Friday, 21 February 2014

Rant No. 21: Credit cards.

Germany is one of the most progressive and richest countries in Europe. So why is it almost impossible to pay on card in Berlin?

I’ve heard a couple of answers, like all the credit cards are owned by American companies, and this means the shop owners/ bar owners would need to pay a tax to America, which they don’t want to. Whatever the reason, in the 21st Century in a first world country, it’s crazy. And certainly makes life more difficult.

Make sure you carry cash and always use a cash point when you see one, because you don’t know when there’ll be another one (Cash machines are quite sparse around Berlin, and you need to use your own bank or you’ll be charged outrageously – about 6€!). And you really never know if you will be able to pay on card, so it’s safer to assume you can’t.

In London I paid for almost everything on card. Cash is messy. Cash takes time. One swipe and you’re done. It was a bit like stepping back in time when I first moved here and realised how little you could pay on card. Even in many developing countries around the world, I’ve still been able to pay on credit card.

It does have its plus points I guess. You’re more aware of the money you’re spending. If you want to know that is!

But it does mean you can be caught out when doing your shopping. When you get to the till, can’t pay on card, and then have to leave the shop, cycle to the nearest bank and come back with cash. Very time inefficient.

Some places you can pay by card, but just with an EC card. Like with BVG for an u-bahn ticket. But this only helps people who live in Germany and have this type of card. Tourists must have coins or can just struggle trying to get the machines to accept notes!


  1. The third or fourth time my parents came to visit me here, my mom showed up to a lunch in a huff because she hadn't been able to pay by credit card for her BVG ticket even though there was "obviously a slot for credit cards." (She meant the EC card slot in the machine.)

    "But mom," I said, "you remember last year when you were here you could only pay by cash, right?"

    "I know," she replied, "I just thought, a whole year has passed, it must have changed by now."

  2. Grrr! That's one of my pet peeves too! You can't pay with credit card in IKEA, or MediaMarkt when the purchases tend to be big, or in DM when you buy a bunch of expensive cosmetics and perfumes! I hate it SO much! I used my credit card for everything in London too.

    1. We even had to pay for our wedding rings in cash here!

  3. Credit Card companies in Germany typically charge the vendor about 3% of the whole sum that is being transactioned.
    As this is about the typical profit margin of for example greengrocers, they simply can not afford accepting payment by credit card.
    And the companies that do accept credit cards (Like Deutsche Bahn oder Lufhansa) have a lot of trouble with tickets being bought with stolen credit card details.

  4. Wow, I do not agree with you at ALL about this, I think it is fantastic that credit cards are not accepted everywhere here. It so great that most German websites offer multiple methods of payment like bank transfers, paypal etc that US/IE/UK sites dont offer. If youre living in Berlin you no doubt have a German bank account and an EC card which you can use to pay in most places. What is so great about living off credit, and supporting a huge global monopoly like visa? And putting small businesses out of business in the process?