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Credit Card use in Germany

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Apr 24th, 2008, 07:36 AM
  #1
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Credit Card use in Germany

Will be traveling to Germany for the first time and have been told by a few others that have traveled there that credit card use isn't as widely accepted as in other parts of Europe. I also read in a brief overview in AAA that in more rural parts of the country, we may have more difficulty using them. What's the concensus on this?? I'm not concerned so much about the major urban areas (staying in Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne) but we will spend some time touring Hessen and will be visiting small towns (Laudenbach, Ungsterode, Kastell) where it could be a problem.

Thanks for your replies!

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Apr 24th, 2008, 07:47 AM
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We just returned from Berlin...and visited Potsdam and Leipzig by train. Credit cards are useful in some shops, some restaurants, but certainly not all. For Euros, we obtained the maximum each day from the ATMs. Since our time zones were so far apart from Wells Fargo, we had to be careful to remember the calendar day of PST. And eventually we called Wells Fargo to increase our allotment for the day. the exchange rate yielded fewer Euros than $US.
Have great fun!! janet
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Apr 24th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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We have been to Germany a number of times in the last several years. In many smaller cities, you will find restaurants and maybe some shops that do not take credit cards. Or, some shops might take credit cards with a minimum purchase of say 25 Euro.

We have even stayed in several hotels that required cash payment.

I would utilize your ATM card and have some cash handy for these occasions.

I also agree that you might want to up your daily withdrawal limit on your ATM, at least while you are traveling.
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Apr 24th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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>credit card use isn't as widely accepted as in other parts of Europe.

Yes, electronic payment is usually done with debit cards.

>I also read in a brief overview in AAA that in more rural parts of the country, we may have more difficulty using them.

Also mostly true IME.

>What's the concensus on this?? I'm not concerned so much about the major urban areas (staying in Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne)

Also there, you will be able to pay with a credit card in department stores, hotels, more formal restaurants etc. The less "top end" a place is, the lower the probability that your credit card will be accepted, although there are always exceptions. Look for the Visa or (less frequent) Amex stickers.

>but we will spend some time touring Hessen and will be visiting small towns (Laudenbach, Ungsterode, Kastell) where it could be a problem.

ATMs are available everywhere. Assuming you have a debit card, this shouldn´t be a problem.
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Apr 24th, 2008, 10:58 AM
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Have traveled extensively through Germany several times. Hotels (but perhaps not B&B or very small family owned places) all take CCS.

Most restaurants take CCs - but very small, basic ones, pastry shops etc may not (but then they won;t be charging you that much either). Have never seen a museum that didn't take CCs.

Not sure about local shops - since we didn't use those - but I would assume for small ticket items they would want cash.
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Apr 24th, 2008, 11:42 AM
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Altamiro's point bears repeating that you can use credit cards most easily at more expensive hotels, restaurants and shops. If you are a bargain hunter (cheapskate in my case) it better to have euros handy.

Regards, Gary
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Apr 24th, 2008, 12:47 PM
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I was shocked when I first heard this. I've traveled in Germany perhaps a little less than some other European countries such as France and Italy, but I honestly never noticed any difference at all in Germany from any other Western European country regarding the lack of taking credit cards, either in small town or large cities. Yes, I guess it is true that there may be more smaller shops or restaurants in more rural areas that won't take credit cards, but no more, I thought, than in any other country's rural areas as well.

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Apr 24th, 2008, 01:34 PM
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What about gas stations? I've heard that Americans can't use their version of the pay at the pump scanner because we don't have a chip that they do....so you just go in and pay, right
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Apr 24th, 2008, 01:49 PM
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MasterCard and VISA are widely accepted in Germany.

98% of gas stations and hotels take them. If the hotel does not take a credit card they find another way for payment.

Same is true for restaurants. If a restaurant does not accept credit cards avoid it. For small amounts, cash is used in Germany as well as in other European countries.

Debit cards are unknown in Germany. (I must say, I do not know what a debit card is.)
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Apr 24th, 2008, 03:02 PM
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traveller, are you serious? A debit card looks like a credit card, but when you use it, the money comes out of your bank account -- rather than receiving a bill at the end of the month and then paying it. Debit cards usually (always?) require a pin number to complete the transaction. The vast majority of ATM cards you use to take money out of your bank account at a machine also can be used as a debit card to buy merchandise or pay for services.
But again, the money will immediately come out of your bank account to pay for those things when you use your card.

It always seemed to me that in MOST of Europe, locals use debit cards more than credit cards -- I'm not sure about Germany. NO?
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Apr 24th, 2008, 03:57 PM
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One of the most popular hotels in Meersburg, the Hotel Zum Baeren, does not accept credit cards. I don't think of Meersburg as being "rural".

The Hotel Haus Lipmann in Beilstein does not accept credit cards. This is a very popular hotel with Fodorites.

One of the larger shops in Bacharach only took a credit card if we purchased 25 Euro in goods.

While maybe not the "rule" we still found a number of places in Germany that just don't want to be bothered with credit cards.

