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Are merchants less likely to accept a credit card in Germany

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Jan 12th, 2012, 06:20 AM
  #1
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Are merchants less likely to accept a credit card in Germany

In several trip reports on Fodors and another site I remember reading that travelers found merchants reluctant to accept credit cards in Germany for meals and excursions purchases.

When we travel in Europe we prefer to use our Visa and Mastercard from Capital One as much as possible. We use cash for most purchases under 20 euros but like the convenience of not carrying too much cash at any one time. We also like to use our credit card statement as documentation of our travels

This will be our first stay in Germany and I'd like to know , in general, if we should expect our credit cards to be accepted by merchants less often than in other European countries.

Thanks for any comments, Deborah
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Jan 12th, 2012, 06:31 AM
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Hi Deborah,
We have found that large shops and large hotels/restaurants accept Visa and MC. For smaller places, some do and some do not. I'm sorry that is not more helpful but it has been our experience with our most recent past 3 trips (2005, 7, 8). Where do you plan to visit in Germany?
Also, while pickpocketing could still occur of course, it isn't as much of a concern in Germany except for perhaps in the most crowded areas of Munich/Berlin. So while I wouldn't ever recommend carrying obscene amounts of cash, carrying a couple hundred E worth at a time shouldn't be a problem. ATMs are plentiful.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 06:54 AM
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Many stores and restaurants will only accept EC cards (European debit-type cards, with a PIN code).

(P.S. - pickpocketing also at the Hamburg Fischmarkt on Sunday mornings - - they make public address announcements telling the pickpockets to leave!)
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Jan 12th, 2012, 07:22 AM
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We recently traveled in Germany (Oct. 11) with several couples. No one reported any problems in using our credit cards which were used throughout the trip. I don't think you will have any problems.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 07:27 AM
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We were in Germany in 2010 and had no problems using our Visa. Ocassionally a problem using our AX.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 07:32 AM
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Thanks for the comments. We will be there 23 days doing what I consider the typical Germany first timers route--Cologne, Mosel/Rhine, Rothenburg, Fussen, Berchtesgarden, Munich, Frankfurt.

We are staying at hotels in the city and small inns/B&B's elsewhere. I expected the B&B's to not accept credit cards but I was wondering what to expect for local restaurants, grocery stores and tourist attractions outside the large cities.

Thanks again, Deborah
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Jan 12th, 2012, 07:33 AM
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When you take a typical mall or shopping street in Germany, most stores will take credit cards.
Also all major gas station chains do.
Dedicated low-budget merchants like Aldi or Lidl supermarkets, or discount gas stations or small family-operated pensions won't.
Or museums where the entrance fee is quite low, e.g. in the single digit euro range.
The major difference IME are merchants at the lower end of the spectrum like newsstands or convenience/neighborhood stores where you won't be able to pay for 2 softdrinks and a candy bar with a card. But these purchases should be well within your €20 range for cash transactions anyway.

Restaurants are hit and miss. Anything that is a chain eatery like McD or the ubiqitous steak houses will take cards. Or any place at the upper end of the price range.
But if you spotted a place that does not sport the usual range of CC stickers on its front door, it's usually a more moderately priced restaurant or eatery. So you can either decide to get some cash from a nearby ATM, or €50 will be sufficient to buy two full meals and several beers.

If each of you carried €50 in euros that should be sufficient to meet any sudden demand for cash.

And you don't need to worry about Chip+PIN as that system is only used in addition to the good ole swipe+sign and has not replaced it. Any place that accepts CCs will do swipe+sign.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 08:17 AM
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About the only time you will ever have a problem (aside from perhaps a technology related from your own bank) is if you are at a very small shop/hotel/restaurant that either doesn't accept any plastic or made the decision to limit what they accept. This is no different than the U.S. or pretty much anywhere else. If you don't see the sign on the door, be certain to ask when you come in, makes life a lot easier.

