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You still need cash in Germany

I had read lots of reports about credit cards being more widely accepted post-Covid. We stayed 3 nights in Germany at the end of our trip, last week. A couple restaurants and gelato shops did not take cards, so we had to run to the atm.

Posted by
970 posts

YES -- I'm always surprised when people recommend not needing many Euros - that a CC is all that is needed. Many of the best LOCAL cafes & restaurants request cash. And when we go to the Xmas Markets -- most all the vendors will only take cash. I've quit responding to most posts about this topic because I'm always the minority when saying you do need Euros.

Posted by
6850 posts

I don't know - maybe you guys go to different places than me, but I spent a month in Germany last year and there was only one place that did not accept credit cards, and that was the coffee seller on the KD cruise in the Rhine.

Posted by
2360 posts

The places we experienced the need for cash were in Bacharach and Boppard. Certainly not off the tourist track. Just a warning for those who think they will never need cash.

Posted by
9009 posts

Even in large cities, you will run across many places that are cash only, and this included small restaurants, stands at the Farmers markets, festivals, food trucks, tours, etc.
Credit cards are a lot more in use than they used to be, but cash will probably always be popular here in Germany. Something to think about is that they have lower personal debt here, mainly because of that. If you can't afford it, you don't buy it. You don't earn miles here with a credit card, so why use one? For small companies, it is a burden due to the charges from the CC companies.
I like using cash, it keeps me on budget, and frankly it speeds up the lines in stores and bakeries.
You will find many places will take an EC card, as this is a debit card and there are no charges with this.

Posted by
2873 posts

Munich wanted cash for smaller restaurants, Viktualienmarkt, and purchases under €25 in smaller shops around Marienplatz. I was glad I took cash and was surprise how often I used it. Berlin and Dresden were more willing to take credit cards, as were Vienna and Salzburg.
Based on last year’s experience in France, I thought €450, leftover and bought from a neighbor, would cover this trip and another three trips. I brought home less than half of that.

Posted by
7668 posts

It has been noted a number of times that Germany is the exception to most of Europe in the adoption of electronic and "Tap to Pay". They did really well during the pandemic when contactless was pushed, but as soon as measures eased, it was back to cash in most places. The use of cash is certainly a deep seated cultural norm in Germany, so be prepared.

Posted by
556 posts

Could have told you that even in Munich you need cash or with my words where you luckily could use cash. I'm one of the old fashioned mostly using cash until they force me to change :-)

Posted by
98 posts

There is a distinct shift towards card use post-Covid. I have been visiting Passau, Bavaria, for years (family visit), and places which accepted only cash pre-Covid now happily accept cards, also for small amounts. Even some toilets accept "tap and pay"!
I have always been a card person, having worked in the business, so I always try cards first, but I notice that a lot of older Germans still go for cash first. Same comments apply to Italy, by the way.

Posted by
6744 posts

Our experience was the same last month. We landed in Frankfurt and drove 30 minutes to Bensheim. We got a pastry and drink and it was cash only. Later at the restaurant, it was cash only. Even at the end of the trip in Frankfurt, the cafe by the historic main plaza was cash only. Then there were the places where you needed to spend between 5-15€ to use a card. All told, we needed about 250€ due to cash only or minimum purchase establishments.

It wasn’t a surprise since we had been to Germany previously and experienced the same thing. We always have Euros so it was no big deal. Before departing I picked up additional Euros for a Portugal trip later this year since a recent visitor said it has a number of cash only places.

Posted by
6758 posts

I notice that a lot of older Germans still go for cash first.

Yep. This applies not just to older consumers but also to older German merchants operating family-run businesses. In Boppard, Bacharach, St. Goar and other Rhine towns, for example, there are indeed certain long-standing mom-and-pop businesses where owners are card-resistant and cash is the sole option. Like travel4fun, I've seen the same at small businesses in other parts of the country as well. Being a tourist that prefers credit cards does not soften up the stance these seasoned-citizens have taken, so make sure you have some Euros on hand for such places..

