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Paying in Cash or CC for daily expenses

I am still a 'pay in cash' type when on vacation, but part of that has been because I have been travelling places where credit card use gets the merchant fee added on (if they accept cards at all). But in Europe, has anyone done a comparison of ATM fees vs CC fees? I would be willing to go plastic all the way if there is a definite savings.
For argument sake, let's say the neither the debit card, or the credit card have free foreign transaction allowance.
Thanks

Posted by
1306 posts

For argument sake, let's say the neither the debit card, or the credit card have free foreign transaction allowance.

I think this makes the comparison moot. It depends on the size of the fee, plus, if you have to pay a flat ATM fee (not a percentage) each time you withdraw money, it depends how much you withdraw each time. I just don't see how these can be compared.

But (and someone correct me if I'm mistaken), when you go to an ATM, apart from the fees, you are buying foreign currency. Someone is selling it to you, and that someone needs to make a profit.

On the other hand, when you pay for something with a credit card, no one is selling you foreign currency. You pay in foreign currency, and then when your bank calculates the charge, they convert it. That conversion rate is likely to be better than the rate you will pay to buy currency.

Posted by
486 posts

I have "no additional fee" ATM cards and credit cards. So, I usually use cash for purchases from small shops and for small purchases; credit cards (assuming it is accepted) to bigger companies (i.e. supermarket, accommodation) or for purchases of more than ~€20.

Posted by
486 posts

And sometimes, one does not have a choice. Some shops only accepts cash; others, only card payments.

Posted by
597 posts

It's a toss up. If you have credit cards with no transaction fees, then use it. I withdrew money from an ATM once a week for 11 weeks and that only cost me $24.00. The key is no foreign transaction fees on CC, otherwise I wouldn't worry about the cost.

Posted by
20632 posts

I still use cash about 90% of the time. Just find it more convenient and easier. I have yet to find a place that does not take cash. I heard that some merchants in the Scandinavia countries only take credit cards but that has not been our experience to date.

Posted by
2796 posts

Thanks Lane. Always good to know how people read posts (and what is missing). I didn't think of it as you have interpreted it.
I guess I am thinking of daily incidentals, so meals, drinks, snacks and amusements by card vs cash. I do not hesitate taking a good portion of cash out so cover the bulk of a vacation - so lets say 2-3 transactions in 2 weeks. There would be 'their' ATM bank fee, 'my' ATM bank fee, and whatever rate of exchange I can get. A credit card, however, may charge a foreign transaction fee of 2% every transaction, and then at favourable? rate.

Posted by
20632 posts

I am now more confused. The exchange rate will be nearly the same (within .xxxx) whether it is a debit or credit card so that is a mute point. All exchange rates are set by the network that you credit/debit card accesses. Your bank or the European bank does not determine the exchange rate. All fees after that are added by the card issuer. The exception would be a fee for using the ATM but that is fairly rare in Europe. So it just becomes a question what fees added.

Posted by
16769 posts

Bank-owned ATMs typically do not charge a per-transaction fee in Europe. Your home bank may and should tell you so.

For converting the currencies, +3% over bank rate is considered a "typical" credit card mark-up and +2% is typical for ATM withdrawals. You'll see these when viewing exchange rates at www.oanda.com, for instance. But that is also specific to the policy of your banks and cards, which is why you may want to shop for a better one. See more at https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/card-fees.

Posted by
431 posts

From trip to trip, we have a few hundred euros left over, I don't change it back because we will be going back and interest on the total cash isn't worth the transaction fees. We start with this cash, if a small shop or restaurant owner prefers cash, we use it. Larger purchases and/or large companies, we use credit. When we need cash, we take out the max and split it between us.

Posted by
6178 posts

But in Europe, has anyone done a comparison of ATM fees vs CC fees?

