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Using a credit card in Brazil
Get a card without foreign transaction fees and decline DCC when traveling around Latin America.
In Brazil, you can easily pay for products and services with your credit card. Mastercard and Visa are more widely accepted, although in large cities you’ll find merchants who take American Express and Discover cards.
Nevertheless, you should always carry some cash in case you’re at a restaurant or store where cards aren’t accepted or if you think using your card is risky.
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When traveling abroad, it’s smart to have a credit card with you — if for nothing else than in case of emergency situations. If you travel often, having a card with premium travel benefits and no foreign transaction fees is almost certainly a must-have. The occasional traveler may opt for a simpler no-annual-fee card without foreign transaction fees.
Potential credit card fees in Brazil
When you decide to travel to another country, it’s a good idea to look into what fees you’ll be charged when using your credit card. For transactions made in Brazil, you could pay:
- Foreign transaction fees. Some credit cards slap you with a 3% fee for foreign transactions. This is relatively high, especially if you travel often. For every $1,000 spent in Brazil, you could pay up to $30 in fees. To avoid this, get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. When you use your card in Brazil and the merchant asks if you’d like to pay in US dollars instead of Brazilian real, you’ll make a dynamic currency conversion (DCC). Typically, the fees for these conversions are higher than if you paid in the local currency.
Can I avoid incurring both fees?
Yes. Get a card without foreign transaction fees and decline DCC if offered.
Which credit card issuers are accepted in Brazil?
Yes, American Express and Discover cards are accepted in Brazil, especially in larger cities. However, it may be best to take a Mastercard with you, since it’s the most widely accepted card in Brazil.
Should I use my credit card to get cash in Brazil?
When you withdraw cash from an ATM, you could pay a cash advance fee of up to 5% of the transaction. That’s a $25 fee for $500. With most cards, the cash advance APR is also higher than the APR on purchases and balance transfers. To avoid this, get a card without cash advance fees and with a reasonable cash advance APR. Most debit cards don’t have these fees.
You can find ATMs in every city in Brazil, but it may be hard to find them in the countryside. For increased security, make sure you use ATMs that are located within banks or inside shopping malls. If you’re using an ATM that’s on the street, examine it for devices attached to the card slot or the cash dispenser. If something looks suspicious to you — skip that ATM and find another.
Chip-and-PIN credit cards
In Brazil, chip cards are more widely accepted. If you use a card without an EMV chip, your transaction may be declined. You may also be required to show your ID.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Brazil?
In general, it’s safe to use your card in Brazil, but consider these tips for added security.
- Use an ATM within a bank or shopping mall. ATMs in the street may be tampered with, which could put you at risk of having your credit card information exposed. To avoid this, use ATMs inside a bank or a shopping mall.
- Take two credit cards. Keep one credit card stored in your hotel room safe and the other in a secure pocket on you.
- Keep your card in sight. In Rio, the most common fraud is card cloning. To avoid this, don’t let a merchant take your card and swipe it where you can’t see it. If you’re dining at a restaurant, ask for the waiter to bring the portable card reader to your table. If they don’t have one, walk with the waiter to the cashier’s station.
- Use Uber instead of cabs. You’ll get a better service, there won’t be a language barrier and you can pay with your card through the app.
How to prepare before traveling to Brazil
- Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Save money by limiting the amount of fees you’re charged for everyday use abroad.
- Get a card that’s largely accepted. Keep in mind that Mastercard and Visa are widely used in Brazil, while American Express and Discover cards are mostly accepted in larger cities.
- Get a backup credit card. Keep it in your hotel room safe in case you lose your primary card.
- Take some cash with you, but don’t exchange it at the airport. The exchange rate and fees are considerably higher at the airport than in the city.
- Inform your bank that you’re traveling to Brazil. Let your bank know the dates you’ll be out of the country. If you don’t, your bank may consider your transactions to be fraudulent and lock your account.
- Get your bank’s phone number. In the event your card is lost or stolen, you can quickly call the bank to block it from further use. Some banks will also let you do this online.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Brazil, especially Mastercard and Visa. To avoid fees, consider getting a travel card without foreign transaction fees and, if possible, get a backup card. If you need a cab, take an Uber instead of a regular taxi so that you can pay with your card through the app. And above all, always keep an eye on your credit card.
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