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CREDIT CARD USE IN GERMANY

I have read many posts concerning this topic but most are old and outdated....dating back to 2010! I am currently visiting Germany from the United States and not much has changed. Some places accept credit cards and some don't. Yesterday, I visited one of Germany's leading electronic stores and would have thought they would accept credit cards: Visa or Mastercard, for which I had both, and neither were accepted! Fortunately, I also had cash (Euros). However, I did find some smaller shops and other businesses that did accept credit cards, "go figure!" As mentioned prior, you either have to check the door for the visa or mastercard logo or ask before your buy. Of course, currently, US citizens will loose money to Euros, somewhere around $30 per hundred, so be prepared for that during exchange. And calculate it when using your credit card also. If you purchase an item for $100 Euros via credit card, your credit card will be charged $130.00 US (depending upon the exchange rate at the time) and of course, I am assuming you are visiting from the US as I am.

Posted by
9037 posts

That electronic store would be Saturn, though some of the locations will take American Express.

Posted by
3049 posts

Yep, Saturn only takes chip&pin cards, not magnetic strip credit cards. This is true for most grocery stores as well. If in doubt, look for the visa/mastercard symbol - if it's not displayed, you'll need a chip&pin or even better, just cash. I have a chip&pin card but I still do almost all my purchases in cash, unless I'm buying something more than 300 euros. It's just easier to always have cash on you then to think or worry about it. Nicer restaurants will often take magnetic strip cards, but again, never count on it. Look for the logos, or ask.

Posted by
2193 posts

Not Germany, but this reminded me of a pizza place I visited in Haarlem in Sept that didn't take cash...I had never seen that before anywhere. It was more of an upscale, gourmet type pizza place than a pizza joint. Anyway, they had a sticker on a window in the front, indicating chip and pin only – no cash. Oops...didn't see that until I was getting ready to pay the bill. The lady at the register asked if I had a chip and pin card...nope...a U.S. magnetic strip card. No problem...they had two devices for transactions at the register, and she used a different scanning device for my card instead of the one for chip and pin transactions. Whew! Anyone ever run into a no cash place before (and I don't mean an unattended gas station...I'm referring to a retail place, restaurant, etc. with real people)? I've run into cash only places and places that take both cash and chip and pin before but never a no cash place. I've even run into chip and pin only ATMs over here (in Ontario).

Posted by
33299 posts

We see a lot of comments here that the chip and pin cards now used throughout Europe would not affect the vast majority of US visitors who wish to use their old-fashioned magnetic stripe but I have been saying for some time that more and more places are chip and pin only. I was surprised when Saturn was mentioned as the culprit because I've never had any issues with them - I guess because I'm a chip and pin user. I never noticed any C&P only signs. Its coming, folks...

Posted by
9109 posts

My understanding is that Saturn and most supermarkets only take chip&pin debit cards. No credit cards of any style. I could be wrong though.

Posted by
33299 posts

US citizens will loose money to Euros, somewhere around $30 per hundred YOu don't "loose" 30%. You lose about 3% in fees, and you convert the rest. The money isn't lost, it changes. When you convert it back you get all but about the exchange fee back. Using a debit or credit card you get the interbank rate which is pretty close to the best you can get (ignoring the cash advance fee which you would have even in US if you used a credit card in an ATM). The exchange rate is different into other currencies, but the principles are similar.

Posted by
56 posts

There is a new thing to worry about when you use a credit card overseas. It came up on our recent Spain trip from which we returned this week, but I did not encounter it in Portugal in May. Once they swipe your card they will give you a slip that asks if you want to be billed in Euros or USDollars. If you say Dollars there will be a 2.5% commission added! On one occasion the vendor assumed I wanted DOllars and went ahead and did it. I later learned to just say - "Euros" as soon as I gave them the card.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, If you're a betting person, you can bet that more establishments in France, (hotels, restaurants, etc.) accept a credit card than in Germany. That's been my experience. But, the main difference,... in Germany your US magnetic stripe Visa/Mastercard works at the DB Automaten...very important for getting a ticket.

Posted by
4158 posts

David makes a good point. We just returned from Italy and Switzerland and found this happening in Switzerland though not in Italy .This is a technique that Rick points out in his books called " Dynamic currency conversion " . I first encountered it picking up an Avis rental at Heathrow three years ago . Since it was cleverly downplayed at the counter , I got zapped . They don't ever call it by its real name , and it comes in different flavors . Once one is familiar with it its easy to avoid . A useful "heads up "

Posted by
12040 posts

"My understanding is that Saturn and most supermarkets only take chip&pin debit cards. No credit cards of any style. I could be wrong though." I don't know about Saturn (have never shopped there), but at least Rewe, Aldi and Lidl all accept IC-card (chip and pin) credit cards. I've never tried to pay with a magnetic strip card in any of them. Media Markt (was that the store, Herbert?) in Germany does not accept magnetic strip cards, but for some reason, they do in Belgium. Ikea, of all places, does not accept any of the common international credit cards.

Posted by
337 posts

Unlike REWE (which accept Visa, MasterCard, and AmEx IC credit cards), Aldi (both Nord and Süd) and Lidl don't accept credit cards of any kind, only debit cards (Aldi only Girocard, Lidl Girocard, Maestro, and V-Pay).

Posted by
559 posts

Regarding the chip and pin credit cards --- are we Americans able to get those?