I'm not sure if I'm interpreting your post correctly, but this seems to me to be really easy to figure out before you actually get to Europe. All you have to do is to compare the small print terms between your ATM card and your credit card. In my case, my ATM card via a credit union charges 1% for every withdrawal. My credit card has no foreign exchange fee. So it's advantageous for me to use the credit card wherever I can instead of cash (even though 1% is low, it's still > 0). Canadian cards may be different, it seems like they don't have many (any?) cards with 0 foreign exchange fees.

There are some small expenses in Europe where cash is unavoidable but, for the rest (meaning the vast majority of expenses), I use a credit card.

Posted by
5504 posts

I generally use credit cards for "larger" purchases and cash from my ATM/debit withdraw for "smaller" purchases, just as I would in the US. That said, my no FX fee Capital one is more efficient than my credit union ATM withdrawal that passes on the 1% FX transaction fee. The other inefficiency of ATM cash withdrawals is ending up with unspent FX cash.

I would also add that my Captal One Quicksilver in both a no fee card and a cash rewards card.
https://creditcards.usnews.com/capital-one/capital-one-quicksilver-cash-rewards-credit-card

The Capital One Quicksilver Card is a cash back credit card that
offers flat-rate rewards of 1.5 percent on all purchases. There are no
limits to the amount of cash back rewards that cardholders can earn,
and the card carries a $0 annual fee.

My bottom line is my credit union debit card cost me a 1% expense on FX transations. My Capital One earns me a 1.5% bonus on FX (and all) tranasactions.

Posted by
1191 posts

I think it's cool that is this one thread we have two Forum superusers (Frank and Agnes) who have opposite answers: mostly cash vs. mostly credit.

I wonder why we don't answer more often this way: these days, why not do the same thing you do in Europe as you do at home?
Subject to some significant local variation or limitation, I use the same mix of payment methods when I'm out and about in the San Francisco area that I do when I'm anywhere else with modern infrastructure.

(If you're someplace that's even more modern, like Taipei, or still developing, like Kentucky, adjust accordingly)

Posted by
5504 posts

Frank: I have yet to find a place that does not take cash.....

After a dinner at Oakland's Burma Superstar, we went next door to Tara's Organic Ice Cream for cones. Tara's was a cashless transaction only store, for ice cream cones.

https://www.eater.com/2018/2/15/16974980/cashless-restaurants-credit-card-only-legal-problem-discriminatory

Daily Provisions is one of a growing number of new restaurants that
don’t accept cash. But it’s certainly not the first; some
establishments started going cashless nearly a decade ago. “If you
don’t have a credit card, you can use a debit card,” Tony Zazula,
co-owner of New York City’s Commerce restaurant, told the Wall Street
Journal when it stopped accepting cash in 2009. “If you don’t have a
debit card, you probably don’t have a checking account. And if you
don’t have a checking account, you probably shouldn’t be eating at
Commerce to begin with.”

And more casual restaurants have been increasingly experimenting with
cashless service. Split Bread Sandwich Shop in San Francisco went
cash-free in 2012. Other credit-only spots include Oakland’s AlaMar
(which nixed cash last year); Chicago-based Epic Burger; Los Angeles’s
Petit Trois; chains like Milk Bar and Dig Inn; and salad chains like
D.C.-based Sweetgreen and LA-based Tender Greens, the latter of which
only recently announced it’s becoming a cash-free establishment. (The
LA-based chain received a “significant minority investment” from Meyer
in 2015, but owners told Eater that they made the decision to go
cashless without his involvement.)

Posted by
2045 posts

We have CapOne, Amazon, and now TD credit cards, none of which have the Foreign Transaction Fee. The TD and Amazon do even better than the CapOne QuickSilver, with 3% and 2% cashback respectively at restaurants, both give 2% at grocery stores, and they do code through correctly as such from Europe. All 3 convert at the exchange rate. Our Schwab and CapOne Debit cards also convert at exchange rate when we pull from ATMs, but with a mark-up of between .3 to .6 of 1 percent by the network, presumably for the expenses of manning the ATM systems with cash. So it is cheaper for us to charge, and we do so at any type of place that we would credit card at home. Small establishments and small lodgings we will pay with cash to help them out, and often there is a reduction for cash. The cashback does amount to a significant savings over the course of a trip.

