Germany is predominantly a cash society. Germans generally dislike having debt and are not accustomed to buying something and paying for it later. This means that the amount of businesses that accept credit cards is not as high as in other countries.
Credit cards are accepted at nearly all hotels and also some restaurants located in areas popular with tourists. If you wish to pay for your restaurant or bar bill with a credit card, it is wise to check with them before ordering to see if they are accepted.
If credit cards are accepted, it will usually be Visa and MasterCard only. Outside of hotels, travelers may have a difficult time finding places that accept American Express, Discover or Diner Club cards. This isn’t a slight towards Americans, rather it’s due to the fact that these card companies charges merchants a higher rate for processing transactions.
The reason using credit cards in Germany can be troublesome is because the many countries have different types of card types. Germany utilizes the ultra secure Chip and PIN variety, while the many visitors coming from North America will have only a swipe or chip and signature card.
Continue reading for more information about the different type of cards and how well they work in Germany.
Three types of Credit Cards
This is the common type of card in the United States. It is always swiped when paying for items and has no built in security measures. This type of card is being phased out currently in favor of more-secure chip cards.
Chip and Signature
Banks and card companies in the United States have recently started to use a more secure type of credit card. This card is called Chip and Signature and works by making the user to insert (dip) the card into a card reader and then sign for their purchase. There is no numeric PIN associated with the card.
While in Germany, you may have issues using these cards when trying to purchase an item/service at an unattended point of sale. Examples may be transit ticket machines in train stations, unattended gas stations, etc.
Tip: If you are using a Chip and Signature card at a machine and it asks you for a PIN, simply press OK and the transaction may go through. Unfortunately, in these situations, it’s out of your hands whether your transaction will work or not.
These cards work fine in America, but visitors traveling in Germany with only Chip and Signature cards are encouraged to rely on cash for their transactions instead.
Chip and PIN
This type of card is the most secure and is the standard in Germany (and most of the world). Each card has a PIN number associated with it and you will be required to input this number every time you purchase an item. If you lose your card, no one can make charges without your PIN. These cards will work equally well at the hotel, the restaurant or at kiosks and machines. Contact your bank or credit card company to see whether they offer these types of cards. These are the recommended type of credit cards in Germany and
Before your trip
It’s important to make sure a few things are done before your trip to Germany. These items will make easier for you while using your credit cards in Germany and safer in case something unexpected should happen.
- Check which type of card do you have (swipe, chip, etc).
- Tell your credit card company you will be traveling to Germany.
- Confirm daily withdrawal limits (in case you need emergency cash from an ATM).
- Write down your credit card companies phone number in case of lost/stolen card.
- Sign your credit cards, German cashiers generally check the signature when presented with a swipe card.
The best advice we can give for visitors who wish to use credit cards in Germany is to always carry enough Euros with you in case a specific business doesn’t accept them or if something goes wrong when trying to use them.