculated (and charged) when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum £3.00”.

Is it safe to use my card in Bhutan?

To ensure the security of your credit card information while in Bhutan, consider the following precautions:

  • Keep your credit card in a safe place and report any loss or theft immediately.
  • Be cautious when using your card online and only make purchases from reputable websites with secure payment gateways.
  • Regularly monitor your credit card statements for any unauthorised transactions and report them promptly to your issuer.
  • Get cash out at a reputable ATM – e.g., a bank – and watch out for skimmers. If you feel the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and look for another ATM.

How to prepare before traveling to Bhutan

  1. Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. Travel cards usually come with no foreign transaction fees.
  2. Opt for a Mastercard or Visa. They’re more universally accepted in Bhutan.
  3. Get a backup card. This is particularly useful if something happens to your primary card. With a backup card, you’ll never be caught without money.
  4. Get some cash. If you cannot pay by card, cash is a fail-safe option, especially as most establishments outside major cities are cash only.
  5. Notify your card issuer. This way, you’ll avoid your card from being flagged for suspicious activity and prevent the bank from blocking your card.
  6. Get your bank’s phone number. In case you lose your card or have other issues with your account whilst in Bhutan, you can quickly call your bank and sort it out.

Bottom line

While Bhutan remains primarily a cash-based economy, credit cards can offer some convenience in certain establishments in urban areas. However, it’s crucial to carry sufficient cash as a backup, and be prepared for limited credit card acceptance. By understanding the local financial landscape, fees and security measures, you can navigate Bhutan’s unique financial system and have a pleasant and worry-free experience during your visit to this extraordinary kingdom.

Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Bhutan

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Name Product Finder score Finder score Purchases Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Representative APR Incentive Link
The Royal Bank Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
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NatWest Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
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Santander All in One Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 15 months reverting to 23.9%
£3 per month
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
29.8% APR (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Maximum of £10 cashback paid per month. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
118 118 Money Guaranteed Rate Card
3.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
34%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
34% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
NatWest Reward Black Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
21.9%
£84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: Year 2 onwards - £0 per annum
Min. limit £5,000, max. limit not specified.
40.7% APR (variable)
You'll earn 1% back at supermarkets and 0.5% back everywhere else, including supermarket petrol stations. At selected retailers, you could earn 1-15% back.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: Year 2 onwards - £0 per annum, your representative rate is 40.7% APR (variable).
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Royal Bank of Scotland Reward Black Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
21.9%
£84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: £0 per annum
Min. limit £5,000, max. limit not specified.
40.7% APR (variable)
Earn 1% back at supermarkets and 0.5% back everywhere else, including supermarket petrol stations. At selected retailers, you could earn 1-15% back.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: £0 per annum, your representative rate is 40.7% APR (variable).
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Yonder Credit Card (only for London residents)
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
29.94%
1 month for £0, £15 per month thereafter
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
66.7% APR (variable)
First month free for new members, £15 p/m thereafter. Plus, 10,000 bonus points. Earn 5 points per £1 spent and up to 25 points per £1 at selected partners. Membership includes worldwide travel insurance and no FX fees.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.94% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 66.7% APR (variable).
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The Ulster Bank Credit Card Mastercard
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £350, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
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Approval for any credit card depends on your status. The representative APRs shown represent the interest rate offered to most successful applicants. Depending on your personal circumstances, the APR you're offered may be higher, or you may not be offered credit at all. Fees and rates are subject to change without notice. It's always wise to check the terms of any deal before you borrow. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables is provided by Moneyfacts.

How to use a credit card in …

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.

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