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Credit Cards and ATMs

I have heard that credit cards are not accepted as widely in Germany as elsewhere in the EU? Could this be a problem?
Also, I've heard that German ATMs take only 4-digit PINs. Is this true? My preferred debit card has a 6-digit pin.

Posted by
3356 posts

Where have you “heard” that credit cards and debit cards are not widely accepted? Please be careful when you “hear” of something

Even in my travels in German small towns, credit cards were accepted in restaurants, retail, public transport ticket machines, and hotels.

It is a good idea to change your pin code to a 4 digit number and not just for German travel. 4 digit pin acceptance is ubiquitous; 6 digit pin numbers not so much.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks. I "heard" it in one of the more highly-regarded (or at least popular) travel guides, so it seemed like something that might be credible but outdated.

Posted by
8889 posts

I have heard that credit cards are not accepted as widely in Germany as elsewhere in the EU?

True, though not really a problem. If you intend to pay by card, just always check they accept them (look for stickers/signs) before ordering; or make sure you have enough cash on you "in case".
One issue many unmanned machines, for example DB (German Railways) ticket machines, require chip-and-pin. Choose tickets, insert card and type in PIN to pay. If your card doesn't have chip-and-pin (and all European cards have had since ~15 years), then you must use cash in these machines.

Also, I've heard that German ATMs take only 4-digit PINs. Is this true?

False. My cards, issued by European banks have both 4- and 6-digit PIN's. No issue.

Always bring 2 cards. If there are two of you, one each. Then if anything happens to one card (lost, dropped in river, bank blocks it), you have a plan B.

Edit: - I forgot to say. Some places have a minimum amount for cards, for example "No cards accepted for purchases under €20".

Posted by
18390 posts

I've been traveling extensively in Germany for 20 years now, and I would say that it is true that credit cards are not as widely accepted as here (I can't compare it to the rest of the EU, because most of my travel has been just in culturally German countries).

That is definitely true for less expensive places like small mom & pop "Gasthauses", Privatzimmer, etc, particularly in small towns, and I find the cultural experience at such places to be far better than at the big international hotels my company used to put me in when I traveled for business. The big international hotels will probably take credit cards. The small places are a lot like B&Bs in this country except over here B&Bs are some of the most expensive places to stay. They aren't much different over there, but they tend to be some of the least expenses, and few take credit cards.

You probably will be able to use you credit card in Germany, just be prepared to spend more than you should.

Posted by
1800 posts

Credit cards are accepted in many more places than they used to be. But on my trip in the past month, 3 of 4 accommodations accepted cash only. Two restaurants in Rothenburg took cc’s but I don’t think any other places I ate on the trip did. The DB machine in Bacharach needed a pin for my CC, but I don’t have one.

No problems using my ATM card with its 4 digit pin.

Posted by
4535 posts

ATM card PINs can be more than 4 digits. Maybe back in the olden days they had to be 4 digits, but various banks in the US and Europe have been issuing 5 and 6 digit PINs for decades.

Posted by
2801 posts

I've just been traveling in Germany - Dresden, Erfurt, Nuremberg, etc. Everywhere that I would have expected (with my US mindset) credit cards to be accepted, they were. Hotels - I didn't stay in any family run places. Restaurants. Shops. Transit kiosks.

Many times it was contactless. Often a signature was required. I never once had to enter my credit card PIN. (Of course I had to enter my ATM PIN.) In the past I did have to enter my credit card PIN at unmanned transit kiosks. But my new card is contactless and I used it in that way without a PIN to buy on-the-spot transit tickets. So easy!!

ETA: last day of my trip, in Frankfurt, I had to enter my credit card PIN (mine is 4 digits) to buy a transit ticket at a tram stop. I don't remember there being a contactless option.

In those places where I would have expected to have to use cash in the US, the same was true in Germany. Small vendor stands, for example. Tips. Tiny purchases, though I probably could have used the card for some of those, but would have felt silly.

I always kept coins for public toilets - €0.50 or €1.00.