Posted by
520 posts

We Germans have a deeply rooted sense of privacy. Cards track spending--where, when, and on what. Cash transactions don't. The average German still carries about 100 Euros in their wallet and uses cash for 30% of their transactions. And when it isn't cash, it's EC (debit) or Paypal as often as not. The "use the credit card for everything" simply doesn't exist here; it's something most people have and rarely if ever use. Hotel stay? EC card. Takeout? Paypal or cash. Taxi? Cash. Ticket dispenser for regional or city trains? Cash or EC.

Today we went to the hardware store and the grocery store. One cash and one EC card payment were made.

Sure, often you CAN use a credit card, but Germans just don't. The result is that many places don't take them, and certainly when you are buying something like a gelato or a currywurst, cash is the norm and often the only option.

Posted by
5011 posts

Another thing to consider is that using a credit card uses technology. And while it is rare, technology does fail on occasion. In Paris, four different cards would not work at a cafe, but they all worked well before and after the meal. In Venice two cards would not work at a ticket kiosk but worked twenty minutes later at a shop. Similar events happened in England and Germany. Cash has never failed.

Posted by
2386 posts

The use of credit cards simply pushes up prices (as far as I know, CC commissions are higher in this country than in the USA). And the "pedagogical" effect is not to be neglected: If you pay with cash or debit card, you know immediately or at the latest on the next day how much money you have left for the rest of the month and you are safe from the nasty surprise of the CC bill. In addition, overdraft interest rates for the bank account are usually lower than for the credit card. So why should I use a credit card except where I have to (i.e. for my trips to the USA)?

Posted by
5011 posts

Sounds to me like the restaurant only wanted cash - that's not uncommon. I always tell them I only have CCs, NO cash before ordering.

Periscope, the restaurant did take credit cards. Upon our return, we checked it out with the card companies, and it was a brief (one hour or so) problem with a satellite. Bottom line, they just didn't work at that particular time and place. A rare event, but malfunctions do happen.

Posted by
740 posts

You can encounter the Cash only thing in the US. A local city on Lake Michigan that is a VERY well to do area for wealthy tourists and vacation home owners has several locations that only accept cash.

Posted by
33146 posts

I was a little surprised last month when my wife had a fall and we needed to spend some time in the emergency room of a hospital (Offenburg). The very helpful and highly competent doctor on duty wrote us up an invoice which needed paying in cash. I had to go to a money machine and return. We didn't pay the registration desk but the doctor came out from his next patient and took the payment himself.

Posted by
587 posts

I think you still need cash for your most important purchase in Germany, a bratwurst at a sausage stand. Also, used cash for our ferienwohnungen for our 2019 and 2022 visits.

Posted by
19156 posts

I don't know - maybe you guys go to different places than me

I'm sure I do. In over 150 nights in Germany since 2000, 80% of my nights have been in towns with under 20,000 population.

Further, I probably travel differently from how you do. Most of my nights have been in small family run gasthouses and rooms in private homes. I don't do this to save money; I do it for a richer cultural experience, but it does save money. On my last trip (2017), I was finally with a co-traveler, so a Ferienwohnung (vacation apartment) made sense and cost me only 35€ ($39 today) per night. But she (landlord) didn't take credit cards, cash only. On that trip, for 20 nights, I spent an average of $69/night, double occupancy, and that included four expensive nights at 94€ ($105.50 today) per night, double occ. on the island of Lindau.

My hotel in St Goar, when they confirmed my reservation, stated that they did not take credit cards, and I already knew from a previous visit that the hotel I stayed at in the Ost-Allgäu only took cash.

So, three of the five places where I stayed on my last trip for 14 of 20 nights were cash only. I don't know whether the other two took cash or not. I did not try to pay with a card. Neither place says on their website that they do accept cards.

Any starred hotel with more than one star has to take credit cards (DEHOGA requirement for more than one star). I think that is why we see a lot of not-star-rated hotels in Germany. They are nice places, too nice for only one star just because they want cash. They don't want to take CCs, so they forego stars.