Posted by
2465 posts

OP, there is often a problem when Canadians ask for ATM/CC advice on this forum, and that is that most of the respondents will be American. And their ATM/CC accounts are different than our Canadian ones. They can shop around for no fee accounts. We can't (at least not if we only use Canadian accounts.

As previously mentioned, the actual exchange rate should be the same, whether it is an ATM card or a CC. What will vary are the extra charges. For your ATM card, you will likely have a flat fee for each transaction, since you aren't withdrawing from your own bank (mine is $5 CDN for out of country transactions). Then there will be the foreign exchange fee which may be a percentage that shows separately, or is melded into the exchange rate. The fine print on your ATM card agreement will state what the percentage is. We've never encountered a situation where we've gotten a transaction fee from the foreign bank we are withdrawing from, but I've read here that it has happened with a few banks.

Your CC will charge the current exchange rate plus the FEX fee for each transaction. Again, read the fine print in your agreement to find out what it is.

We use a combination of cash and CC. We take out the max allowable from a bank owned ATM, to minimize the number of transactions we have to do. This is used for small (under €/ £ 50) purchases. Everything else goes on our CC. In both cases, you have to be vigilant to decline the offer of dynamic currency conversion. If you are asked if you would like to be billed in CAD, ALWAYS say no.

Posted by
17657 posts

I almost never use anything but cash in Europe. The difference between paying cash from an ATM and using a credit card is negligible (right now it is slightly cheaper at the same place with cash, but that is not the point). The places I like to stay in (for the cultural benefits) are nice, far less expensive, and don't take credit cards, so I spend a lot less by using cash than I would if I stayed at a place that takes credit cards.

Now, I've stayed mostly in Germany and a little bit in Austria and Czechia. This might not be true for other countries, but I have found it to be true everywhere I've gone.

I do make major purchases with a credit card, but in the places I stay overnight, the charge is not a major purchase. When my partner wanted to buy clothes at the Kaufhof in Munich is used a credit card instead of cash because, at the time, my bank at the time charged me 3% currency exchange either way. Today it's 3% for currency exchange on purchases and 1% ($5 on a cash withdrawal of $500), so I would probably use cash.

someone correct me if I'm mistaken), when you go to an ATM, apart from the fees, you are buying foreign currency.

Partially true. You are "buying currency" at an ATM, but you are also "buying currency" to pay for the credit card transaction. Most banks charge you a currency exchange fee at an ATM, but often it's the same currency exchange fee as with a POS transaction.

I do all of my banking, including my credit card, at a bank 1½ miles from my home. I like it because anytime I want to do something different, they are right there. When i want to take cash from my brokerage account, they're right there; I don't have to wait on hold for two hours like I did at a major national brokerage. And when I want to pay my credit card account, I don't have to mail the payment to another state, it's an instantaneous transfer. I could get a no-fee credit card with Charles Schwab, but the convenience of a locally available bank is worth $35 every few years for me.

Posted by
2766 posts

I have taken 16 RS tours over the last 17 years in going to Europe for a month for 15 years. I can count the number of times I have use a credit card in Europe and I have traveled from Scandinavia to Portugal to Turkey to Eastern Europe.
I have always gotten local currency from an ATM machine using a debit card from my credit union once I land in Europe. I have only stayed in hotels a couple of times and then have used a cc. If not on RS tours we prefer to stay in B&Bs and have always paid cash at them. I go to ATMs when I am running low on local cash and need to refill my money belt. I always try to use an ATM at a bank that is open just incase there is a problem which I have never had.
My wife and I each take a debit card from different financial institutions and we also each take a credit card also from different financial institutions. We view this a a back up insurance policy just incase something goes wrong and that has happened only once years ago.

