Cash or Card? Countries where you still need cash.

SYD

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Using debit and CCs overseas (preferably ones that are international transaction fee free!) is becoming a lot easier - pushed along by you know what, but I thought a seperate thread to provide actual current experiences on the need for cash (irrespective of one’s preference for cash v card) could be useful. Also noting that options for getting cash out cheaply are drying up (eg ING removing rebates and Citi potentially winding up Oz accounts).

Anyway, some starters.

The UK, as discussed below is certainly well down the path of tapping is King. Based on a recent visit and last year, I would generally agree. In fact, I’m seeing more places in London that have “Cashless” signs.

Europe seems to be slower to follow?

Portugal. Whilst cards are widely accepted, we just experienced several restaurants in Lisbon and Porto that are still cash only (and not necessarily cheap and cheerful). Technically, you could go cashless but you might limit some experiences.

Fortunately, bank ATMs in Portugal are usually fee free.

Spain. We’re back in Spain now and so far less cash needed than Portugal but took extra cash out in Portugal knowing Spanish ATMs are notorious for fees.

Germany. Again, visiting last year, some cafes and bars were still cash only. ATMs are generally fee free.

USA is playing catch-up but earlier this year, we found some bars were still cash only! Others that take cards fluff around with restaurant style receipts with “Tip” section to be filled in etc. Many patrons I saw would open a tab and leave their card behind the bar and tip on completion - but I reckon you’ll spend a lot more than dropping $1 or $2 per drink than 20% of the total.

Alas, getting cash out of ATMs in the US cheaply is difficult. Expect US$3 or more ATM fee.

NZ was going cashless decades ago. Driving around the South Island in December for 2 wks and pretty sure we didn’t use cash once!

Over to others and their recent experiences?
 
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Malaysia is cash only at lots of smaller businesses incl wet markets, local hawker stalls etc. The ATM (Maybank) I used was fee free.

I didn't use cash in Singapore but was only there for 24 hours and avoided the smaller shops and street stores.
 
Malaysia is cash only at lots of smaller businesses incl wet markets, local hawker stalls etc. The ATM (Maybank) I used was fee free.

I didn't use cash in Singapore but was only there for 24 hours and avoided the smaller shops and street stores.
Ah, yes Singapore is generally cash at hawker stalls but card should go far elsewhere.

Jakarta was pretty good taking card at bricks ‘n mortar places but I’d assume cash only at street food places?
 
USA- last year for a month, found a lot of bars/restaurants- couldnt even tap- had to produce the actual card and even had to sign still!
In bars and restaurants with the older style machines they want the signature to authorise the manual (written) tip amount. But they can still enter another amount if they think you’ve stiffed them - happened to SYD+1 quite recently. Changed an 18% tip to 20%!

But Covid has seen a bunch of newer POS machines in the US that let you select the tip (or no tip) up front. The upside is the total charge goes in automatically. The downside is you feel compelled to tip at places you normally wouldn’t have in the past.

But we digress on cash.
 
In the US I only have cash on me when going to
a dispensary
because they can't legally take CCs and debit transactions are treated like ATM withdrawals - they charge you an extra $3 or so, and then refund the fee in cash - bizzare.

If I have extra cash I'll use it to tip bartenders/ride share because then the server/driver gets it immediately and doesn't have to wait until their paycheck.

But Covid has seen a bunch of newer POS machines in the US that let you select the tip (or no tip) up front. The upside is the total charge goes in automatically. The downside is you feel compelled to tip at places you normally wouldn’t have in the past.
I loathe these terminals so much. Tap card, server flips the screen towards you and looks away or goes to fulfil an order, 15%, 20%, 25% etc (30% if the setup is cheeky). Tiny no-tip button positioned in a way where it's obvious if you click it. There's usually someone behind you watching (I'm guilty of this too 🥹) so that adds pressure.

My SO refuses to tip anywhere that's not table service. I guess he didn't read this article. I think expectations in NYC are higher for the most part, but these terminals are everywhere in the US.
 
April/May 2023:

Sweden we needed cash only at the (seemingly only) laundromat in Stockholm. Withdrew some Krona just for this, fortunately there was an ATM near-ish and ING were still doing the no fee thing. Everywhere else was apple/android pay or credit card, including the trains.

Took out some Euros in Paris on the advice of our hotel and promptly were trying to find an opportunity to get rid of them. One of the times using cash, unintentionally ended up tipping 5 euros for two espressos.

Used card everywhere in London, including on the tube, super easy.

Withdrew a bit of cash expecting to need it more in the USA but really only ended up using it to use it up. Agree that I was unsure whether to tip at coffee shops etc as I was always prompted and pressured by the EFTPOS machine.
 
Christmas Market Stalls along the Rhine. So Germany, France and Switzerland. And some restrooms.
 
In Norway the only time we used cash was buying a map at the Alesund Tourist Office when a very young new staff member couldn't work out how to use a hand held Terminal.

In Prague cash was only needed at the riverside Farmers Market.
 
In the Stan’s cash is still king though they are starting to take cards in supermarkets and some restaurants.
 
The only place IME where cash is absolutely necessary is Cuba and that is because of financial sanctions mean majority of credit and debit cards dont work there.
 
The only place IME where cash is absolutely necessary is Cuba and that is because of financial sanctions mean majority of credit and debit cards dont work there.
If travelling for work and need to try and card everything, you can probably manage - usually by not leaving the hotel room.

But leisure travel will be severely limited without cash in many places.
Lots of USA when getting gas...petrol.
Apart from one brand, I’ve not had issues in the US using my CC in the automatic petrol pumps.
 
Different states have different rules. The pumps want a zip code...sometimes typing in a fake one will work but a lot of time it didn't as well IME.
 
Any machine (petrol pump, subway ticket machine) that requires a PIN will accept 00000 for foreign cards - no problem.

If you misuse an actual US post code you may have an issue, but once you enter 00000 it knows it is a foreign card and just works.
 
But leisure travel will be severely limited without cash in many places.

Again not my experience anytime in the last 10 years except for Cuba.

Have had multiple completely cashless holidays in last 3 years (UK, USA, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Fiji). I didn't have any situation where cash was needed, and many venues are now cashless.

Where I've had cash on other trips I have found myself struggling to use it all, because cards are easier and so widely accepted. I've had a GBP20 note in my travel wallet for 5 years cant see myself withdrawing anymore.

Mind you I have also not used an ATM in Australia to withdraw any cash since 2019. I'm completely cashless at home and that is also the goal when travelling overseas.
 
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