Do they no longer accept cash in Europe? How was my experience and what options I used on the trip

I just got back from Europe, on a trip I made to London and some cities in Switzerland, and I came across an unusual situation: many places just don’t accept cash payment anymore! I came across this in many places and it has become common in Europe, so much so that Estadão published an article with the theme “Tourists report difficulty using money in paper money”, which portrays exactly what happened to me.

I prepaid the hotels while still in Brazil. And I took most of the money that I was going to use for food, tickets and transportation loaded on the cards of the free digital accounts of Nomad and Wise. But, as a precaution, I bought 200 pounds and 500 Swiss francs in paper money at exchange offices still in Brazil, just in case.

The result was that I was only able to spend most of these bills on the Duty Free (free shop), upon returning to Brazil. The reason? Many of the places and attractions I visited did not accept payment in cash. Or, when they did, they didn’t have change, as fewer and fewer people are using cash these days in big cities.

Just to give some examples of what I experienced: I went to buy a ticket for the London Eye Ferris wheel and the ticket office with human attendance was closed. Not even the totem was operating. There was only one QRcode directing to the site, which forced me to pay with my credit card or one of my digital accounts.

At the hotel, I had to pay municipal taxes. I tried to use cash, but they didn’t have change… A snack bar and two restaurants I visited no longer accepted cash (they all had warnings, but I only noticed it after ordering and trying to use paper money). Finally, at the supermarket, at certain times there were only self-service checkouts, without the option of using notes…

To give you an idea, in London, even the street vendors, like the ice cream stand and the roasted peanut guy, snubbed my notes. On the subway, many stations only have electronic counters that accept certain notes (not the highest ones). Only the newsstand that sold souvenirs accepted my money without complaining, but still, asking for exchanged bills…

Money in other parts of Europe

Before writing this post I talked to two colleagues from Melhores Destinos who also recently arrived from international travel. Monique Renne, who spent 15 days in Paris to update our guide, said she took just 300 euros on the trip and returned home with 295… Almost everything was paid for by card.

On the other hand, Sandro Kurovski, who traveled through the interior of Portugal and the way to Santiago de Compostela, said that in several places he experienced the opposite situation: establishments did not accept cards… Rafael Castilho, who lives in Portugal, confirmed that in small towns, cash is well accepted and, in some cases, the only form of payment.

That is, it is not a rule and we cannot generalize. This may vary from country to country. For example, in Argentina it is not a good idea to rely solely on card payments. Many establishments do not accept it and you still end up paying dearly for the official conversion, which is much more expensive than the parallel one. Apart from that it is always good to take some cash on the trip.

However, it seems to me that the trend of payments by approximation or digital means is here to stay, not only here in Brazil, but in the world. And this scenario will be increasingly dominant going forward. Here in Brazil and in some countries, the law may still require the acceptance of paper money, but this is not a reality in some large cities abroad.

Using your credit card abroad is more expensive

If money is not being accepted in big cities, what options to use? The first one we think of is the credit card. Simple, easy and you can still earn miles or cashback. The issue is that using the card abroad costs more. First, because taxation is higher. While the purchase of paper money or the transfer to a free digital account pays 1.1% IOF, using a credit card pays 6.38% of the same tax.

In addition, the card account is almost always more expensive. Banks charge an additional spread on the dollar rate that can be up to 7% above the official Central Bank rate. That is, this combination can generate an expense up to 13% higher than other alternatives.

Free international digital accounts

For some time now I’ve been using two free international digital accounts on my travels: Nomad and Wise. And I am extremely satisfied! First, because I can take advantage of periods when foreign currencies are low to load cards over the internet, without leaving home. I bought dollars at R$4.74 and euros for just over R$5 this year… and at the time of the trip, when the price rose well above that, I was calm and relaxed with my money protected.

In addition, some promotions helped me to spend less on converting from real to foreign currencies, such as cashback and zero transfer fee. Abroad, you can use either physical debit cards (both have payment by approximation or by chip), or the digital card (with payment by approximation via cell phone), and follow the account movement through the application. All very easy and safe.

The Nomad account is in US dollars, but you can use the card in more than 50 countries. I, for example, used it in Europe and got a very advantageous conversion. Wise allows you to have a balance in several other currencies, such as Euros, Swiss Francs or Pounds, for example. Both accounts allow you to withdraw money abroad if you need cash.

Promotion with 10 dollars free when opening Nomad digital account

If you plan to travel internationally in 2022 or next year and don’t have a digital account, take advantage of this incentive. win $10 free (more than BRL 50) when opening a free account at Nomad using the promotional code BEST DESTINATIONS. In addition to getting a much more advantageous exchange rate, you can boost your balance with cashback.

Download the Nomad app by clicking here and use the coupon BEST DESTINATIONS in guest code (don’t skip this step!). Then enter your personal data and send your passport, ID or CNH photo. Ready, you will receive $10 bonus after sending the first shipment within 15 days after opening the account, which can be used in more than 50 countries.

Nomad does not charge an account opening or maintenance fee and the opening process is all digital. Therefore, for those who buy or travel abroad frequently and use foreign currency on a daily basis, it is an excellent chance to save money and earn money as a gift.

Wise does not charge a usage fee for balances up to 3,000 euros. The account opening process is also simple and 100% digital.

There is also the C6 Bank international account, as well as Avenue and other digital accounts that can be used by travelers.

Remembering that it is impossible to predict the future price of the dollar, but in an election year and with the most intense political and economic debate, it is common for foreign currencies to fluctuate a lot against the real. So, if you don’t want to be negatively surprised in the middle of your trip, the experts’ recommendation is to buy slowly.


And you, have you traveled recently? Did you have trouble using cash? Already use digital accounts? Comment and participate!

See also: What is the best way to carry money on international travel in 2022?