Posted by
231 posts

It can also be a cultural thing. I was talking Italian classes before our Rick Steves Best of Italy tour. My teacher was a native Italian, and one of the lessons right before I left was on money--checking, credit cards, etc. The textbook (and she) said that most Italians used credit cards only for large purchases (like more than 100 Euro), so we felt comfortable using mainly cash. I observed two American couples during our trip who couldn't understand why their credit card was being rejected by the restaurant when it had just worked earlier in the day (in one case at a hotel). They then paid their tab of 20-30 Euro in cash. Plus wherever you go, some places are operating on a narrow profit margin and the usual 2% credit card fee the business has to pay makes a noticeable difference in their bottom line.

Posted by
1191 posts

There is definitely a cultural aspect to it -- Germans still love paying for things in cash:
https://qz.com/262595/why-germans-pay-cash-for-almost-everything/

while mobile payments are a growing preference in China and other parts of east Asia:
https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2017/06/29/534846403/in-china-a-cashless-trend-is-taking-hold-with-mobile-payments

Modern well-to-do Chinese abroad have to hold their tongues about how backward the US and Euro are in matters of business, etc...

Posted by
1094 posts

When I travel I use my CCs and ATM card just like I do at home. At home I go to an ATM once a month and get $100. That is all the cash I need for the month. Our last trip to England for 5 weeks I got 400 pounds from ATMsl over that time and ended up having to spend a left over 100 pounds cash the last few days. My ATM card has no fees and my CC charges a 1% foreign transaction fee. But, since it pays a 2 1/2% cash reward on all transactions, I am still ahead of the game.

Posted by
2525 posts

Someone with greater technical knowledge may provide additional substance, but the debit/ATM and credit cards I use when traveling have zero foreign transaction fees and tied to Visa. The online Visa exchange rate calculator https://tinyurl.com/jud49l7 doen't appear to differentiate between cards, whether debit/ATM or credit, so absent other considerations (e.g. rewards, credit card protections) costs are the same.

Posted by
12103 posts

I recall seeing a newspaper article in the travel section at the beginning of the 21st century (2000 or 2001) saying that summer travel to Europe, if done using a credit card, would save you 2 %. I don't recall the details.

In France, England, Poland I use the credit card quite often, more 75%. In France the meals, hotels, point to point train tickets, dinner etc I pay with the card, almost the same in England, if no surcharge is imposed when paying with a card.

In Germany I do it differently, using cash almost always, 90%, almost the same in Austria, ie, buying museum tickets, souvenirs, meals, phone cards, paying for the Pension, etc., but train tickets from DB machines...depends on the time, price, etc. Retail purchases like books, maps, magazines, CDs, etc either cash or credit card...depends.

Germans prefer cash....good...I oblige them.

Posted by
2796 posts

Thanks all. Lots to digest after a weekend off the grid.
As mentioned, the Cdn vs US credit card options are different and the reason I stated to comment on those charging foreign transaction fees.
I would certainly adapt to the country's preference, but I was asking as I have been watching 'The Honest Guide's YouTubes for Prague and he says 'use your credit card'.....for every little thing.
I have tried to read the contracts with cards, and also with bank accounts but some contracts are very old, and when I call, I get answers that it is bundled into the exchange rate line item. Not very helpful. I have one card I had to use in Spain, and that statement clearly outlined the exchange rate and the added Foreign Transaction Fee.
I will try again to read the contracts and do a calculation based on some average spending, but it sounds like I may need to embrace the CC option when it is available. At home I tend to use CC for the benefits, but often cash if under $15.
I think Fred's comment on his newspaper article comes closest to what I was hoping to get. I thought our savvy RS readers may have some similar data on hand, though Google didn't provide much of use.
I suspect that ultimately, I will do as I always do which is a bulk in cash and CC where convenient or required.
Thanks again.

