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Which is more accepted, Visa, Mastercard or American Express?

Ashley

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May/June 2015
Hi all,

I am doing the Camino in April 2015. I would like to split my current bank with a Cash Passport. However, the ones I have found all differ, namely Mastercard, Visa and American Express

So I need to know which one I won't have a problem with if I need to pay for stuff along the way or draw money from an ATM.

Regards
Ashley
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Cash. Cash is really good on the Camino. Cash means that the small, family-owned, businesses that provide most of the infrastructure on the Camino don't have to pay 6% on the gross transaction out of their 15% net. Cash means that they can, occasionally, forget to charge someone who is short of cash. Cash means that you can leave the small change on the bar where someone who needs it can pick it up or the Camarero can drop it in his apron till its needed. Cash means that ever so helpful suggestions from the World Bank such as raise your VAT rate can be safely ignored.

Visa will enable you to pull cash from ATMs as required and most if not all of the pre-loaded Cash Cards will do the same, though its worth checking with the provider. Try to always use your cards in an ATM during banking hours - if it gets "gobbled" you won't have to hang-about too long waiting to get it back :)
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
I carried both Amex, Visa and a small amount of Euro. I would top up my cash every few days at ATMs using the Visa card, and used it to pay for my hotel room in Leon and again in Santiago. I could also have used Amex for the hotels, but didn't, and I don't recall using Amex at all on that trip. For everything else, I used cash.

My only drama was on Easter Monday, when I wanted to post something to friends in the UK. The Correas did not have credit card facilities, and like me, the ATM had run out of cash over the Easter weekend. I had to wait until the bank staff had replenished the ATM. After that, I more carefully assessed my weekend cash needs, and top up on the Fri.
 
P

PANO

Guest
Just to balance out the previous (valuable) recommendations for the rest of us (Europeans and many Asians). The EC card* aka Maestro card* is the only card a Peregrino ever needs, a credit card is not required and too expensive.

(*) Debit cards issued by all Banks throughout Europe, Japan, Korea, HongKong, Singapore etc.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
Do NOT ever use an ATM on a Friday! If the machine 'eats' your card you are stuck in that place until Monday! SY
Good point. I have never had a card eaten, so I might not have been quite so concerned about this at the time. I suspect that if you are concerned about this, it would be better only to use ATMs that don't require the card to be inserted, merely swiped through the reader. If you do have to use a bank ATM, only do so during the bank opening hours when staff might be able to assist should you face this difficulty.

I wouldn't, but if losing your card is a genuine worry, perhaps these precautions will address that.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
Just to balance out the previous (valuable) recommendations for the rest of us (Europeans and many Asians). The EC card* aka Maestro card* is the only card a Peregrino ever needs, a credit card is not required and too expensive.

(*) Debit cards issued by all Banks throughout Europe, Japan, Korea, HongKong, Singapore etc.
There are certainly advantages to using electronic cash cards such as Maestro, but whenever I have looked at this, I have never found they offer sufficient overall benefits to rely solely upon having just the one way of accessing funds.
 

colinPeter

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-SDC (2009) Somport-Jaca, Burgos-SDC, Cee-Muxia (2012) Le Puy - Aumont-Aubrac (2014) SJPP-SDC (Oct 2015)
You can actually do searches on the respective websites for ATM locations.

http://www.visa.com/atmlocator/index.jsp#(page:results,params:(query:Spain))
http://www.mastercard.com/global/atmlocations/

You can check the camino route and see what's available.

I found the same as others have said, Visa seems more available particularly in smaller places.
You mentioned cash passport but it seems to be getting more difficult to find Cash Passsport Visas (at least in Australian), maybe an ownership or commission level issue.

Still I've used both, so you would be fine with either, but remember to plan a bit ahead in the rural areas.
Buen Camino
Colin
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
I made the mistake of taking an American Express last year and NOBODY (and I mean NOBODY) would accept that card. I think out of 30 hotels, maybe 2 took it.

I love the Charles Schwab ATM card because at the end of each month, they refund ALL fees that you are charged at the ATMs.
It's easy to open an account online.
I agree with the others who said to never take out cash on a Friday or weekend.

I usually carry about 300 Euros with me at all times.
I put 20 euros for the day in my little pocket wallet and the rest in my money bag around my waist.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Just to balance out the previous (valuable) recommendations for the rest of us (Europeans and many Asians). The EC card* aka Maestro card* is the only card a Peregrino ever needs, a credit card is not required and too expensive.

