Please sign in to post.

Credit Card Use in Germany

Friends recently returned from Germany; they could not use credit cards at all. Has anyone experienced this recently? We are traveling in June.

Posted by
18296 posts

I just looked at the town in Oberbayern where I spent my first two nights on my last trip to Germany in October. I paid €25 per night for a single room with breakfast. I don't think she accepts plastic. Three other hotels in town do. They averaged €40 for a single room. So, for the convenience of paying with a CC, I would have paid €30 (over $40) more!

I'm not saying that the only reason she was less was that she didn't accept CC, but it is a fact that the least expensive place don't. Her place was simple, but clean and comfortable - everything I needed. OK, it didn't have 24 hr room service, but who really needs that.

With people complaining about the cost of traveling in Europe, maybe they should consider sacrificing a little "convenience" for saving money. I made 3 stops at ATMs. I would have only needed one if I could have put all my meals and accommodations on a card, but it would have cost a lot more.

Posted by
215 posts

We were in Germany in late March-early April
and had no problems using Visa card either
in Munich or small towns.

Posted by
56 posts

I live in Germany currently. You can usually use credit cards at most places that are frequented by lots of tourists. I personally don't plan to use credit cards in restaurants, so I'm prepared ahead of time with cash, although more & more restaurants are accepting credit cards. In smaller towns, credit cards are less likely to be accepted.

Posted by
850 posts

Just wondering where they tried to use their credit cards. Some places such as small B&B's, pensions, small restaurants and some others may not but many places accept credit cards. Have used Visa and Amex many times. Large purchases from stores that sell such items as Cuckoo clocks and more expensive souviners accept credit cards. Most fuel stations accept credit cards as well as large hotels, restaurants etc. Visa and Master Card are probably more readily accepted than Amex so carry two cards and you should be ok most of the time. If not pay cash and get money from the ATM. They are plentiful.

Posted by
1354 posts

We mainly used a Master Card to pay for rooms; and, there was no problem getting it accepted. We stayed in small, budget hotels. Rick's books sometimes says you can get a discount by paying cash and carrying his book. We found that using HRS.com to reserve rooms worked just as well. We did use Rick's book to as a reference source in scouting hotels.

Regards, Gary

Posted by
520 posts

We just returned and CCards were accepted with an exception here or there when dealing with a very small place.
On other occassions if the purchase was less than 25 euros they wanted cash and not CC but this practice was very limited.

In both the Rhine area towns and in Rothenburg, owners asked us how we'd heard about their shop or hotel. If they didn't, then we'd mention Rick Steves and recieve the discount. (We just take pages we need & don't carry the whole book).

We still used CC for lodging bills and large purchases and found cash easiest for meals, sightseeing, and misc stuff. The museums accepted CC.

You need cash for some WCs and .20 euro for an attendant is a courtesy. Cash is used at the small kiosks, food/merchadise cart vendors, buying small transportaion needs like a single ticket on the S bahn, and buying a piece of pastry, etc.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
18296 posts

I just returned (Oct) from a 14 day trip around Bavaria. I stayed in 10 places and not one of them accepted credit cards. I learned a long time ago to use only cash in Germany, so I can't be sure about restaurants, but I doubt that many of them took cards, either.

For me it is also a matter of common sense. I deal with a small bank that passes on the 1% "Network" fee for using ATMs, but my credit card, from a different bank, tacks on a 3% currency exchange fee, so I want to pay with cash from the ATM. Second, places that accept credit card, in my experience, also charge higher prices, so using cash keeps the price down two ways.

What disturbs me most is that using credit cards is an indication that you are financing the trip on borrowed money - you can't get cash out of the ATM, because you don't have it in your account. Interest charges just add to the cost of your trip. Save for it first.

Posted by
850 posts

Many people, myself included, use the credit card for convenience and to save their cash on hand and pay their credit card in full each month. When I withdraw from the ATM's it is from my checking account, not from the credit card. Saving money to pay for a trip without having to finance is good advice. From what I gather from reading, most people on the RS site are good about sacrificing material things so they can save money for travel. A matter of personal priority.