Posted by
12103 posts

@ Maria...That newspaper article suggesting that one could end up saving 2% going to Europe using a credit card was maybe 20 years ago...maybe 1999 or 2000? Pre-Euro days.

Other factors now must be taken into consideration...foreign transaction fee, the local establishment imposing a surcharge (3%) for the luxury of using a credit card. (I've experienced this still in London), your points on each dollar spent, etc.

Posted by
2796 posts

Fred, thanks, I appreciate the article was 'ancient' in many respects. Feedback has given me a bit of a strategy to backtrack into my financial statements to look at cash and credit activities during the same trip to see what were similar/different and from there I think I can see what is what.

As people have said, 'it all depends'. I think I needs some specific things to give me a mental boost as to how to figure out an approach to it....that is if no one could just direct me to a current article saying 'XXX is the way to go'.
Thanks again.

Posted by
1977 posts

I pay with a credit card as much as possible at home - mainly for the miles I'll use for our next trip Europe, but also to have a "record" of my purchases and some recourse if there's a problem later on with a vendor; and I really don't like to carry cash - I have an amazing ability to make cash disappear.

I handle money the same way on vacation. Sorry, I just won't have a credit card with international transaction fees.

Posted by
2796 posts

I have been doing some researching today. Canada offers 2...that is correct only 2 credit cards with no FT fees. One costs $150 per annum, and on review has terrible interest rates and too many controls to make it of interest to me. Another is a no fee with minimal incentives, but at least is an option for international purchases. I don't recognize the provider, but it is Visa, so well accepted globally. That is all I need for cc use in foreign currency. It can reside in my passport for international travel only.

Posted by
5504 posts

Maria: Canada offers 2...that is correct only 2 credit cards with no FT fees.

Have you checked out (I'm in te US and don't have personal experience with Home Turst):

https://www.hometrust.ca/credit-cards/preferred-visa-card/

Home Trust Preferred Visa Card

  • No annual fee

  • 1% CashBack with no limits to your total rewards

  • No restrictions on where you earn your rewards1 1Cash advances, balance transfers, interest and fees are not eligible for CashBack

    Rewards.

  • No foreign currency conversion surcharges2 2Foreign currency transactions are converted at the exchange rate set by Visa

    International, without additional surcharge.

Posted by
3313 posts

What you will need to do is simply compare the cards you will be using.

  1. Everywhere I have been in Europe (of course I have not been everywhere in Europe), there are no fees charged to you by the merchants no matter what card you use.

2.What fee does each, credit or debit card you will be using, charge per transaction? If you pay 3% exchange fee for credit cards but pay $5 plus the 3% for withdrawing money, then the credit card would be the better option. And of course there are still situations in Europe where cash is the only option.

A lot has changed in the past 20 years with card use in Europe. The issuing banks used to not be so fee hungry and there was no foreign exchange fee. The only reason the fees are there is today is because the card banks are allowed to charge you. They do nothing to exchange the Euros you paid with the card to dollars, this is done automatically by the card network. ATMs were not on every corner either so you needed to bring cash with you (either exchanged at home or using the airport exchange booths, neither of which gave you a good rate). So back then it may have been less costly to pay with credit cards for everything you could in Europe.

Posted by
20632 posts

........The issuing banks used to not be so fee hungry and there was no foreign exchange fee. The only reason the fees are there is today is because the card banks are allowed to charge you. ......

That is not quite accurate. The foreign exchange fee/service fee has always been there but the banks folded these fees into the exchange rate present to you on your statement so it was not obvious what the fees were. Second, it was also difficult in those days to determine what the exchange should have been.

Then about 20 years ago or more a class action suit forced the banks to reveal all addition charges added after the exchange rate from the networks. So now your statement (in the US) must show all the fees being added. Transparency !!! You were being charge the fees before but you just didn't know it. As a part of that class action settlement I received some refunds on the foreign transactions I could document. Amount to a couple hundred dollars.