Posted by
12040 posts

Hmm, my memory must be wrong. Maybe I paid with my bank card at Aldi and Lidl (I usually shop at Rewe).

Posted by
168 posts

So I'm a bit concerned about the stores charging in US dollars. How do they know you're American? We'll be visiting Switzerland and France from Canada next summer. If they charge in USD we'll be hit with the 2.5 fee and then the exchange and fee from us to Cdn. Since the Canadian dollar is pretty much on par with the Swiss franc, we need to avoid that USD charge.

Posted by
12040 posts

The store will charge you in the local currency, be it the Swiss franc or the Euro. Your credit card issuer will convert the sale into the currency in which you pay your bills, plus a small fee. EDIT: OK, I see above that the poster reported the OPTION of paying in the local currency or US dollars. I'm not aware of any stores in Europe that force anyone to pay in dollars...well, perhaps the stores that service the US military community, but that's it. In the unlikely scenario where a merchant offers to let you pay in Canadian dollars, he would almost certainly tack on an additional fee as well.

Posted by
168 posts

My concern is the situation mentioned above where the poster was automatically charged in USD by the sales clerk without having been asked. I guess because they knew (or thought) he was american and would prefer it that way. The poster was warning about the 2.5% surcharge for this 'service'. I've actually heard of this on another site as well but I can't remember where. I'm concerned about someone assuming we're american, charging the credit card in US dollars (with a 2.5% fee) and then our own credit card company doing the exchange and charging another 2.5% fee to change the charge from US to Cdn.

Posted by
12040 posts

I don't see in any post where someone was automatically charged in US dollars. I only see that one poster WAS GIVEN THE OPTION. I repeat- unless you are specifically given the option, you will always be charged in the local currency. Any extra fees will be added by your credit card issuer, not the merchant.

Posted by
3621 posts

Tom, you may not be aware of stores pulling the "dynamic conversion" scam, but we have been stung twice that I'm aware of. The first time was several years ago, at a hotel in Spain, even after I said I wanted to be charged in euros. The second was by the Hertz agency at the Catania airport this year. The receipt stated (in VERY small print) that I had been informed and agreed; but that wasn't true. I only caught it much later. I assume that this method of squeezing a little more money from tourists will only proliferate. I intend to be extremely vigilant in the future and to insist that anyone who writes up a charge in USD redo it.

Posted by
19169 posts

If you only use cash (Euro), you don't have this problem. In my last four trips (8 weeks) to Germany, I've only used a card three times, all in Bahn ticket automats, which, at the time, didn't take cash, and I was charged in Euro. I find that my travel experience is greatly enhanced by staying in small places, and most of the time where I stay is less expensive and doesn't take credit cards. Even without dynamic currency conversion, limiting my options to places that take credit cards would substantially increase the cost of my trips. Added: BTW, credit card companies often charge 3% for any European transaction, whether it is in Euro or Dollars, the business charging you in Dollars doesn't save you anything.

Posted by
56 posts

Let me clarify: at one restaurant in Spain I was NOT given the option of dollars v. euros. They just assumed I wanted the charge in dollars. I really don't think the waiter understood what was going on or the commission. After that I just said "Euros" to take away any doubt. But in all of the other times they asked me. Sometimes there was a printout that explained it, other times just a note on the portable electronic charge machine. Nothing to freak out about, just something to be aware of.

Posted by
1502 posts

I was charged in dollars at a hotel in Mainz, which was not mentioned before I was presented the bill and the credit card receipt to sign. I could have probably insisted that they change the charge to Euros before I signed it. It was not a big difference but still... I usually carry enough to pay my bills in cash but, it is a convenience to pay my hotel bills by credit card. My bank does charge a foreign transaction fee.

Posted by
32264 posts

The Hotel staff should have some idea where travellers are from based on the type of credit card they're using. Someone from the U.S. would be less likely to be using a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce card, while someone from Canada would be less likely to be using a Bank of America card (although there are always exceptions). In the case of paying Hotel bills, the hotels know the nationality of travellers based on the Passport information that was provided at check in. Also, the first four digits of the card indicate which Bank it's attached to, so that may determine which currencies the POS Terminal chooses for each transaction. I encountered the "dynamic conversion" situation several times on my trip this year, but in each case I was asked which currency I wanted. I don't remember which currency options I was given (other than the local currency), but I chose local currency each time. The "dynamic conversion" situation seems to be becoming more common (at least in my experience). Cheers!

Posted by
113 posts

Most US credit cards do not have chip and pin as an option even!

Posted by
32264 posts

@Thomas, Based on posts that I've seen on the HelpLine, the only "Chip & PIN" credit card available in the U.S. is from the Andrews Federal Credit Union, which I believe is based in Maryland. Residents from any state can apparently apply for this. Hopefully some of the HelpLine members that now have the card can provide further information. One further point to mention is that some financial institutions in the U.S. may offer a "Chip & Signature" card, which is NOT the same as "Chip & PIN". The main reason for the Chip is to replace the signature with a PIN entry. The U.S. is one of the last countries to adopt this technology, and not sure if they're planning to do so at any time in the near future? The C&P cards have been available in Europe, Canada and other parts of the world for several years. Cheers!

Posted by
33299 posts

The card reader knows which bank the card is from and what currency it is denominated in.

Posted by
1174 posts

Tom, on a recent trip we were charged in dollars in a store in the Netherlands. Never given an option, and we did not ask for the charge to be in dollars. In the future I will always say "euros" when paying be credit card, as a previous poster advised.