5 Tips about using money in Germany

by amuc001

Before embarking on a trip to Europe, people often ask themselves questions that revolve around money. Are there enough ATMs, can I pay with a credit card, can I pay with my own currency, etc….

Here are 5 tips for your trip to Germany and Austria that you should keep in mind.

1. The Euro-Zone

Germany and Austria have adopted the Euro as their currency since 2002. The Euro is also the valid means of payment in many neighboring countries. But before you start your trip to Europe, you should be aware that some countries in Europe still have their own currency. This is also true for states near Germany, which are also frequently traveled.

Czech Republic – Czech Koruna
Switzerland – Swiss Franc
Denmark – Danish Krone
Hungary – Hungarian Forint
Croatia – Croatian kuna
Poland – Polish Zloty
UK – British Pound

So you should be aware that in Europe you can pay with Euro in many countries, but not in all.

2. do not change money at airports or train stations

If you need to change cash, it is best not to do it directly at the airport or train station where you arrive. There you will usually get the worst exchange rate.
Rather, find an ATM and withdraw cash there. However, watch out for the amount of fees and maybe try to apply for a credit card in advance that will reimburse or not charge foreign transaction fees, foreign currency fees, withdrawal fees and possibly also ATM operator fees. Pro-tip: if you can choose between different ATM-operators always choose major banks (for example Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Sparkasse, Postbank, Hypovereinsbank, Sparda-Bank) as privately owned ATMs (for exmple „Euronet“, „Travelex“ or „IC Cash Services“) charge high fees.

3. Do not use automatic/dynamic currency conversion

When you withdraw money from an ATM or even when you make a purchase with your credit card, you may be asked by the machine or vendor if you want to pay in local currency or in your home currency (e.g. USD, CAD, AUD).
In any case, always pay in local currency, as there is a rip-off waiting to happen.
The operators use the DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion). Often this is described as a „service“ for the customer, but behind it is only a much higher conversion rate. So if you are in Europe and you are asked by the machine or the vendor whether you want to pay in Euros or in your home currency, always say „in Euros please“.

4. Don't get confused by EC Card

In a restaurant I once visited, I saw American tourists who wanted to pay with their credit card but were refused by the waitress. The family felt discriminated against, since local guests could very well pay with a card. Because of the communication difficulties, there was a loose situation here. What remained was an annoyed waitress and an angry family who felt discriminated against.

In Germany, card payment is often accepted in restaurants and stores. However, this does not automatically mean that credit cards are accepted. Often you will find a note, e.g. in menu cards of a restaurant or stickers on the entrance doors of stores, that „EC card payment is possible“.

EC card usually means a German (or at least European) bank debit card. These usually have a magnetic strip and chip.

Therefore, it is sometimes possible to pay with a card instead of cash, but often it means an EC card.

Always ask if it is possible to pay with credit card before buying something or make your order in a restaurant. Often there are stickers at the entrance doors which show you the available payment possibilities.

5. Always know your PINs

In Europe you will need your PIN when paying with credit card.  This applies for either payments where you use the credit card chip/magnetic strip or the contactless payment option.

With contacless payment you can usually pay up to 50 EUR without PIN.

But better know all the PINs of your credit cards you bring with you – this will save you from embarassing moments.

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