Using a credit card in Malta
Malta isn't just about crystal-clear seas and historic architecture. It's also a really convenient location to spend money using your credit card.
Malta is one of Europe’s smallest countries, but it has one of the most well-developed banking systems. In fact, it’s fast becoming an international finance hub.
As such, you’ll find it highly convenient when you visit the island on holiday.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely-accepted credit card networks. You’ll be most likely to come across retailers, hotels and restaurants that accept credit cards on the main island.
You won’t have to show ID when paying by card (as you do in some countries), and you can buy public transport tickets and pay for taxis using your credit card.
If you’re headed to one of the less-populated islands, you might be safer having some euros in your wallet in case you stumble upon a retailer that doesn’t accept card payments.
ATMs are all around the country, but you’ll often have to pay to withdraw euros from an ATM.
What about fees?
As you’d expect, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Malta:
It’s also worth noting 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 (PSD2). 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 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.
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 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 Malta
Are American Express cards accepted in Malta?American Express cards aren’t widely accepted in Malta, as many retailers want to avoid the high processing fees bestowed upon them by this network. Merchants that do accept Amex may levy a surcharge for payments.
Contactless and chip-and-PIN payments
Malta is a bit behind the curve when it comes to contactless payments. The technology was introduced in 2016 and it’s becoming more common.
Chip-and-PIN payments are available throughout the country, provided your credit card comes with a four-digit PIN.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Malta?
There are low levels of crime in Malta, although there have been incidents of card skimming in recent years. Here 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. To avoid card cloning incidents, don’t let your card out of your sight.
How to prepare before traveling to Malta
- 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 Malta is no exception. You won’t be able to use your American Express cards in some locations, which makes a Visa or Mastercard even more useful. 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 Malta. If you want to make a cash withdrawal, keep in mind credit cards have additional fees while most debit cards don’t.
- Inform your bank you’re traveling to Malta. 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.
If you travel to Malta, 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.
Frequently asked questions
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