Updated: April 10, 2024 | Has affiliate links

11 Best Question & Answers About Using Credit Cards in Europe

Credit card imageOver the years I have received so many questions about using credit cards in Europe. In this article, I am putting all these questions together with my best answers. I am hoping that you will be able to find answers to all your questions about using credit cards in Europe. This way you can be prepared for your trip to Europe and you can also save quite a bit of money by avoiding most foreign transaction fees.

Using credit cards in Europe has become very simple in the last 10 years. If you have a Visa or Master Card branded credit card, you will not have any trouble using credit cards in Europe. It will mainly work just like when you use it at home. However, there are some specific situations and questions that require a more detailed answers. So, let’s explore together some of the frequently asked questions about using credit cards in Europe.

1. Will My Credit Card work in Europe?

The short answer is yes! Your regular credit card will work in Europe just like you use it back home.  Just make sure you call your bank and inform them of your trip to Europe.  Give them the countries you will be visiting (include airport  layover countries) and the time you will be using credit cards in Europe.

If you use your bank’s mobile app or website, look for a way to add a Travel Plan to your bank account and enter the date that you will be travelling and all the countries you will be visiting.  Don’t forget to add the countries for the airports where you will only have a layover, so you can use your credit card in the airport.

2. Do I Need a Pin for My Credit Card in Europe?

The short answer is no!  Credit cards issued in the USA do not require a pin number.  They only require a signature for verification. However, it is good practice to set a 4-digit pin number for your credit card before leaving on your trip to Europe.  Credit cards issued in Europe require a pin number and only work with a pin number, so the credit card machines in Europe are setup to work with a pin, but will also work only with a signature in the case of US issued credit cards. So, it is a good practice to set a pin number for your travel credit card. Read my simple rules for using debit and credit cards in Europe article.

3. Should I Use My Credit Card to Get Cash?

The short answer is no.  Whether you travel abroad or not, you should not use your credit card as a debit card for withdrawing cash from an ATM machine, unless you have an emergency and your debit card is not working.  The fees for withdrawing foreign currency using credit cards are much higher than using debit cards.  So, do everything you can to avoid using your credit card as a debit card. So, only use your Debit Card for getting cash out.

4. Should I Use My Debit Card for Purchases in Europe?

You surely can.  Even at home in the US, using your debit card for purchases feels like a using a credit card, so it will be the same in Europe.  The only difference is that all your purchases will be debited (taken from) from your checking account at the moment of purchase, unlike a credit card where each purchase is added to your credit card balance and you pay at the end of the month.

5. Is Master Card Accepted in Europe?

Yes, Master Card credit cards are accepted throughout Europe and work just like at home.  Make sure you set up a travel plan with your bank prior to traveling abroad.

6. Is Visa Accepted in Europe?

Yes, Visa credit cards are accepted throughout Europe and work just like at home. Make sure you setup a travel plan with your bank before leaving for Europe.

7. Is American Express Accepted in Europe?

Yes, American Express credit cards are accepted in Europe, primarily at airports, hotels and shops in major cities. However, American Express credit cards are a lot less common than Visa or Master Card branded credit cards.  I don’t really recommend using American Express cards on your trip to Europe.

8. Is Discover Card Accepted in Europe?

Yes, Discover credit cards are accepted in Europe, but like American Express, Discover credit cards are accepted in a lot fewer places than Visa and Master Card.  So, while Discover is accepted in many places in Europe, it’s acceptance is very limited when compared with Visa and Master Card. In addition, the acceptance of Discover credit cards varies depending on the country you visit.  While Discover cards don’t have foreign transaction fees, because they are limited in acceptance, I don’t recommend using Discover credit cards for your travel to Europe.

9. How much are foreign transaction fees for using my credit card in Europe?

Unless you use a travel credit card, you will pay around 3% foreign transaction fee for every purchase made in Europe. So, you will pay $3 for each $100 spent in Europe on your USA issued credit card.

10. How can I avoid paying foreign transaction fees when using my credit card in Europe?

You must use a travel credit card or simply have a Capital One credit card.  This will save you about 3$ for each $100 spent in Europe.

11. What is Dynamic Currency Conversion and should I Use It For My Credit Card in Europe?

This is a weird concept that sounds very good at first sight, but in the end will cost you quite a bit of money. Around 2019 there was new legislation passed in Europe which required European banks to provide options for foreign customers to make all transactions in their home country currency instead of the local currency.

For example, you travel to Italy and buy some souvenirs at a local shop.  You go to the counter and take out your American credit card in order to pay.  The cashier will ask you: Do you want to pay in US Dollars or in Euro? Sounds innocent, and many tourists say US Dollars of course.

What happens next is mysterious, because the conversion from the Euro price to US Dollar price is performed by a local company unknown to you, at a conversion rate including quite a few foreign conversion fees. At the end, a price in US Dollars will appear on your American credit card statement as a regular transaction that you would have at home, without any indication that it was converted from Euros.

If on the other hand, you answer the clerk’s question with Euro, or whatever local currency it is, the transaction will go to your US credit card account as a transaction in Euro currency and it is up to your home bank to convert it instead of another company.  Usually, this saves you quite a bit of money.

In summary, please decline any offers to charge your purchases in your home country currency.  Always choose to charge everything you buy in the local currency whether it is Euro, British Pounds or Swiss Francs.

Do You Have Any Other Questions About Using Credit Cards in Europe?

While I have tried answering most frequently asked questions about using credit cards in Europe, I am certain that there are more questions. If you have any other question, please add it in the comments below and I will find an answer.

  1. Use your Debit and Credit Cards in Europe
  2. Best travel credit cards
  3. Best travel debit cards
  4. Get the best foreign exchange rate
  5. Frequent Questions about Using Debit Cards in Europe
  6. Frequent Questions about Using Credit Cards in Europe

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