Posted by
2796 posts

Edgar, yes, that is the card I saw today. When I was looking a year ago, that card didn't exist. I done recognize the trust company, but that doesn't really matter.
Frank, that roll in still happens here. Not as transparent and that is part of my problem.

Posted by
17657 posts

The foreign exchange fee/service fee has always been there

Not "always" - In 2000 I made my first trip to Europe in 10 years. Out of habit I brought Traveler's Cheques - found them hard to cash. Then one day, in Stuttgart, I saw an ATM. Out of curiosity I put in my card and it gave me cash. Wow! I haven't used a Traveler's Cheque since.

When I got home I looked at my bank statement at the withdrawal in US$ and calculated the exchange rate. Then I went to the library and looked up the Interbank Rate for that day in the Wall St. Journal. The rates were the same within a fraction of a percent - no exchange or service fee at all. Within a year the banks had figured out that they were missing out on a profit opportunity and started to add exchange fees, but they didn't when I first used my card.

Posted by
3313 posts

Yes, the practices before that class action suit were non transparent. The card networks inflated their exchange rates used to convert purchases into home currency, resulting in most people getting charged way more than they should have. And starting around 2000 the banks added extra fees into that. Since they were not broken out, it became even more impossible for the average customer to know the true cost of the exchange.

Now, the banks and the networks are still allowed to use the rate they want and add in any extra fees they want, they just have to detail them separately. This is very helpful to the card user so they can decide which bank is giving a better deal.

This of course is all US related and no help to our Canadian neighbors who are still not given that transparency unfortunately.

Posted by
20632 posts

...... Now, the banks and the networks are still allowed to use the rate they want ...... No, they do not - at least in the US. It is only the network (Plus, Cirrus,etc.) that determine the exchange rate that is passed along to the card issuers. And for the network it is the actual cost of the money (Interbank rate) plus a fee of less than 1 % - generally around .75% that is passed along to the card issuers. Banks are not setting or choosing a rate to use. But if you go into a bank to buy currency, then it is like any market item. They can sell at any price they choose and do so.

Posted by
3313 posts

Visa and MasterCard set the rate for all of their subsidiary networks (Plus, Cirrus, Maestro, and so on). American Express and Discover also set their own rates (but where in Europe can you actually use a Discover card?). They always end up being the interbank rate anyway.

I said the banks are free to use whatever rate they want, with disclosure of course. Most chose to use the rate set by the network and then just add fees because they know their customers won't be their customers for very long otherwise. There is a mass migration in the US to cards that charge no international fees even among card holders that never travel! This is resulting in even more banks offering international fee free cards. So, market forces can have an impact on unpopular fees.

*I'm am not here as a representative of any bank or credit card network, however I have worked almost exclusively in the credit and debit card divisions of banks and networks since 1980. I do know more than I ever wanted to on how these things work behind the scenes both currently and historically.

Posted by
3141 posts

I am still a 'pay in cash' type when on vacation, but part of that has
been because I have been travelling places where credit card use gets
the merchant fee added on (if they accept cards at all). But in
Europe, has anyone done a comparison of ATM fees vs CC fees? I would
be willing to go plastic all the way if there is a definite savings.

For argument sake, let's say the neither the debit card, or the credit
card have free foreign transaction allowance.

Unless the dollar were getting stronger by leaps and bounds during my visit, I typically use my CC as often as possible over cash. That's the same for me at home as well. I rarely use cash.

Posted by
401 posts

There is definitely a cultural aspect to it...

That's true. I know Germans prefer to use cash. I've even had to help out German tourists at non-attended French gas stations because all they had was cash and all the pumps accepted were credit cards. It amazes me that someone would go on a trip to another country and not bring at least one credit card.

In France, credit card usage is becoming far more common, even for small purchases. Especially popular are sans contact terminals that work just by holding your card over the reader, no PIN required.

