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Using a credit card in Poland
How to avoid charges when spending in zloty in the home of Pierogi.
As a member of the European Union, Poland – which translates as “the land of fields” – is as safe as it gets for credit card use. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted in the country, but you’ll also find some places that take Amex too.
Credit card acceptance out in the sticks is surprisingly good too, especially if those rural locations are considered tourist attractions.
You shouldn’t be asked to show ID when paying with a credit card (as is the case for visitors to some countries), and you won’t need to sign your name when you make payments either.
It’s fine to make even tiny purchases using a credit card in Poland. Polish corner shops all accept card payments and sell delicious and very cheap pastries (we recommend the Bułka z makiem). Tap your card for a 50-Grosz (£0.10) roll and you won’t have an angry shopkeeper on your hands. Pierogi, savoury or sweet filled dumplings, are the go-to dish in Poland and you can usually pay for them by card.
If you’re using public transport in the cities, you can simply hop on a tram or bus, tap your credit card and sit down. However, not all taxis take credit card (although there’s always Uber and Taxify) so you’ll probably want to carry some cash.
What about fees?
As you’d expect, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Poland.
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 (PSD2) – a ban on card payment surcharges (that’s when a retailer adds a fee because you’re paying using a credit card), but 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 is still within their rights to 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. 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.
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 (thankfully this is rare in Poland). High street bank ATMs are generally a safer bet than those in convenience stores or bars. ATMs are more or less the same as at home, and all have English as a language option as soon as you put your card in (even if you use a Polish card).
Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Poland
Are American Express cards accepted in Poland?At the time of writing, Amex cards aren’t issued in Poland, so naturally they aren’t anywhere near as popular as Mastercard or Visa. In some places you can still pay with them, but it’s advisable to ask the merchant first (a logo on the merchant’s door isn’t always a guarantee).
Merchants may additionally levy a surcharge for Amex payments.
Contactless and chip-and-PIN payments
Card payments in Poland almost all effectively use a contactless and pin payment method: most shops have a pin pad terminal that is contactless only, so if you have to use the chip or mag-stripe, they’ll usually take the card off you and use a separate terminal behind the counter (sometimes they hand you the terminal and sometimes they’ll put it in behind the counter and it links to the contactless pin pad on your side of the counter).
In Poland, contactless with no pin works for any amount up to 50zl (£9.98) and after that you’ll need to enter your pin.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Poland?
As far as safety goes, you can freely use your card in Poland. 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 Poland, but just in case, don’t let your card out of your sight.
How to prepare before travelling to Poland
- 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 Poland 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. In general, you can pay with plastic almost anywhere in Poland. 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 Poland. 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 Poland accept credit cards?Not all of them. If you definitely want to pay for your ride with a credit card, consider Uber or Taxify.
If you travel to Poland, 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. Then, by simply declining the DCC when offered, you’ll also avoid a poor exchange rate or commission.
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