Posted by
257 posts

We've been to Germany twice, 2013 and again this August. Whereas in the US we never even think about credit cards not being accepted, in Germany we had to be more aware and make sure to be prepared with Euros. In 2013 on a 2 week trip we ran into about 5 restaurants and one museum that didn't take cards. The most annoying one was a restaurant that "coincidentally" had a credit card minimum just over what our bill was.
This year's trip was also 2 weeks and despite visiting some smaller towns, we encountered fewer places that didn't accept cards. So it seems to be changing.

Posted by
4197 posts

On my last trip to Germany a number of restaurants and shops only accepted cash, especially in smaller towns, so we always have Euros. It’s been a couple years, but Bank of America recommended a 4-digit PIN rather than a 6-digit one for Europe since not all ATMs accepted 6-digits.

Posted by
8889 posts

since not all ATMs accepted 6-digits.

Not true. European banks issue card wih 6-digit PIN's (I have one). They wouldn't do that if some machines only accept 4-digits.

Posted by
6037 posts

I think to sum up the responses and based on my own experiences....

Most places frequented by tourists will accept credit cards, particularly in larger towns.

Get off the beaten path and frequent smaller places, that will change, Cash is preferred, if not the only option.

Restaurants in particular tend to prefer cash, they may accept credit, if they must, but the cultural norm seems to pay cash for a meal.

Bottom line, use your credit card where you can, but keep a hundred euro or so on you as back-up.

Posted by
18390 posts

Most places frequented by tourists will accept credit cards

I would say instead "More places frequented by tourists will accept credit cards", frequented by tourists being the significant description. Tourism attracts the more expensive hotels, and these are the places that accept credit cards. Even in bigger cities, there is still a major segment of hotels not accepting credit cards, and these are mostly the smaller, culturally significant (and less expensive) places. I have never had any reservations about staying in these smaller, less expensive places. Germans have such high standards. My partner, who had never been to Europe, was immediately impressed with how clean and well maintained these places in Germany, no matter how inexpensive, are.

Posted by
54 posts

First incident at a sparda branch in nuremberg today
2 different atm in same branch gave me. “System error”
Then gave me no cash. But took it out of my account

Then finally one atm at another branch chargec me 10 percent
When giving me cash but no notification to accept a service charge
And no paper reciept

Nuremberg. Is first place ive ever had issues
In future i will get cash at airports on arrival

Posted by
13026 posts

Relative to other EU countries, Germany does not accept cards, or it is only accepted after a certain, say 10 Euro or even 20 Euro, same with Austria, as readily.

I am in Germany now and encounter establishments where if you pull out a credit card you might be told that it is accepted only after 20 Euro. This time in Germany I've been paying only in cash, be it a train reservation of 4.5 Euro or the Pension bill for 368 Euro.

Bottom line, have the cash on you and be prepared to pay in cash.

Posted by
6037 posts

Regarding hotels; I have no argument that many do not accept credit cards or claiming that they are somehow substandard. My point is, plenty of hotels do accept credit cards in the towns most tourists go to (and many lesser known towns as well), and not only the big corporate hotels, but small family run places as well. When looking for a hotel, it is clear what payment terms they accept, so if you prefer to use a credit card, you will have no issues traveling in Germany. A hotel I would not put in the class of "Oh, you only accept cash?" if you have done some looking ahead of time; maybe if you show up in a town with no reservation and go "knocking on doors", then sure, but payment info you can plan for.

Restaurants can be different, simply because you may not have the forewarning, so be prepared. Small shops and street vendors, same thing.

Posted by
319 posts

Native German here : Smaller shops will not accept cards and some cafes will not either. I always rent a Holiday apartment when I go home and they will not accept cards either which I hope they change some day :) My atm card I use there to take cash out is a 4 digit card. The way I travel I always take out cash with my bank card at a local bank in the town I am staying and use my GC for getting gas and groceries I usually take out several hundred dollars at a time and take with me during the day what I need. Its a strange feeling to carry cash here in the usa I never carry any. Only get cash out of a bank teller attached to a bank and never at an airport. The exchange rates are lousy.