Buying Euros and Using Credit Cards in Germany



Money Exchange and ATMs in German Cities

Is it cheaper to purchase Euros from an ATM upon arrival in Germany or to obtain them in America before departure? This article will inform travelers. North Americans traveling to Germany, or Europe in general, are often unsure whether it is cheaper to exchange dollars to Euros in the United States or Canada, if their credit cards work at any ATM in Germany and where they can withdraw money at a low foreign transaction fee.

Currency Exchange in Germany

Currency exchange desks, or “Geldwechsel” in German, may be found at any airport and central railway stations (Hauptbahnhof) in larger cities. Exchange desks are operated by the ReiseBank (Reise means travel), Germany’s market leader in the travel funds business. The bank maintains 100 branches in Germany at airports, central railway stations and city center locations, for example at trade fairs. ReiseBank works jointly with Western Union and money transfer actions are done within minutes.

They also sell prepaid “CallHome” calling cards. The ReiseBank is open from Monday through Sunday but office hours differ from city to city. However, they normally open very early in the morning and close late. All locations and opening hours may be found at their website.

ATMs in Germany – Why it is Cheaper to Buy Euros in Europe

All established credit cards can be used at most ATMs in Germany which are called “Bankomat” or “Geldautomat.” ATMs are multilingual, thus credit cards may be used without problems. Some banks in Germany have a reciprocal agreement with other banks, for example Deutsche Bank with Barclays and Bank of America, which avoid bank charges when using the ATM. Travelers should check with their bank before traveling to Germany and ask if they must pay a fee for international withdrawals. Usually a 1% to 3% foreign transaction fee is charged. Nevertheless, it is cheaper to purchase Euros from an ATM upon arrival in Germany than to obtain them in the United States or Canada before departure.

Using Credit Cards and Travelers Checks in Germany

Compared to the United States and Canada, the majority of Germans prefer to pay cash or with the EC/Maestro debit card. Many small shops, cafes and restaurants in Germany do not accept credit cards, especially in smaller cities and villages. Therefore, travelers should check before ordering a meal to ensure that credit cards are accepted and, if they are, whether the traveler’s particular card will be honored. Even if shops and restaurants display the logos of the brands they accept on their doors, it is still wise to ask before ordering.

Travelers checks are universally accepted throughout Germany, but as everywhere else in Europe, travelers will be charged a fee for their use which sometimes can be substantial.

When in Germany, do as the Germans do when they travel to America: Use cash for small purchases and a credit card for large purchases.

Office Hours of Banks in Germany

German Banks (except for the ReiseBank, as mentioned above) are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Thursdays to 6 p.m. They are closed on the weekend, but ATM machines are accessible 24 hours.

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