ATMs & Credit Cards
The currency in the Czech Republic is the koruna (krown). The rate generally hovers around 20 krowns to the dollar. The Czech Republic is still what is considered a “cash economy,” which means that most transactions are made in cash. Nearly 90% of your purchases will be made in the local currency, although large stores accept most major credit cards.
For currency exchange rates, refer to the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, American Express, or this currency converter.
The Euro circulates among the following countries: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
A crepe vendor in Prague serving up fresh food (taken by one of our students)
If you plan to visit one or more of the following countries you will need to purchase the local currency, as these countries have opted out of the EURO monetary union: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Liechtenstein, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, North Ireland),
Plan to use ATMs whenever you need cash.
The fee for withdrawing cash will vary from bank to bank. Some ATMs are linked to more than one network, but not all. ATMs offer better rates than the money exchange booths. Make sure your ATM card will work in Europe. It needs a Visa or MasterCard logo on the card. These logos are universally accepted in most of Europe. If it doesn't have one of these on it, it's not going to work.
The fee for withdrawing cash will vary from bank to bank; such as a flat $2–10 transaction fee, a percentage-based currency conversion fee, or a charge for using the ATM. Your home bank likely charges a foreign ATM access fee as well. It would be wise to check with your bank to ask which European bank it is affiliated with. This may allow you to withdraw cash from certain affiliated banks for a lower fee. Also, be sure to ask your bank what your daily and weekly withdrawal limits are.
You can also use a Visa or MasterCard to make withdrawals, but beware that withdrawing cash from a credit card will incur higher fees.
Before You Leave
- Check with your bank to see if it offers a credit card with the chip and PIN technology.
- Test your cards. Make sure your card works. Try it out in an ATM at home before you leave for Europe.
- Shorten your PIN. If your PIN is longer than four digits, you may need to get a new number. Make your PIN four digits.
- Ask about fees. Ask your bank or credit-card company about specific fees that come with using their card overseas.
- Withdrawal limits: Ask your bank what your daily and weekly withdrawal limits are.
- Watch out for weekends. There have been reports that some banks don't update their databases over the weekend. So if you've withdrawn the maximum amount on Friday, you may not be able to get more money on that card until Monday morning.
- Contact your bank and your credit card company. Let them know that you plan to use both your debit and credit cards while traveling abroad. You should also tell them how long you will be traveling abroad. If you don’t, the bank may notice atypical use such as foreign withdrawals using your ATM card, or new charges on your credit card in a foreign country. This could trigger a fraud alert and cause the bank or credit card company to block your account.
- Take two cards. Bring another (debit or credit) card so that you have a backup.
- Maximize each withdrawal. Making several small withdrawals increases the number of per transaction fees. Get as much as you can at each use and store it in a safe place.
Alternatives to the Credit or Debit Card
Prepaid or Stored Value Travel Cards
One option that you should investigate is the "Travel or prepaid card." The principle is this: you plan your travel expenses, add some extra for unseen expenses, and put that amount into an account accessible by the travel card you order. You aren't borrowing the bank's money; you're just making your money available through ATMs. Some popular cards are the Travelex, VisaTravel MoneyCard and AAA Travel Money.
It is essential to have a credit card handy for emergencies.
If your ATM card is lost, stolen, or destroyed in error, you may have trouble accessing cash. A credit card can provide some measure of relief until you can replace your ATM card.
Be sure to check with your credit card company about cash advance policies and be certain to have an international number on file to call in case of problems.
Inform your credit card provider that you will be traveling in Europe and for how long. If you don’t inform it, the credit provider may notice atypical use such as foreign withdrawals using your ATM card or new charges on your credit card in a foreign country. This could trigger a fraud alert and cause the bank or credit card company to freeze your card use for security reasons.
Food and drink in ordinary shops and restaurants in Prague is generally cheaper than in Western Europe. Beer and wine in pubs is substantially cheaper. Smaller shops take cash only. The simplest means of obtaining currency in Prague is to withdraw Czech Crowns from an ATM. ATMs accept debit/credit cards backed by Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, and American Express. Check with your bank to find out what its card transaction fees are.