When booking hotels online, if the website doesn't provide payment information, I always inquire if they accept credit cards.
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Apr 24th, 2008, 04:28 PM
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bettyk, there are a handful of hotels everywhere in Europe that won't take credit cards -- in Paris or Rome, as well. My comment was that you probably won't find any more of them in Germany than anywhere else.

Meanwhile we stayed at the zum Baren and I know we used a credit card. I just googled and looked and saw their policy is clearly listed as accepting "American Express, Visa, Euro/Mastercard, Maestro". So I'm not sure why you felt they didn't take them!

You are right that the tiny 5 room Hotel Haus Lipmann does NOT take credit cards. I don't find that unusual in the least and wouldn't find it unusual anywhere in Europe.
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Apr 24th, 2008, 07:34 PM
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Well, NeoPatrick, I don't know what to tell you, because I distinctly remember reading that they didn't take credit cards.

I went to their website, but did not see anything about credit cards. Maybe I missed it.

So I did do a google search and found the following that states no credit cards accepted.

May 2007 Travelogue:
The Gasthof Zum Bären is yet to embrace the idea of credit cards so take only cash or travellers’ cheques. This wasn’t much of a problem to us as there is an ATM close by.

From Frommer’s website on the Zum Baeren
http://tinyurl.com/6mvyso:
Credit Cards - Not accepted

From Karen Brown’s website on the Zum Baeren:
http://tinyurl.com/58vvt8
No Credit Cards


So, I guess that is "what lead me to think they didn't take credit cards".
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Apr 24th, 2008, 11:41 PM
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traveller1959, in the Netherlands your normal bank pass (PIN card) which you use for ATMs is also your debit card, for paying in shops, petrol stations, and ticket machines.
Surely the Germans have the same system? I seem to remember using my card there to buy things. The use of it is positively encouraged in NL, even for very small amounts, consequently I rarely have any cash on me.
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Apr 25th, 2008, 12:07 AM
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Traveler1959

EC-Karten!!
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Apr 25th, 2008, 03:20 AM
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Traditionally (in 1980s and early 90s), credit card acceptance in Germany was lower than the European norm. There were two main reasons for this - lower penetration of credit card among the population, and high handling charge imposed on establishments by card company/handler. Since then the situation has improved on both fronts - many more people carry credit cards (but less than in, say, UK) and places that take credit cards. Today you can expect almost all service stations to take cards, and all the larger retailers and most hotels and more expensive restaurants. Situation in smaller places away from international tourist trails and in villages varies. Few privately-run accommodation such as B&B and smaller Pension or Gasthaus take cards, nor local inns or cafes for cheaper meals or drinks. Market stalls and local bakery etc are cash only, and in most supermarkets the only plastic accepted is debit card (called EC-Karte). EC-Karte is linked to Maestro/Mastercard, so if you have a debit card with either logo, it MAY work in EC-Karte slot, but no guarantee (often you need a chipped card), so have cash available. BTW EC-Karte (EC stands for 'electronic cash') has really become popular with German public and most adults have and use it, as it nowadays comes automatically with bank account with small usage fee, and retailers love it because of low charges (much lower than credit card).
So for travellers in Germany, if you only stay in large cities and stay in large hotels and eat out in smarter restaurants etc, you can use your credit card a lot and only need to pay cash occasionally. But in smaller places and touring the rural areas, always have cash euro available (ATMs are everywhere) and don't expect to be able to use credit card except to buy fuel.
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Apr 25th, 2008, 06:35 AM
  #17
ira
 
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Hi M,
>What about gas stations?

Mon - Sat Fuel stations are staffed. You will be able to use your CC.

Sun - no staff - your US CC will probably not work.

When you do go to get gas at a staffed station, be sure that the line you are using goes to the checkout booth.

They have separate lines for pay at the pump and cash or foreign CC's.

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Apr 25th, 2008, 06:36 AM
  #18
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PS,

If you park in a parking lot or garage, you pay at the automatic machine and have your ticket validated before you try to exit.

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Apr 25th, 2008, 06:48 AM
  #19
 
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Credit cards are quite widely accepted but the typical German doesn´t use them for small purchases. It´s not the "normal" way of payment and so you might encounter some places which don´t bother to accept them.

So best to make sure that you can use an ATM and to get some cash for daily use. And yes, VISA is more widely accepted than American Express.
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Apr 25th, 2008, 06:51 AM
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ira,

I think you mix up opening hours and procedures of gas stations in Germany with those in France.

In Germany, you will find many 24/7 gas stations. Only small gas stations shut down on Sundays, not the ones on major highways. I would say that even small towns have at least one 24/7 gas station.

Pay at the pump or automated pumps (where you can get gas when station is not staffed, and CC without a chip may not work) are definetely not the norm the Germany.

Usually, you simply fill up, and then pay inside afterwards with cash, debit/Maestro, or any major CC. If a gas station does not take CCs, it is a so called "independent" station (i.e. no chain like Shell, Exxon/Esso, Aral, agip, etc.), which are often a few cents cheaper.
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