Some vendors at the weekly market take cards. Even the pizza truck parked on the edge of our little town has a "CB" (cartes bancaires) sign posted on it.

Posted by
17657 posts

According to a 2016 article in Money magazine, there are two kinds of credit card users, Convenience Users and Revolvers.

Convenience Users are those users who pay off their CC balance each month. They use the card for convenience or for the card rewards (miles or points). With the recent imposition of Interchange Fee Regulations (IFR) of 0.3% on credit cards issued in the EU, I would expect the rewards to vanish. In fact, reportedly, CC issuers in the EU are starting to impose annual fees to make up for the loss of profits from Interchange Fee. In the US, only about 35% of card users are Convenience Users.

Note, so far IFR only applies to cards issued in the EU. Cards from outside the EU (like from the US) can get whatever interchange fee they negotiate. Also, EU regulations ban merchants from adding a surcharge for using cards issued in the EU, i.e., those subject to the IFR, but merchant are allowed to impose fees on non-EU-issued cards.

In the US, Revolvers, who carry a balance every month, make up about 65% of credit card users and carry over $7000, average, in CC debt. They obviously use their credit cards for expenses when they travel because they don't have cash - everything is borrowed.

In the last 5 years, I've spent 41 nights in 12 different places. Ten of these places have websites, and not one indicates that they take credit cards. Two of them explicitly told me that they accept cash only; several others, like the grandmother who rented me an apartment in her building, the only one she rents, obviously don't have the equipment to take cards. BTW, those 41 nights, all paid for with cash, cost me an average of 58€ double occupancy (29€ per person per night), with breakfast, and all of them were very nice places. Had I insisted on staying in places that take credit cards, I'm sure that cost would have been much higher.

Posted by
17657 posts

But in Europe, has anyone done a comparison of ATM fees vs CC fees?

This answer is subject to change without notice

However, at this time, if you have an ATM card with no international fees or a credit card with no international fees, the answer is, they are the same - no fees.

If you are using an ATM or credit card from a major bank, they probably charge you 3% for a POS transaction and 3% + $5 (approximately 4%, total, on $500) for an ATM withdrawal. So, in this case, the credit card fee is less.

If you are a Wells Fargo customer, Wells still charges 3% for POS transactions, but only $5 for ATM withdrawals (again, 1% on $500). So, if you are using Wells Fargo cards, it's about 2% less for cash from an ATM.

I have an ATM card and a credit card from my credit union. The credit card charges 1% for POS and the debit card charges 1% + $1, so about 1.2%. Advantage credit card.

I actually use my WF ATM card (just over 1%) and my credit union credit card (1%) when I am in Germany, so slight advantage (but virtually equal) to the credit card.

The big difference, using cash from the ATM allows me stay in less expensive places then using the credit card.

Overall, advantage cash.

Posted by
2429 posts

I prefer to use my no fee credit card as often as possible. I've found I have gone to the ATM only once, in Greece, during the last three European trips, which included Sweden, Netherlands, UK and Greece. In fact, Sweden wanted nothing to do with cash if at all possible. IMO, it is so much easier and quicker to use a card than cash, and I'll use it for as small an item as possible. At the end, I can clearly see on what I spent my money and keep a better accounting of my costs during the trip. (It actually costs me more money to go to an ATM as I use a small CU at home.) But everyone is different and which ever makes you feel more comfortable is the system to use.

At home, I use cash as it keeps me on budget...so I can travel.

Posted by
1191 posts

Thanks, Lee, for continuing to make the strong argument in favor of cash. You're a great contributor to the RS forum discussions!

That said, I want to add to what someone noted about finding cash-not-good-here establishments in Oakland, by pointing out that the Senor Sisig food trucks (Filipino/Mexican fusion, popular and tasty) spread mostly in the Mission District in San Francisco but appearing farther afield as well, now sport prominent signage that says No Cash Payments Accepted.

