But when taking money to Europe, you might find yourself worrying about security, fees and other issues – and that’s where credit cards in Europe can come in handy. Read on to find out whether it’s worth using a credit card in Europe, what the advantages are, and what you need to watch out for.
The Benefits of Credit Cards in Europe
First, let’s address why you might want to take a credit card to Europe rather than cash, cheques or anything else. The first reason, is simply that credit cards are very convenient. Not only are they small and light, but they’re also not as easy to steal as cash (any thieves are going to need your pin number as well as your plastic). For most people then, slipping a credit card into a pocket or a wallet is much more appealing than carrying a wad of cash and flashing it around every time you need to pay.
Of course if you want to be safest, then travelers’ cheques are an even better way to carry large denominations of cash – no one can use these but you, which means there’s no worry about them getting stolen or lost. On the other hand though, travellers’ cheques are actually quite impractical in a number of other ways. To use them you need to find a place to ‘cash them in’, which might not be easy when you don’t know your way around the city or town you’re in. With travelers’ cheques you have to do a lot of planning ahead, whereas with credit cards you can just pay on the spot whenever you need the money.
And using credit cards in Europe is actually nearly as safe as using travelers’ cheques too thanks to another security feature – insurance. When you buy something on credit, you don’t actually buy it with your own money. This then in turn means that you aren’t risking your own cash, so much as the cash of the bank – and if you end up getting swindled it will become the bank’s job to chase up the money. That means then that you can buy your diamond ring off of the shifty looking bloke in Croatia and not worry too much about him cloning your card – if he does the credit card company will sort out the problem for you and you won’t lose anything. This is something that you wouldn’t likely get with a debit card (though there are once again specific debit cards that make it cheaper to withdraw in other countries).
The Downsides of Credit Cards in Europe
Of course credit cards aren’t perfect in every way for travelers however, as they do carry some risks and issues. First of all, you may well find yourself paying transaction fees on your card when you buy abroad. The severity of this issue will depend on the type of card you get here: while some credit cards might charge large fees, others only take a smaller amount or don’t take any at all.
If you are looking for a credit card to take with you to Europe, then you should look into cards that market themselves specifically for travelers. There are several of these kinds of cards, each of which charge lower-than-average fees.
Something else to consider is the exchange rate, and just how easy it can be to spend a lot of money abroad without realising. When you aren’t sure of the precise exchange rate, and when it’s constantly changing, using your card can be somewhat risky.
Finally, it’s not a particularly god idea to take only a credit card with you on any holiday or trip, as this would mean you’d be lost with no access to money should anything happen to it. Of course as well, not everywhere will accept credit card – and actually the number of places that accept credit card in Europe is considerably fewer than in the US. You won’t be likely to be able to buy a bottle of water with a credit card everywhere for instance, and taxi drivers are unlikely to accept it.
The Best Way to Pay
The solution then, is to have lots of different payment options with you on your travels so that you can use whichever is most appropriate for your particular trip. This might mean taking with you a credit card and some lose cash for instance – and maybe even having some travellers’ cheques back at home as a backup.
By doing this you will be ‘spreading your bets’ and giving yourself alternatives. These contingency plans will help to ensure that you never get completely caught out, and that you always have money ready when you need it.