Posted by
850 posts

I agree with that Lee and don't think there is any doubt that some places do charge less if paid by cash. One of the reasons AMEX is not accepted as much as Visa and MC is their charges to the merchants are higher. I have saved money by paying cash in some cases rather than paying with a credit card. Given that option I will pay with cash. I remember Cafe Uhl in Rothenburg one year which offered a 10% discount with cash and a RS book. I do like using Amex when possible to accumulate sky miles and got 2 Business class seats last year on Delta to Stuttgart and back. Already got enough to go back in economy for 2 but first class spoiled us so that again is the target. Hopefully Delta will still be around.

Posted by
144 posts

We just came back from Germany. Every place we went accepted cc's except small b and b in garmisch and ikea. We use our cc's pay off at end of month, use the miles to get free tickets in summer. We pay cash for small expenses and charge everything else. We have had very few problems using our american cc's in germany, and we go twice a year at least.

Posted by
31465 posts

Elaine, I just spent several weeks in southern Germany and Austria, and had no problems using either Visa or MasterCard at Hotels and Restaurants.

There may be problems with merchants that are now set-up to use the "chip" Cards, so older magnetic stripe Cards won't work.

Also, as the others have mentioned, many smaller Hotels only accept Cash (I usually use Hotels listed in Rick's books, and the "cash only" properties are specified).

Good luck!

Posted by
2297 posts

Germany is a cash society. Be prepared to pay everything by cash and you'll be fine.

That said, most gas stations do accept cc. As do major hotels. And maybe restaurants that are frequented by many American tourists ;-) You can pay train tickets by cc over the internet, in most train stations, especially those where you purchase a ticket through a machine, only cash will do.

I grew up in Germany and go back to visit family every year. Even though cc are making some inroads my spending ratio of 90% cash to 10% cc hasn't changed over the past 15 years.

Posted by
7 posts

I used my Capital One credit card to buy train tickets using the DB ticket machines in Munich and Nuremberg in March of this year. For restaurant meals, though, I used cash.

Posted by
100 posts

Hi Elaine, I too live in Germany and have found that restaurants appreciate it more if you pay with cash, even if they accept credit cards. For souvenirs, use credit cards (especially if your purchasing a large item). But cash for anything else.

Posted by
425 posts

Elaine, without reading too much into your question as some frequently do on this post, and without the superiority complex that accompanies it, I will tell you that I went to Germany and Scotland in April-May of this year and used credit cards on a daily basis. Before my trip, I posted the credit card versus cash question and was told to beware because I might run out of cash and not be able to get more due to ATM restrictions, so I used a CC every chance I could and limited my cash use. Not worrying about a 2% finance charge or what the restaurant preferred, left me with a memorable and hassle free vacation.

Posted by
2297 posts

This is a very interesting discussion and it does confirm my assessment that Germany is largely a cash society. But in places that do adapt to the needs of foreign tourists/travellers you'll be welcome with a cc. So it really depends how "touristy" your trip to Germany is going to be.

Do you want to stay in a well known hotel (cc) or "Zimmer frei" (cash) accommodation? Do you want to eat in a restaurant like the Hofbraeuhaus (cc) in Munich or get your picknick supplies at the market (cash) or a discounter like Aldi (cash)?

A few months back I spent 3 days in Hamburg. It's not a small town and definitely used to tourists. But since I stayed with friends who live there I never used my cc once and ended up having to draw extra cash from an ATM when I ran out of money. I had gotten my train ticket to get to Hamburg online with cc. But public transit in Hamburg (U-Bahn, S-Bahn, boats) was paid by cash. None of the restaurants we went to accepted cc. Well, they weren't touristy places but all very well known in the gay scene and really tasty AND fun. You don't always get to sit at a table next to Hamburg's #1 drag queen ;-) Dressed in regular street clothes as this was a regular street cafe.

The summer before we traveled the middle Rhine with all its castles. Since we stayed at Schoenburg with a special family program designed for German families with young kids (whom I've never once seen using a cc in the week we spent together) we paid for accommodation, all meals and all organized activities incl. a Rhine river cruise and a medevial festival at Ehrenburg castle for the 4 of us in cash. My husband was the only person there who didn't speak German. All these expenses, 1000 Euro in total, paid on the first day of arrival. Which is good so you don't have to walk around with that much cash. But almost everything else in the area we did was quite touristy and we used our cc extensively in places like Bacharach or Ruedesheim. Mostly shopping for souvenirs.