I'm sure you can always find places in Germany that will take your credit cards, but you'll pay a lot more for the privilege.

Banks in the EU are limited to 0.2% interchange fee for debit cards and 0.3% for credit cards. Banks from outside the EU can charge whatever they can negotiate, even for transactions inside the EU.

Posted by
18572 posts

Its sort of an old thread, but I will point out that about a month ago I was in a small town not far from Ramstein AFB and couldnt find a restaurant sitdown or carryout that woud take a credit card (only about 6 places in town to choose from). Difficult time finding an ATM too. My son, lives there, said it was pretty common in the smaller towns.

Posted by
911 posts

A twist on the situation-

We visited the Maritime Museum in Hamburg a few days ago. 2 adults, I was looking forward to breaking a 100 Euro bill.

I hadn’t even pulled out the bill when the employee asked me if I could please pay by card! He said, paraphrasing, all the Germans want to use cash and hand him 50 or 100 bills. He was very short on low bills and coins for change.

So, I ended up paying by card and am still carrying that 100 Euro bill.

Posted by
19156 posts

I've never had trouble breaking a 100 euro note in Germany. Maybe they are carrying less change because everyone wants to use cards.

Posted by
9009 posts

When you go into a small store, museum or restaurant when they 1st open, they often do not have change for 100€ or even 50€. I never ask early in the morning unless it is a bakery doing a booming business in the morning. I cash 50s and 100s all the time with no problem, but I am aware of the time of day.

Posted by
480 posts

In Germany now staying in Gengenbach which we are loving. Found we needed cash often while in Munich which also surprised us.

Posted by
2575 posts

I like to bring in concrete numbers:

  • Number of payments view: Cash continues to be the most commonly used means of payment in Germany, although non-cash payments are becoming increasingly important. This is the finding of the Deutsche Bundesbank's sixth study on payment behavior in Germany for 2021.
  • Revenue amount view: The share of cash payments in sales was most recently 37.5 percent, one percentage point lower than in the previous year. The share of sales accounted for by card payments rose slightly to just under 60 percent in 2022. The remainder is accounted for by purchases on account, among other things (source: Handelsblatt).
Posted by
8598 posts

Im not sure if people are shocked or just disappointed, that not everyone wants to rush into complete dependence on computers. Outside of the wealthier coastal enclaves in the US, cash still works and many if not most small transactions are done so.

Re: German humor. In the current film, Indiana Jones says, to the bad guy: " you're German, Faller. Dont try to be funny."

Posted by
19156 posts

On my last 3-week long trip to Germany, which included stops in
Frankfurt, Hildesheim, Bremen, Lubeck, Schwerin, and Berlin

All big cities. I think only Schwerin has less than 100,000 population. Except for Munich, I'm really not interested in big cities. They are too boring and touristy for me. Of 164 nights I've spent in Germany, only 11 have been in cities with over 50,000 population.

So, yes, you can probably use your credit card in lots of places in big cities, but that is not so true of smaller towns. I'd hate to be confined to big cities just so I can use my CC.

Posted by
14580 posts

In Munich this time I was surprised (pleasantly) to find the big beer garden restaurant in Viktualienmarkt having a "cash only" sign. Bravo. It was not the only establishment there with such a sign. I would have thought that since Viktualienmarkt, especially this large and almost always crowded beer garden , frequented by tons of tourists and locals too, would allow for credit card payment. This time I managed to be there when it was not as so as not to find a place.

Likewise in Berlin at Hackescher Markt , frequented by locals and lots of tourists (it was crowded when I was on Sat. evening), there are also businesses only accepting cash. I ate at "Restauration 1840" ( a date in Prussian history) , the restaurant adjacent to it was such a place, the sign "cash only" was right out in front. This restaurant is a large place, with its large beer garden plus the restaurant's spacious interior. "Restauration 1840" accepts card payment, no matter, I used cash anyway.

