Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   US credit card usage? (

k2rider Jun 9th, 2011 08:44 AM

US credit card usage?
I had previously read on here that Capital One credit cards are convenient in Europe for avoiding excessive fees. That was great info because we have Capital One cards. However. I have a co-worker that went to Germany in January and he said that he found very few places that his US credit cards were even accepted because of a different standard they have there. I guess they have a smart-chip built into their credit cards. Anyway, he told me he was constantly having to get cash from an ATM to get by.

I'm not sure where they were specifically but my wife & daughter will be in and around Munich for the next week. Then on to Italy and the UK over the next 9 weeks. Should they anticipate not being able to use US based credit cards all over or is it isolated?

Thanks for your input and sorry if this has been covered elsewhere.

BigRuss Jun 9th, 2011 08:50 AM

No chip cards, never a problem in UK or Italy.

travelgourmet Jun 9th, 2011 08:50 AM

Germany has relatively low credit card penetration, and still relies on cash transactions in many places. To the extent your friend had problems, a simple lack of credit card acceptance would be the most likely culprit.

Now, European countries do often utilize chip-and-pin authentication, but virtually all chip-and-pin machines also have a magnetic strip reader. All but the most clueless clerks will process an American card without any issue. Simply say that you do not have a PIN.

mokka4 Jun 9th, 2011 08:51 AM

Have never had a problem with my CC being accepted in most stores or eateries in any town of moderate size. Tiny bistros or shops in out-of-the-way places may not accept CCs.

janisj Jun 9th, 2011 08:53 AM

"<i>However. I have a co-worker that went to Germany in January and he said that he found very few places that his US credit cards were even accepted because of a different standard they have there.</i>"

Your co-worker is flat wrong. Now, there ARE some places US ccs don't work. Primarily in some ticket machines and at un-staffed gas stations.

Otherwise, 99% of merchants can process US cards just fine. They have to run it differently -- but they all know how -- and you have to sign just like at home. But they will work. And the teensy number of places that don't take them - there are almost always alternatives . . .

janisj Jun 9th, 2011 08:53 AM

we were all posting at the same time. . . .

Christina Jun 9th, 2011 08:54 AM

I'm no expert on Germany so I'll let others answer. But I find this curious as I have a very good friend who is German (expat who lives in US now) and she goes to Germany for about 3 months of each year and all her credit cards are issued in the US and she somehow manages. IN fact, she just asked me about which cards to get to avoid the transaction fee as she goes there so much and spends a lot (relatively) and I told her about Cap One and so she just got one for use upon her trip to Germany this year (and she is leaving today, actually).

She's a smart person, so I can't imagine she wouldn't know if she couldn't use US cards in Germany, she is mainly around Frankfurt and Dresden on her trips.

I'm sure someone will answer but if not, I may hear from her by email in the next couple weeks and I'll ask her about that issue if no one answers.

janisj Jun 9th, 2011 08:56 AM

To clarify: >>And the teensy number of places that don't take US cards - there are almost always alternatives . . .<<

As travelgourmet says -- not every place in Germany takes credit cards. But that is any cc, not just US ones.

jent103 Jun 9th, 2011 09:08 AM

I have never had a problem with my US, non-chip credit cards not being accepted in the UK, Ireland or Italy. (Haven't been to Germany in twelve years.)

I do use cash more in Europe than I do in the States. Some places don't take cards at all (more than in the US, it seems to me, though the majority of stores and restaurants do), plus it's easier/more acceptable than trying to ask for separate checks at meals with friends. As janisj noted, there are a very few places, mostly unstaffed machines, which will not work, but again - never had an issue.

nytraveler Jun 9th, 2011 09:35 AM

What cards was your friend trying to use.

Discover is not accepted anywhere in europe. Diner's Club in practically no places. AmEx in most moderate to upscale places but may not be accepted in verymodest ones. Visa and MC shuold be accepted - except in very rare small places that want only cash.

Cowboy1968 Jun 9th, 2011 10:01 AM

Chip & PIN is not an issue in Germany. Actually, it's hardly ever used as any CC terminal also can swipe the card. Most swipe anyway even when they have a chip reader.

As a rule of thumb: The more budget-oriented a place is, the more likely it is that they will only take cash (or debit cards). Especially those tiny family-run pensions or low-budget supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl.
If they take cards, it will most probably be only debit cards with the Maestro logo on it.

Regular supermarkets and all department stores take CC, regardless from where. So does McD or BK.

Also any brand-name/chain gas station, like Esso (=Exxon), Aral, BP, Jet, etc. Gas stations are either open 24/7 or closed. CC operated pumps / unmanned gas stations are virtually non existing. You pump first, then you pay - with CC or cash.

No machine relies on chip&PIN here (as some CC companies have not until recently started to issue c&P cards). If you want, for example, to buy train tickets from a machine, you enter the card and then enter the PIN you should get with your swipe & sign card to withdraw cash. The PIN is only used for ID purposes, though, and does not incur a fee as if you actually withdrew cash from an ATM with your CC (which is not advisable).

denisea Jun 9th, 2011 02:13 PM

I haven't had any issues with my US credit card. In one case, the clerk hadn't realized is was a US card and gave the PIN pad; I simply let her know that I needed to sign for the purchase and she took it from there (this was at a pharmacy in France). I have heard that the little kiosk that you rent bikes from doesn't take US credit cards, but otherwise you shouldn't have a problem.

Make sure to notify the card issuer of your travel dates and countries so they don't shut you down thinking it is fraudulent use.

greg Jun 9th, 2011 02:44 PM

Your posting has "France" tag on it, but your itinerary does not seem to include France. The non-chipped card is a problem in France if you have to deal with unattended machines. You find these at train stations and at unattended gas pumps. It is ok, if you deal with a person as denisea stated.

daveesl Jun 9th, 2011 03:03 PM

I or my kids have used both US based Credit and Debit cards in Italy, Germany, France, UK, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden without any problems, except in situations where it was either a small merchant shop, a toll road or renting a bicycle. These have all happened in the past 2 years.


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:08 PM.