Not just techies but young'uns in general around here are used to using Venmo (the friendly-faced version of PayPal) but they do so by drawing on debit accounts, not credit accounts, in order to avoid the costly fees/penalties. I'm still old fashioned enough to be leery of giving them access to my 'real' money by connecting a debit, and then further giving up privacy/personal data. But the current generation just shrugs this concern off, at least so far.

Posted by
2819 posts

I hadn't use cash for anything (except coins as deposit for lockers) in my daily life and trips in Netherlands, Norway and neighboring countries for 3 years. This week, to my aggravation, I wanted to buy some fancy ice drink at a lakeside bar in Montreux and they didn't accept cards.

Cashless is the future, but it will take a while to reach there. It is like using websites to make lodging reservations instead of obsolete phone based reservations.

Posted by
12103 posts

"There is definitely a culturally aspect to it." Very true in Germany and Austria.

In Vienna over the last trips I have had meals at 4 restaurants, (none a fancy place), one of which recommended to me by a hotel staff person, (this restaurant on Kaiserstrasse off of Mariahilferstrasse doesn't exit anymore), where credit card payment is not accepted at these four.

One of them is located off of Kärntnerstrasse, off of Am Graben, frequented by both locals and international tourists, stated its payment philosophy in German and English. Judging by these restaurants' guests and locations, I don't think either factor is the primary reason for only cash payment. I have seen at these places tourists wanting to pay with the credit card only to be told that only cash is accepted.

If one is looking for cash only restaurants in Vienna, they are certainly there. Chances (90% ) are that in Germany at a restaurant, I'll pay in cash anyway, but still often I ask if the credit card is accepted (Nehmen Sie denn eine Karte entgegen?), just to see what they say. .

Posted by
12103 posts

True, I have seen those No Cash Payments Accepted too. Conversely, there are also in Oakland and SF numerous restaurants that are "cash only" These are the Chinese restaurants or eateries. If credit cards are allowed, then it is only after a certain amount, ie, after a minimum purchase amount.

Posted by
424 posts

I paid for everything - hotels, food, everything I didn’t have to pay for in advance, online, with a credit card - with cash, in Italy, in July 2017. The maximum amout my bank lets me take out of my account in one sitting, is five hundred US dollars, less in euros. The fee to withdraw from automatic teller machines was $5. I went to Greece in October 2018 (4 weeks ago). All of the hotel desk employees encoururaged me to use the credit card I had entered on booking dot com when I made my reservations. I used the cred card. I wish I had paid in cash. At my hostel in Athens, the employee took more than 20 minutes and at least one phone call to his boss, before he figured out how to process my credit card payment. My credit card statement shows that for this trip, I spent under $25 in foreign transaction fees. I guess when guests pay with credit cards, the hotel staff doesn’t have to risk getting mugged walking the money to the bank, there is no chance the staff will steal the money, and so on. l prefer to pay in cash whenever possible - when paying in person - near home and in other countries.

I think my fees would be less if I use credit cards in other countries as little as possible - unless I am wrong and getting charged fees hidden in a bad exchange rate at the ATM machine.

Posted by
3313 posts

Mike,

Of course you could open an account at a bank that charges zero ATM fees for your travel cash needs and get a credit card with zero foreign fees and then there would be no worries because you would not be charged anything. The actual rate for cash withdrawals and credit card transactions is the same for any settlement day for the same card network (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, etc.). You would still have to look out for the Dynamic Currency Conversion fee (DCC) where you get billed in your home currency at an inflated exchange rate (the only way you would get a bad rate for the transaction), but that is easy to spot and avoid.

Using a credit card that charges foreign use fees does probably cost you more than if you get your maximum cash out per ATM withdrawal and pay with that instead. Credit cards that do charge foreign use fees charge a percentage, usually around 3% to 5%, on every transaction. If all your bank charges is $5 for an ATM withdrawal and no percentage, then it is possible that cash can cost you less when you minimize your number of withdrawals.