Using a credit card in Germany

Use our guide to get the best out of your plastic, and your cash, on holiday in Germany.

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Germany is well known for being the largest national economy in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. With a complex and rich history, Germany is popular for its colourful architecture, castles and landscapes…not to mention the beer!

Germany remains one of the top destinations in the world for travellers, and whilst being predominantly a cash society, credit cards are accepted, so you’ll have no problems if you run out of cash.

Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted and you’ll be able to use your American Express card in a few places, too, but not many.

Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Germany

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Updated November 21st, 2019
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Credit limits Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
24.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £1,500.
24.9% p.a. (variable)
No fees for making purchases or withdrawing cash abroad – currencies are converted at the standard Mastercard exchange rate.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £400, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
14.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
14.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 14.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 14.9% APR (variable).
0% for 12 months reverting to 15.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
15.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 15.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 15.9% APR (variable).

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Cash machines in Germany

ATMs are known in German as Bankomat, and they’re normally located inside or outside bank branches. You’ll also find them at major airports, but they are less common in shopping centres and petrol stations. German ATMs accept foreign bank cards, so using your Visa or Mastercard will be easy.

Cash in Germany

More than 80% of payments in Germany are made using cash, meaning it’s crucial to carry some cash with you on your travels. It is important to know that smaller shops, like bakeries, butchers, news agents only accept cash or the German EC card. It is highly recommended before you buy an item or sit down to eat, you check the accepted payment type.

Find a great deal on your travel money for Germany

Chip and PIN

This type of card is the most secure and most common in Germany. You will be required to input your PIN number associated with it every time you purchase an item, or withdraw cash from an ATM.

If you use a chip-and-signature card, you may have issues when trying to make a purchase at an unattended point of sale, like a petrol station. For visitors travelling to Germany with only chip-and-signature cards, it is wise to rely on cash instead.

Germany has moved from magnetic-stripe cards to chip cards, and all banks in Germany now issue the latter. You’ll still be able to use your magnetic-stripe card in Germany, although you can expect some confusion. In the switching of technology, some retailers falsely believe that they can no longer accept magnetic-stripe cards while some others will not let you use them, to do their bit in reducing credit card fraud. All they basically need you to do is swipe your card instead of inserting it into the machine, and then get you to sign for the purchase.

Is it safe to use my card in Germany?

By exercising some caution when using your credit card in Germany, you’ll have a relatively trouble-free experience.

  • Keep your PIN safe. Use one hand to enter the PIN and the other to shield it from prying eyes and hidden cameras.
  • Select ATMs with care. Try and stick to ATMs in banks and avoid using ones in the street.
  • Watch out for “skimmers”. When installed in an ATM, a card skimmer works by stealing information from credit and debit cards. If you feel the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and look for another ATM.

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Remain alert to street crime, especially where two or more people work in distracting victims before decamping with their valuables. Instances of theft at airports are not uncommon, so stay vigilant while arriving and departing. There have been numerous instances of thefts from hired cars so don’t leave your wallet or purse in a parked car. In some cases, thieves pose as police and ask to see wallets for identification purposes. In such a scenario, make sure you’re speaking with genuine police officers. It is very unlikely that a real officer will want to sift through your wallet.

Potential credit card fees

Credit card fees can leave a noticeable dent in your pocket when you’re travelling overseas, so know what you’re up against well in advance and choose a card with no or low fees.

Foreign transaction fees

British credit card issuers typically charge a fee equivalent to 1% to 3% of your transaction, so carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a good time to switch.

Learn more about cards designed for overseas spending

Currency conversion fees

If a retailer offers to bill your credit card in sterling, dynamic currency conversion comes into play. While this might sound like a good deal, you’ll actually end up getting a worse exchange rate, and you might also end up paying currency conversion fees. Whenever you’re presented with an option, choose to pay in euros.

Cash advance fees

Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM may not make sense unless it’s a bona fide emergency. Each time you withdraw funds from an ATM, you’re likely to pay a cash advance fee. Your APR for cash advances is typically higher than your purchase APR, and you’ll typically get no grace period on interest — instead, you start paying interest immediately. Again, some cards designed for overseas spending will waive this fee.

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

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”.

How to prepare before travelling to Germany

  1. Go with Visa or Mastercard. Carry at least two cards on your trip to Germany, preferably connected with Visa or Mastercard. If you just take an American Express card, you won’t get to use it in many places.
  2. Think no foreign transaction fees. When there are cards that come with no foreign transaction fees, using ones that charge 2% or 3% of each overseas transaction does not make sense. Some of these cards don’t charge an annual fee, either.
  3. Keep your bank posted. Banks, in their efforts to thwart fraudulent transactions, block credit cards if they detect suspicious activity such as unexpected overseas transactions. To make sure this does not happen to your card, let your bank know about your travel plans before you leave the UK.
  4. Keep the emergency number handy. Know which numbers you’ll need to call if you end up losing your card or if you need an emergency replacement.
  5. Know where you’ll get cash from. Consider using your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs. If you need to exchange money, stick to banks or official money-exchange offices because possessing counterfeit money in Germany is a serious crime. Try to avoid exchanging money at airports and popular tourist destinations because of typically poor exchange rates.

Next steps

Ask yourself these simple questions before you leave so your spending in Germany does not hit any roadblocks.

  • Which cards will I take? Visa and Mastercard are the favourites. If you’re planning a trip, check out cards which give you complimentary airport lounge access. If you’re planning well in advance, consider earning air miles for your trip with a frequent flyer credit card.
  • Have I let my bank know? If you don’t inform your bank about your travel plans, you may end up with a temporarily suspended card.
  • What fees do I need to pay? If your existing cards come with foreign transaction fees, look for one that does not. Paying in Sterling outside of the UK might come with currency conversion fees.
  • How will I get cash? Using your debit card at an ATM is the simplest way to access your own money. You can carry cash and traveler’s cheques with you. Exchanging Sterling to Euros is easy and you’ll get several options.

When you’re in Germany, you don’t have to worry about where and when you can use your credit card. Just keep some cash handy to pay for small purchases.

How to use a credit card in …

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    CatherineJanuary 10, 2019

    Is it better to use cash or credit card in travel to Europe?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaJanuary 13, 2019Staff

      Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      That would depend on your needs and preference Catherine as well as where in Europe you would particularly travel. Both options come with their advantages and disadvantages. You would need to weigh the pros and cons. However, if you want to get the best of both worlds, you might as well bring both a credit card and cash in case a store does not accept cards.

      It is worth noting though that card payments are pretty standard throughout Europe. However, if you are going to places that are remote or not yet fully developed, it would be a good idea to bring cash with you.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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