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Credit / Debit Card use in Scotland

Greetings once again.

I’ll be traveling to Scotland for twelve days in late May / early June. My question is about the use of credit and debit cards in some of the more rural areas of the country. We’ll be spending a few nights in places such as Dornie, Braemar, and such and will be driving through some fairly remote areas. Are places like restaurants and gas stations in those areas going to accept cards or should we plan on having a good stock of cash on hand? Thanks!

  • Ian
Posted by
2553 posts

all petrol stations will take cards

you struggle to find a restaurant that takes only cash

no harm in having £20 on you for incidentals though

Posted by
273 posts

We didn't have any problems using credit cards but did carry some cash for smaller purchases when we drove through the more rural areas of Scotland. Enjoy your trip - it's beautiful!!!

Posted by
3521 posts

On my last trip through Scotland 4 years ago everyone I dealt with took credit cards. Even the tiny grocery on the island of Iona.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks guys.

I didn’t think it would be too much of an issue with the amount of tourism Scotland gets, but I wanted to be sure. I have run into one B&B in Dornie that has said they don’t take cards. Here in the US you still occasionally run into areas where cards aren’t as accepted as they are elsewhere — mostly because the residents of a particular area are older and don’t use plastic near as much.

Posted by
5678 posts

So, the only issue you will run into is unattended petrol stations. Unless, of course, you have a true chip and pin card. Many unattended petrol stations take only chip and pin and if you don't have one you are out of luck. So the advice is to gas up and make sure you know where an attended station is. And say a big old thanks to the banking in the US for putting us in this situation. Sigh.


Posted by
1188 posts

Everything above is right. One additional point is that American Express is not that widely accepted. For instance here on the Isle of Skye only the two most fancy restaurants and the COOP supermarket accept AMEX. Although all restaurants and fuel stations take Visa and Mastercard. You might find that very small cafes and shops might have a £10 limit on card transactions. Oh and some smaller B&Bs might only take cash. Check with accommodation providers before travelling would be my advice.

Posted by
1259 posts

I used my Schwab debit card easily for purchases and ATM withdrawals all over Scotland in April, 2019. I was staying in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh for several days and I found several restaurants that were cash-only, especially sushi and some of the smaller ethnic places (which were all fantastic). I’d recommend having more like 50 pounds in cash on you but that’s just my opinion. I saw may locals using touchless pay systems like Apple Pay. My card will do that with my iPhone but I’d want to practice the operation first at home.

I can recommend the Schwab debit card. The account is tied to an investment account but you don’t need to use it that way. The debit card must be funded and the company alerted that you will be out of country. It is designed to work internationally without hassle and Schwab refunds most fees you might encounter at ATMs. (My post-Scotland statement shows zero transaction fees.) Easily researched, this card ranks high with travelers. Applying for the investment account to which the card will be tied will initiate a hard hit on your credit report, though.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks again everyone.

I’ve been to England, France, and Switzerland and never had any issues with card usage. I just wasn’t sure about it with Scotland being more rural. Here in the US you run into some “mom and pop” places that only accept cash or that have a $5 limit before you can use a card. It’s rare and getting rarer, but it does happen and travelers who aren’t careful can find themselves caught.