Posted by
19156 posts

It struck me that all of this wanting to pay with credit cards might be a case, not of convenience, but of financial reality. I read that about 50% of Americans carry a balance on their credit cards. This means that they are paying 2% to 2½% interest per month on the balance. I would think (hope) that anyone with significant money in the bank would pay off the balance rather than pay that kind of interest. In other words, that 50% of the people probably don't have the cash reserves to take euro, etc., from a bank account at an ATM. They are financing their trip with the credit card, "on the cuff", so to speak.

Now I'm fairly sure that people on this site, people who can afford to travel to Europe, are in a better financial position than most Americans, but I'm sure there are still a lot who have to borrow money (i.e., use credit cards) to travel. They just rationalize it by using convenience as an excuse.

These poor people get hurt twice. First, using a credit card forces them to stay at more expensive places. And then, they put their lodging on the credit card and, because they carry a balance, they pay interest on the card purchase from the time they charge their accommodations, transportation, meals, whatever.

Posted by
37 posts

My 17 year old son is currently in Berlin for 2 weeks at a language camp. Luckily he can use cash everywhere. We were just in Perth Australia and many places were card only including restaurants and supermarkets. If my son was in Perth by himself he would have a hard time trying to buy things!

Posted by
14580 posts

@samc....Two hotels I stayed in, just by coincidence as I was a walk-in, on this trip were "card only." They were in Vienna and Frankfurt. The one (a chain) in Frankfurt is worth staying there again for various reasons; that in Vienna I would not go back to since I've found other hotels in the area to replace it, or only if nothing else in the area was available.

Your son will find in Berlin numerous shops in Berlin, especially in the eastern areas, as far as I know, that are "cash only"....intentionally set up as such. If establishments were "cash only" pre-pandemic, that was not announced by way of a sign right up front , as it is now, which I saw in Munich, Vienna, and Berlin on this trip.

Posted by
2386 posts

There are no free rides, merchants have to pay Interchange Fees for both CCs and DCs. The fees that banks can charge merchants have been capped AND are considerably less than Banks charge merchants in NA.

Since you posted this in July, I have gotten into the habit of asking the merchants whether (s)he would prefer payment by credit card or debit card for larger amounts. I often get the answer "by debit card, because I don't have to pay any fees at my cooperative bank" (i.e. Volksbank, Raiffeisenbank, etc.). The merchants are usually co-owners of these banks and can settle the question of fees via their annual members meeting.

Posted by
970 posts

Well, we are in Germany right now and 98% of the Xmas Market Vendors and smaller local restaurants are CASH only.

Posted by
9009 posts

I live here and yes, cash is important to have.
Have never heard that merchants are part owners in the banks here and can set up their own CC fees. Pretty sure that is not true. If it was, more of them would take cards.

Posted by
2386 posts

We were not talking about CC, but about debit cards, which are issued by the banks themselves. And since a cooperative bank is owned by its members, the local business people, they can obviously set the level of commission themselves. There must be a reason why so many small stores accept debit cards but not credit cards.

Posted by
9009 posts

I don't believe there is any charge at all on debit cards, not for the user or for the business.

Posted by
4554 posts

Just jumping in late to observe that after recent experiences in France and England I thought all of Europe had gone cashless. I practically got carpal tunnel from all the tap to pay I did, it was so easy.

After spending time in Austria and Germany, not so.

Posted by
19156 posts

I guess I could see how a "cooperative bank ... owned by its members" might not have fees, but banks don't do anything for free. I've read that interchange fees, the portion of the transaction that goes to the card issuer, is limited in the EU to a max 0.3% for credit cards and 0.2% for debit cards. That statutory limit applies only to cards issued by banks from EU countries.

The interchange rates for foreign banks, e. g., U.S. banks, are not limited by law and can be negotiated higher than the limits. They are probably higher for U.S. cards, which may explain why some businesses have a surcharge for U.S. cards, although, like in the U.S., some card agreements might prohibit merchants from charging more for taking cards.