Using a credit card in Austria
Visiting Vienna for a fancy city break or the Alps for an adrenaline-filled ski trip? Here's all you need to know about spending euros on your credit card.
Since 1999, the official currency of Austria has been the euro.
Major credit card providers such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club are all widely accepted at major retailers, hotels and restaurants. However, it’s very common for smaller stores to only accept cash, so make sure to carry plenty of euros on you. This is especially true outside of major cities like Vienna, Salzburg or Graz, or popular skiing resorts.
Withdrawing euros should be simple enough if you have a chip-and-pin card. There are plenty of ATMs spread around Austria’s major cities, although you may face a bit of a trek to find one in smaller towns and rural areas. As such, it’s worth withdrawing cash before heading off to visit the beautiful architecture around the lesser-known parts of Austria.
It’s unlikely you’ll be asked to show ID when making credit card payments (as is the case for visitors to some countries), although some smaller retailers may enforce a minimum purchase amount.
What about fees?
As you’d expect, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Austria.
It’s also worth noting that when it comes to cash advances and non-sterling transactions, many card issuers will start charging interest on the day your account is debited, rather than the customary “up to 55 days interest-free” that usually applies provided you clear your balance in full each month.
So how can I avoid the fees?
Consider taking out a credit card offering commission-free currency conversion (see table below), even if you only use it when you’re out of the country. Once you have one of these cards, if a merchant offers to take payment in pounds, say you’re happy to pay in euros, since you know that your own bank won’t add a margin.
Generally speaking, it’s not a great idea to use credit cards to withdraw cash, but some travel credit cards won’t penalise you for this either. It’s incredibly rare for ATMs in Austria to charge fees, but check you haven’t stumbled upon one that does. Those in banks or in the street are typically a safer bet than those in convenience stores or bars.
Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in euros
Are American Express cards accepted in Austria?You don’t have to fret about using your American Express card in Austria. It’s widely accepted by major retailers across the country, though not as widely as Visa and Mastercard.
Contactless and chip-and-PIN payments
Contactless card payments were introduced in 2013 and are common across Austria.
You can expect to be able to make chip-and-pin payments for most purchases, provided you have a four-digit PIN. If you don’t have a four-digit PIN, go to your bank and get it changed before you travel.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Austria?
Warnings have previously been issued about ATM scams in Austria. Criminals have been known to rig ATMs so your card isn’t released properly. Typically, they’ll wait outside these ATMs and offer to help you when this happens. Their plan is to ask for your PIN, steal your card, then use the PIN to withdraw your money.
There have also been reports of card skimming devices being used on Austrian ATMs.
Here are some precautions you can take for increased security:
- Use an ATM within a bank. ATMs within banks are less likely to be tampered with. Plus, if your card is eaten, you’ll be able to quickly retrieve it.
- Consider taking an additional credit card. Use your primary card for payments, then keep a back-up somewhere safe. This way, you’ll never be left stranded without money.
- Keep your card in sight. This is great advice, regardless of the country you’re in. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to prepare before travelling to Austria
- Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. If you travel often, avoiding the 3% foreign transaction fee can save you a lot of money. Consider getting a travel credit card to avoid the foreign transaction fees.
- Opt for a Mastercard or Visa. They’re the most widely accepted cards and Austria is no exception, though you still can’t use your American Express cards in some locations. There are also enough ATMs around if you want to withdraw cash with these cards as well.
- Carry a back-up card. Try to always carry a second card when travelling abroad, given you don’t know what could happen to your primary card.
- Get some cash. In general, you can pay with plastic almost anywhere in most major Austrian cities. But if you want to make a cash withdrawal, keep in mind that credit cards have additional fees while most debit cards don’t.
- Inform your bank you’re travelling to Austria. If you don’t let your bank know ahead of time the dates you’ll be away and where you’ll be, it may block your card if it suspects the charges are fraudulent.
- Make a note of your bank’s phone number. If you lose your card or have payment issues, you’ll be able to call the bank to resolve it.
Do buses and trains in Austria accept credit cards?Most public transport stops have machines, which allow you to purchase a ticket with a debit or credit card. In fact, some are cashless. Bank cards can also be used to rent bicycles. You may not be able to use contactless payments though.
If you travel to Austria, you can safely use your credit card to make payments and withdraw cash. You’ll just have to be careful to not incur fees you can otherwise avoid. With a decent travel credit card, you’ll avoid paying foreign transaction fees. By simply declining the DCC when offered, you’ll also avoid paying commission or a poor exchange rate.
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