dave
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Jan 12th, 2012, 08:26 AM
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I go back and forth between Switzerland and Germany on a near weekly basis and just spent four weeks in Dresden - my experience has been that: Amex is accepted in many (but not all) hotels, some restaurants (mostly oriented toward a business clientele), by Deutsch Bahn (online and at the station) and some larger stores (department stores like Karstadt, some of which have large grocery departments - they also take MC/V of course). Have had no problems with Swiss or U.S. bank credit cards (MC/V). In many cases, my Swiss bank credit card was swished through a machine - I wasn't asked for my pin, just my signature. The one time I was asked for it, I had to cross my fingers - I hadn't used it for a "real world" (instead of online) purchase in so long, I wasn't sure I had the right number. Have had no problems with any of my credit cards for buying Deutsch Bahn train tix online.
My Swiss bank debit card has always worked fine for taking out cash, doesn't work for purchases (even though it is chip and pin). Ditto for my U.S. bank debit card.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 09:28 AM
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Thank you, this is very helpful information. We will be renting a car during our stay so it's good to know about the gas stations. Deborah
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Jan 12th, 2012, 10:12 AM
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While I don't disagree with the advice you have been given, I beg to differ in the "restaurant" department, especially outside of the big cities. ATM machines are everywhere, however, so besides having to deal with a daily limit (THEIRS, not yours - so it doesn't matter that you've pre-authorized a higher daily limit before your trip, it's what that particular bank/atm machine's daily limit is...sometimes as little as 250 euros)

I live in the Heidelberg area and most, if not all, of the small, intimate stübe and restaurants we frequent don't accept cards-- period--, German or otherwise, just cash. Ladenburg, Speyer, St. Leon-Rot, Schwetzingen and other towns are proportionately more "cash only", except the big corporate business oriented places.

A distant relative who visited in Munich had a terrible time getting his card accepted there as well and didn't have easy access to cash (not sure what the issue was)...all this took him by surprise and put him "off" of visiting Germany.

So be aware that you should keep on you enough cash to pay a day's hotel and food, and it won't be an issue. Use your card wherever they accept it, but don't limit your choice/experience because you don't have the cash on you at the time. That would be a shame.

Happy Travels!
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Jan 12th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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I think I forgot a ) somewhere in the above post...hopefully it's clearer than mud
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Jan 12th, 2012, 10:30 AM
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klondiketoo--your post was very helpful. I am credit card and debit card rich only in the number of cards I have for choices I will pack an extra debit card rather than credit for Germany as we just might be using more cash than credit for our trip.
Thanks, Deborah
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Jan 12th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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Yes, I have to somewhat agree with klondiketoo. I am currently living in Munich and have been to many restaurants/shops where it was cash only, and not even an EC card is accepted. That being said, when I have guests visiting, they for the most part do not seem to have a problem using their CC. I tell them they probably can't use their CC, but they come back saying they had little problems with the CC. Not quite sure what to attribute the apparent discrepancy to. Perhaps I frequent more "local" places, and they the more touristed? Not really sure, since I don't consider myself a true local.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 11:17 AM
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ETA: It may have to do with a US based credit card being more accepted than German CCs, as they are different. I have been in places that accept EC cards and even (I believe) US CCs, but not German CCs.

But again, many places I frequent are cash only, or cash and EC only.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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Sorry, but there are no German or US credit cards. Either a place accepts Visa or MC (and usually to a lesser extent Amex) or it does not.
The smaller, the quainter a place is, the probability that you can pay with cards decreases.
Sometimes our dear American tourists have the preference to search for the last god-forsaken Bavarian inn in search of authenticity. While most or many Germans just have their pizza at their favorite Italian restaurants and pay with Visa ;-)
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Jan 12th, 2012, 02:34 PM
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Ditto klondiketoo. I always carry a few hundred € for everyday purchases, including meals. My credit cards have been hijacked a few times so I only use them for hotels, long distance train tickets, and other major expenses.
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Jan 12th, 2012, 05:53 PM
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We have no no trouble using CCs (Visa or MC) for hotels, shops, restaurants or sights in Germany. Some more modest places definitely don;t take AmEx. And for small amounts - under $25 or so - I would always pay cash anyway - and you probably can;t charge a lot of items from a newsstand or very casuale cafe.
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