Using a credit card in Estonia
An EU member state, Estonia adopted the euro in 2011. Spending and withdrawing euros using your credit card in Estonia is highly convenient.
There are plenty of great reasons to visit Estonia for a holiday – and the convenience of using your credit card is one of them. The country has a developed banking system, especially in the major cities of Tallinn, Tartu and Narva.
It should be possible to use Visa, Mastercard and American Express in these major cities. The big exception to this rule, however, is the local markets – here, you’ll mostly be expected to pay in cash using euros. You won’t need to show identification when making credit card payments (as you would need to do in some other countries).
ATMs in Estonian cities are plentiful, but as you might expect, they can be tougher to find in smaller locations. In the rural areas of the country or on one of the 1,500+ islands, it may be less likely that you can freely use your credit card.
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What about fees?
As you’d expect, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Estonia:
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.
EU ban on credit card surcharges
In January 2018, the EU required member states to adopt the Payment Service Directive 2. The PSD2 is a ban on card payment surcharges – when a retailer adds a fee because you’re paying using a credit card. However, it’s important to note that there are limitations and exceptions to this directive, and there are other fees that may apply when you pay by credit card. If your card is from a non-EU bank, uses a network other than Visa or Mastercard or is a business/corporate card, then the merchant may still levy a surcharge.
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. Finally, make sure to check whether any ATM you use is going to charge a fee. High street bank ATMs are generally a safer bet than those in convenience stores or bars.
Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Estonia
Are American Express cards accepted in Estonia?American Express is less likely to be accepted than Visa and Mastercard, although you’ll be more likely to find places that accept this card than in any other countries. Additionally, merchants may levy a surcharge for Amex payments.
Contactless and chip-and-PIN payments
Some two-thirds of card payments were made using contactless technology, according to official data from 2017.
Chip-and-PIN payments are available throughout the country, provided you have a card with a four-digit PIN.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Estonia?
The level of card scams and ATM scams is low in Estonia. However, there are some precautions you can take for increased security:
- Use an ATM within a bank. If for some reason the ATM eats your card, you’ll be able to quickly retrieve it. Also, ATMs within banks are less likely to be tampered with. Should you use one outside a bank, check for devices attached to the reader and cash return slot.
- Consider taking an additional credit card. You can use your primary card for payments and keep your back-up card in your hotel room safety deposit box. That way, you’ll never be left without money.
- Keep your card in sight. Card cloning is rare in Estonia, but just in case, don’t let your card out of your sight.
How to prepare before traveling to Estonia
- 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 Estonia is no exception, though you can still 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 traveling 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 Estonia. 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 traveling to Estonia. 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 taxis in Estonia accept credit cards?
Some taxis in Estonia accept credit cards although it’ll be easier to find one in the major cities.
If you travel to Estonia, 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 declining to pay in pounds (dynamic currency conversion) when offered, you’ll also avoid a poor exchange rate or commission.
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