Living with cash in Germany

I’ve been living in Cologne for two months, and there are some things that just don’t make sense. I visited Berlin two years ago and I don’t remember being that frustrated, so maybe all of this is specific to the region.

By Maximilian Schönherr via Wikimedia Commons
By Maximilian Schönherr via Wikimedia Commons

The public transport seems great: you can get anywhere, with frequent service, and they are very punctual and efficient (if you know where you are going). The problem is when you want to pay for it. I’ve read they’ve been discussing increasing the penalty fare, since there are so many fare dodgers.

Reading that you might think the Germans are dishonest, but the truth is half the times the touch screen just won’t work. Or it’ll work so bad that by the time you manage to get to the pay screen, you already arrived.

If the screen is working, the next handicap is having to pay with coins: 2.70€ per ride, 9.70€ for the 4-trip ticket. You probably don’t carry that amount in coins every day, but even if you do, more often than not it’ll demand the exact change. Even at 11am on a weekday.

You might see in the picture a slot to pay with card, but don’t be fooled: Visa/MasterCard are unheard of around here. They only accept their EC cards, so don’t think any of your other cards will work.

Speaking of cards, I went to an electronics store recently to buy some stuff, for a total over 100€. Guess what: only EC or cash.

I wonder what’s going on with Visa/MasterCard here.

3 thoughts on “Living with cash in Germany

  1. I mentioned this the first time i came to germany. Nothing changes. I tried to buy a bootle of wine in wine store by my Mastercard but seller asked me “Do you have a normal card?” I offered a Visa but he demanded Eurocard. By the way he accepted mastercard but charged 1 euro extra. Very strange country. And it is impossible to pay by any card in so called “Kiosks”. Another strange moment: German government do not share information about public transport schedule with Google. And you can’t use google maps in Germany that way. The same situation in Austria and Finland. May be it is something like government politics against all american: companies, payment systems etc.

  2. I am not sure whether or why Germany’s different about these things. Being German myself, then and now I experience easily seeing people buying even cigarettes, newspapers and the like on small beach shops in Southern Italy straight away using Visa or MasterCard whereas, as you pointed out, in Germany even in some larger shops using a credit card for payment is a major challenge. This is somewhat annoying vice versa, too: If travelling or doing online shopping, there’s quite a load of vendors about which you won’t get anywhere without a credit card. Quite once in a while, I end up not buying or odering things simply because the vendors I would be required to order from couldn’t offer any means of billing / payment other than credit card, not accepting that in some countries of the world credit cards obviously aren’t all that common for whichever reasons it might be…

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