Posted by
144 posts

We live part time in Wurzburg and travel throughout Hesse and Bavaria. We use our cc's almost exclusively. Only places which we have found that do not take cc's are small b and b's, aldi stores (very good prices so worthwhile to use cash), deichmann shoe,and ikea. We use our cc's in department stores, restaurants, drugstore, gas stations. We use cash for snackbars, aldi, and the bakery, and that's about it.

Posted by
59 posts

We spend a month every year in Bavaria, in a small town. I have found many small businesses don't accept the 'standard' cc, the only card accepted universally is the Eurocard. Haven't looked into the possiblity of geting one of these. I use alot of cash, and notice my relatives pay for everything with cash. When I travel to cities and tourist areas however I've found the cards usually accepted, except at some b&bs.

Posted by
63 posts

I was in Munich in early April and do not remember any major place not taking my Visa card. Of course at market stands and places like that was cash only, but everywhere else I used my card and had no problems.

Posted by
11805 posts

No one has mentioned the possibility that the problem was with the issuer and not whether local businesses would take cards.

It's best to call your card issuer to let them know you will be traveling. If not, automatic fraud detection can trigger a fraud alert on your card. Your card gets frozen and the company calls your home phone and leaves a message asking whether you have authorized purchases in Europe. The card stays frozen until they hear from you (of course you don't get the message until you get home).

It's also good to keep the customer service number to call from overseas handy in case you run into trouble.

Posted by
1 posts

This is an old topic with not much activity lately, but I wanted to mention thatI was in Germany in December 2009. Two of the hotels we stayed in would accept only cash. That's tough when the bills are running $800 - 1000 - several times we tried to get cash from an ATM and it was rejected. I was not able to pinpoint if it was ATM or my bank that was disallowing. Sometimes my husband couln't get cash and sometimes I couldn't get cash - we had debit cards from different banks, and we tried at ATM's from different banks.

Posted by
12875 posts

Ever since the 1984 trip in Germany, I have used and never had any problems using either Mastercard or Visa; twenty years ago an establishment might ask me if I had Visa if I had presented Mastercard to them instead. Unlike in France, my Visa or Mastercard was never rejected in hotels, some Pensionen, restaurants that accept them, instead of cash only, and, especially, buying train tickets in the Reisezentrum, hostels, city tours, dept. stores in Germany...anywhere where the Visa/Mastercard logo was displayed I almost always paid with the card.

I do find that more two star hotels in France accept credit cards more often than is the case in Germany, even in Berlin.

Posted by
18296 posts

If you stay in 3-star hotels, I'm sure most will accept credit cards, and charge a lot. I like to stay in Mom and Pop B&Bs (Privatzimmer, etc) for the cultural experience, and I have traditionally spent about €30 per night, single occupancy, with breakfast. I can tell you from experience, darn few of them take credit cards. So my experience is that if your hotel accepts credit cards, you are paying too much.

Posted by
2297 posts

Well, my latest trip to Germany was in Dec 09/Jan 10. Aldi still didn't accept cc. The local swimming pool didn't accept cc. Merchants at the Christmas markets didn't accept cc. And the list goes on ...
Of course the tourist hotel in Berlin accepted cc as did most of the restaurants we visited there. But none of the restaurants/cafes in rural Westphalia accepted them - all places where you would be very surprised to see foreign tourists.

We don't use a credit card to go into debt over a vacation. Bill gets paid every month. But it can provide a bit of a safety net in case of unexpected expenses. During the last trip due to unforseen circumstances we had to cash out over $1000 unexpectedly within a couple of days, i.e. in addition to planned expenses. It would have been much easier to have been able to use a cc for most of that - 30 days of financing till we got reimbursed for those expenses was all we needed. Because we had to use cash we had to go into debt (overdraft of home bank account), could have avoided it with the use of cc.

