Using a credit card in Lithuania
Here's what you need to know about credit card spending when heading for the enchanted courtyards and stunning scenery of Lithuania.
An EU member state, Lithuania is one of the latest countries to adopt the euro, having done so in 2015.
It’s been a bit slow to adopt card payment technology too, so you’ll have to prepare accordingly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vilinius is the most up-to-date with card payments. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly-accepted credit cards, and you can expect to spend money using these cards in most places. The exception is the traditional street markets, so you’ll have to pay for your souvenirs and cepelinai in cash.
When you’re visiting smaller towns or the lush rural areas around the Baltic coastline, you’ll be more likely to stumble upon cash-only retailers and guesthouses. To be safe, it’s best to keep euros in your pocket as back-up wherever you are in the nation.
Vilinius is well-stocked with ATMs, but they’re less easy to find across rural Lithuania. Your best option is to exchange pounds for euros before you head overseas.
What about fees?
As you’d expect, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Lithuania.
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 surchargesIn 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?
It’s often recommended to use ATMs – or bankomats as they’re often called there – attached to banks and shops to avoid ATM fees.
Also, 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. These cards will convert currency at the standard Mastercard or Visa rates
Once you have one of these cards, if a merchant offers to take payment in pounds, say you’re happy to pay in zloty, since you know that your own bank won’t add a margin.
Some travel credit cards won’t add a fee at their end for cash withdrawals, although they can’t prevent an ATM fee being charged.
Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Lithuania
Are American Express cards accepted in Lithuania?It’s not easy to find retailers that accept Amex in Lithuania or throughout the Balkans. If your primary card is served by American Express, it’s even more important to carry cash or another bank card as a back-up. Additionally, merchants may levy a surcharge for Amex payments.
Contactless and chip-and-PIN payments
Contactless payment technology was introduced to Lithuania in 2016, with the spending limit rising to 25 euros a year later.
Chip-and-PIN technology will also be widely available for you, provided your card has a four-digit PIN. If it doesn’t, go to your bank to get one before visiting.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Lithuania?
Lithuania is a relatively safe part of Europe to spend your time, but warnings have been issued about a couple of common problems.
There is also the slight possibility that if you are paying with a credit or debit card, a shifty bartender will attempt to charge fraudulent transactions against your account. To avoid becoming a victim, always verify the price of drinks before ordering, only order (and pay for) one round at a time and double check your bill and credit card receipt.
- Check your payment receipts. There have been reports of dishonest service staff (particularly in pubs and bars) charging fraudulent transactions against the credit cards of unsuspecting tourists. To avoid this, verify the price of your purchases and double-check your receipt.
- 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. Pick-pocketing and petty theft can be a problem in Lithuania, don’t let your card out of your sight.
How to prepare before travelling to Lithuania
- 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 Lithuania 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 travelling abroad, given you don’t know what could happen to your primary card.
- Get some cash. 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 Lithuania. 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.
Can you pay for public transport in Lithuania with credit cards?At most bus stops and train stations you can buy a ticket using a credit card. Taxis typically have the option to pay using plastic too.
If you travel to Lithuania, 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 a poor exchange rate or commission.
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