Using Credit Cards in Europe

Using Credit Cards in Europe: How to Avoid Heavy Fees and Disgruntled Shop Owners Once you get to Europe for your vacation, you need to be able to...



Using Credit Cards in Europe: How to Avoid Heavy Fees and Disgruntled Shop Owners

Once you get to Europe for your vacation, you need to be able to pay for things. You have a number of payment options available to you, some with a few more fees than others.

Using Credit Cards in Europe

Credit cards used to be one of the easiest ways to pay for things when you were traveling in Europe. That little piece of plastic can go with you anywhere with no trouble and is much simpler to carry than cash. These days, however, Europeans restrict the use of American credit cards more often, mostly because they do not want to pay the high fees to American credit card companies. If you want to use cards in Europe, you need to know the Europe credit cards that are accepted, as well as the credit card fees throughout Europe before you officially decide to use only plastic on your vacation. Because of new technology, it is easier than ever for Europeans to make it so that your U.S. cards may not work in Europe. You may find that if you try to swipe your card at any automated payment points that it will be rejected; because of an advanced chip-and-PIN security feature that Europeans use. Europeans enter a PIN when they swipe their credit card, but often Americans do not know the PIN for their credit cards, only debit. You can check with your bank before you head to Europe to find out what your credit card PIN is, but this will not always work at the automated points of sale, just when dealing with a teller.

Using Credit Cards in Europe

You can also get a card from Travelex which gives Americans chip-and-PIN Visa cards that are preloaded with your choice of currency, either British pounds or Euros. While this travel Europe Visa card is convenient, you will pay large fees and will have to see your funds dwindle because of the exchange rate from US dollars to the other currencies.

Europe credit card fees are also high, for merchants and for you. Check with your credit card company to find out exactly how much you will be charged every time you swipe. Many merchants throughout Europe, especially those who run smaller establishments, are hesitant to take credit cards because they either do not want to pay the heavy fees, or they do not want to have to report the sale for tax purposes. Either way, you will find that many will offer you discounts if you pay in cash, or might even reject your perfectly good credit card.

Your best option is to purchase things by paying in Euros. You can easily get Euros by swiping your credit card at an ATM machine and getting a cash advance withdrawal. This however, can also cost you some very high fees from your credit card company, as you will pay the foreign transaction fee and the cash advance interest rate. Using your debit card at ATMs to get Euros is usually the cheapest option for getting cash that you can use all over Europe. Avoid bringing American cash and exchanging it for Euros; you will lose far more cash in the currency exchange than if you used your debit or credit cards at an ATM to get cash.

The bottom line is: Europeans accept some American credit cards, but fees can be high and cash is nearly always best. Head to an ATM and get cash when you need it to avoid extra hassles.

More Europe Tips:

Internet Access in Europe

Tipping while Traveling in Europe

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