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Cash (debit cards) vs credit card use in Germany?

It seems that this varies from one country to another, the tendency for people to use cash vs. credit. Should I be prepared to mostly use cash in Germany or is it more card-oriented? (Or does it have more to do with the size of the shop/restaurant?)

Posted by
23343 posts

Most of the world is moving to cash-less. Street vendors and small businesses often prefer or require cash but most restaurants and hotels accept cards. On the other hand we, personally, just find it easier to deal with nearly total cash except for the hotels. But that is personal preference. If you use cash, you never worry about credit card security. But I am also old.

Posted by
332 posts

We ran into a few situations in Germany where the Hotel wouldn't do Credit Cards, that is always something I check when I book the hotel. We knew it going in, so it wasn't an issue. But not something I would check at home.

Posted by
7581 posts

My experience in Germany is that cards are accepted most anywhere, but I would say that there is a cultural norm to use cash, particularly in restaurants, as well as smaller shops and for smaller purchases. The preference for cash just seemed stronger in Germany than other European countries I have been to.

Posted by
8889 posts

Most places accept cards. I know of some small cafés which are cash-only, but that is a minority.
A street food stall or market stall is probably cash-only.

Posted by
676 posts

Several years ago, a nice casual restaurant in Berlin (might have been in RS guidebook) did not accept card -- cash only. Reasoning was they would rather save the customers money by not increasing food prices to cover card fees. Be prepared!

Posted by
3521 posts

And CASH in this situation means actual paper money and coins, not a debit card. Debit and credit cards are sen the same to the merchants -- they are all plastic.

Posted by
2429 posts

Depends on what places you patronize. Most places I stay and eat at only take cash

Posted by
2352 posts

Depends for what purpose, e.g. public toilets, lockers, public park ticket machines, smaller businesses and bakeries etc. expect cash in Euro coins from you. And even at locations accepting credit cards be prepared for an extra fee.

Posted by
19118 posts

My experience in Germany is that cards are accepted most anywhere

Paul, with due respect, you obviously haven't been "most anywhere" in Germany. True, if you stay in mainline international hotels, you will find credit cards accepted, but if you stay in small, mom-and-pop accommodations, of which there are many, many in Germany, and in which you will spend a lot less money, you will probably not be able to use a credit card. You can use credit cards in Germany, but there is a stiff monetary penalty for doing so.

And "not using a credit card" means using cash from the ATM. I think it is very dangerous to use a debit card for purchases when traveling.

Posted by
268 posts

Debit cards are more common than credit cards - but that means the German Girocard system, along with Maestro and V Pay.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Between the two choices listed, Germany is more cash oriented relative to other countries when it comes to small hotels and restaurants in big cities and in tourist frequented areas.

If you prefer paying with a credit card, have cash on you anyway....just in case. The establishment may take credit cards but not necessarily yours, such as taking only an EuroCard, which Americans don't have. I've run across that.

In big cities in Germany, such as in Hamburg, Munich, Kiel, Berlin, Dresden, etc I use the credit card ca 50% of the time for purchases...books, CDs, etc. Eating establishments I pay in cash. There are those that only take cash too. In smaller towns I basically use cash, it's the way it's done.

My Pension in Berlin a couple of years ago charged 40 Euro for a single, so when I decided to square away the bill, I had my 400 Euro in cash ready to pay. No credit card is accepted.

In 2017 I was having lunch in Berlin's Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse station. Two American women walk into my eatery. When one pulled out the credit card, the clerk told her no credit card payment... go to the ATM in the station. One of them went off to the ATM, the other stayed with the ordered food. She returned to pay the cash.

Posted by
22 posts

Hmm...if the establishments charge an extra fee, then I would end up paying two fees per purchase: foreign transaction fee (my card/bank), along with the merchant charging that usage fee. Yikes. That 1% or 2% really can add up over a trip...

Posted by
14580 posts

In Germany paying means literally cash. The wait staff still wear or carry the big coin and cash pouch or hand purse when you want to pay just as they did 50 years ago, be it in a Konditerei, small and big restaurants. taverns etc.

Posted by
3049 posts

Lots of inaccurate/outdated information in this thread.

The basic is that cash is still your best default, and you'll never need to worry about it if you have cash on you at all times. Germany is also quite safe so there's no good reason not to carry a decent amount of cash on you at all times.

Traditional magnetic-strip credit/debit cards are the most problematic. Nicer hotels and restaurants will take them, and some shops, but smaller cafes, bars, shops, and even major grocery stores will not.

However every place that used to take only girocards now take my chip & pin debit card from my American bank, including the grocery stores. It's quite common when you try to pay by card for them to ask if it has a chip, because many of the machines only accept chip cards (again, with a PIN) and not magnetic cards.

And despite this there are still plenty of places that are cash-only. I feel a bit naked if I'm out and about without at least 50 euros in my wallet, usually I carry 100-200. It just makes life easier.

Germany is very behind when it comes to ApplePay or GoogleWallet. Unless you're at a hipster shop or craft brewery in Berlin or Hamburg you probably won't be able to use it.

Posted by
5697 posts

A few hotels in Germany/Austria had a small discount for cash payment or an additional charge for credit card usage. Like Lee, I would not use a debit card for purchases, just for cash from ATM's. (But I do the same at home.)