Posted by
638 posts

Elaine, It would probably be helpful to know WHY they couldn't use their card. Sometimes you have to notify your company that you're traveling, otherwise they think someone stole the card. Best to do this by phone and letter, as we all know sometimes things don't get passed on. If you try to get money from the ATM, you'll need a 4 digit PIN number. And all the other points are valid too, except for Lee's comment about people using cc's for expenses that they don't have the money for. I think it's the rare and ballsy (or not rich) person nowadays who doesn't travel without a credit card, or at least a lot of money on a debit card

Posted by
2297 posts

But in a European Aldi only a European debit card will be accepted. American plastic (except for cc) will only be accepted in Aldis in the US.

Posted by
1354 posts

It comes down to personal preference in many cases. You can find hotels and restaurants that will take credit cards. CC are convenient; I use them for almost everything at home. They have better protection than Debit cards.

We prefer small hotels; they usually take credit cards. It means fewer trips to the ATM. If a preferred hotel only accepts cash payment, then I will pay that way. I do not like Bed and Breakfast rooms so they are not my choice for cost savings.

When we go out to eat, we just drift around looking at menus. It is easier not to limit ourselves to CC establishments so we carry cash for those expenses.

There is no right answer. Cash or CC travel works in Germany.

Regards, Gary

Posted by
495 posts

But in a European Aldi only a European debit card will be accepted.

Really? Why is that? I occasionally shop at (a European) ALDI and they have the standard debit card decals displayed, VISA debit, Maestro etc.

Posted by
495 posts

Ah, you meant German ALDIs, not European ones - confusion explained.

In British ALDIs you can use normal debit cards and I think that is true in most of Europe (that isn't Germany.)

BTW rather than being a European thing the EC cards are a German (and maybe Austrian) thing, they have some kind of co-branding relationship with Mastercard.

Posted by
2297 posts

Peter,

well, this is a thread about cc use in Germany but I generalized a bit too much about other European Aldis (which aren't as ubiquitous as they are in Germany ...). But even the ones in Wales and Scotland that do accept cc are doing so only on a trial basis - says wiki

Posted by
495 posts

No argument there, but people (hopefully) use the search here to find answers to questions and there are enough threads here from Americans worried about money/cards in Europe that there is no harm in clarification in case someone searches up this thread.

Also, I though there may be some interesting reason why US debit cards wouldn't work in general and asked originally out of curiosity.

Regarding the Welsh and Scottish ALDIs, you are right they are accepting credit cards on a trial basis only but they all accept debit cards and have for a number of years.

Posted by
12875 posts

As pointed out above, there is no right answer and it just depends. Last summer the Dresden DJH hostel only accepted Eurocard, whereas the Duesseldorf DJH and the independent hostels in Munich and Wien where I stayed accepted Visa. So, I paid with Visa. I have stayed at cash only Pensionen in Berlin and they were good, not because they wanted just cash payment. But if they had accepted Visa/Mastercard after a 5-8 day stay, I would have definitely paid them with Visa.

In France if I bought "things" at Monoprix that added up to more than 20 Euro, I paid with Visa.

Posted by
11805 posts

Pamela may have run into daily cash withdrawel limits. A typical daily limit is $500 (Roughly 350 Euros). The limit is intended to protect the consumer. If your card is lost or stolen, the account can't be completely cleaned out in one day (unless the balance is below $500).

You can find out the daily limit by calling your bank. Some banks will up the limit at your request - most won't. Work around this by planning for your cash needs and knowing when your bank "refreshes" your daily limit (usually midnight at the bank's headquarters).

Posted by
18296 posts

That's a good point Brad makes about finding out what the bank calls a "day". I assumed mine went midnight to midnight. It didn't.

I had made a $50 withdrawal the day I left for Germany. When I arrived in Frankfurt the next morning, it was after midnight Denver time. I tried to take out the maximum, and the withdrawal was denied. No other explanation other then "call your bank". I used another ATM card that morning (a good reason to carry more than one), then used that card later in the trip. It wasn't until I returned and asked my bank that I found that they go from 4 AM Denver time! It's a local Colorado bank, so they don't have a main office where 4 AM Denver time is midnight local time.

Posted by
709 posts

Hi Elaine,
My wife and I just spent 10 days in Southern Germany this past Christmas. We were in Big Cities (Munich, Salzburg) and tiny towns (oberammergau, ettal) and CC were accepted in all towns. Some Christmas market booths didn't accept CC (although quite a few did), but every restaurant and B&B that we stayed in did. Most attractions did as well.

Darren