(*) Debit cards issued by all Banks throughout Europe, Japan, Korea, HongKong, Singapore etc.
Ditto.
As an EU citizen!
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
... it would be better only to use ATMs that don't require the card to be inserted, merely swiped through the reader. If you do have to use a bank ATM, only do so during the bank opening hours when staff might be able to assist should you face this difficulty...
I have never seen "swiped through" ATM's in EU :confused:

I would recommend not only to use ATM's during bank opening hours but also to use ATM's that are enclosed/attached to the bank office itself. Much easier to deal with possible problems although I have never experienced that on my Caminos.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
I made the mistake of taking an American Express last year and NOBODY (and I mean NOBODY) would accept that card. I think out of 30 hotels, maybe 2 took it.
If I remember correctly AE had some problems in 2014 throughout EU, so that might be the problem you've encountered. But as I know that's a history now..., hopefully ;)
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (1994)
Camino Francés (2013 - 2018)
Camino Portugués (2015 - 2018)
most spaniards do not know what american express is. visa better than mastercard. make sure you have ID with a photo, they'll ask for it, even if you have a PIN
 

karenfromcali

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances March/April 2014, Camino Frances Feb/March 2015. Camino Frances Feb/March 2016.
Yes cash is best. And my ATM card did get eaten but it was due to them refilling the terminal and my bad timing. The bank manager (or someone who looked official) came out to me with big smiles and apologies before I even got a chance to go inside. Others have not been so lucky. I also found AMEX to be primarily useless.
But a little planning and you will be fine.
Buen camino :)
 

karenfromcali

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances March/April 2014, Camino Frances Feb/March 2015. Camino Frances Feb/March 2016.
I went to my bank (credit union) prior to leaving and they agreed to give me an additional ATM card in case one got eaten which was nice of them.
 

Saramago

Pat
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - Spring (2014)
Frances- Spring (2015)
I've had no problem using American Express April and May 2014 in Spain, France and Ireland for hotels, sporting good stores and restaurants. Not promoting it as the most easily taken but when I pulled it out, it was never not accepted. I primarily used my Visa debit card in Spain. I have no cards that charge fees for withdrawals or purchases.
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
Bring several cards. Every trip it seems one or more cards gets blocked due to fraud somewhere in the system. It has never been fraud on my card, and I always tell them where I'm going, but they still block them, with a nice note that the new card will arrive at my home next week.
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Hi all,

I am doing the Camino in April 2015. I would like to split my current bank with a Cash Passport. However, the ones I have found all differ, namely Mastercard, Visa and American Express

So I need to know which one I won't have a problem with if I need to pay for stuff along the way or draw money from an ATM.

Regards
Ashley
I used a mastercard cash passport and never had a problem apart from one place in Burgos but the fault was theirs, nothing worked in their machines. Only drawback is that you cant get your balance in the ATMs. Make sure your supplier has a facility to text you updates
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
I've had no problem using American Express April and May 2014 in Spain, France and Ireland for hotels, sporting good stores and restaurants. Not promoting it as the most easily taken but when I pulled it out, it was never not accepted. I primarily used my Visa debit card in Spain. I have no cards that charge fees for withdrawals or purchases.
For what it's worth, I carry my American Express card (along with an ATM card) on the Camino. I agree that few places, other than high end hotels and nice restaurants, accept AMX. But I don't carry the AMX to purchase things along the Camino. I carry it because of the peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong on the Camino, or if something wrong goes wrong at home, I can call AMX and easily be on the next plane home. Their card services are among the best. And yes, I used cash along the Camino. Almost all albergues, and most small restaurants and convenience stores are run on a cash only basis.
Our visas come with an attached Amex if you wish to avail.
We already had Amex.
No problems in France or Spain with Amex in hotels or $$ restaurants etc. [ Especially the Paradors Saramago]
Amex would be useless in Pensions in Spain.

Daughter recently went to South America.
Notified ANZ of travel plans.
Within 5 days is notified by ANZ that she is purchasing in Asia .
She was very grateful that the attached Amex [ never used] card existed.

We always take 3 cards , one a debit.
Just in case something goes wrong with one and we always cash up in the bigger towns for 300 euros.
** As the major stakeholder in our marriage of 45yrs [the male species] i keep 200 euros and the minor party getting the remainder.

** Here they come Kanga , hope Germaine Greer is kind in her thoughts.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
If I remember correctly AE had some problems in 2014 throughout EU, so that might be the problem you've encountered. But as I know that's a history now..., hopefully ;)
No, I spoke with many merchants about it.
I also spoke with my banks here in the USA and with some merchants here in the USA.

It is too expensive for them to use it.
They do not want to use it.
The fees to the merchant are too high.

It is not going to be accepted in most places, so anyone taking only an AE card is making a foolish mistake, imo.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
most spaniards do not know what american express is. visa better than mastercard. make sure you have ID with a photo, they'll ask for it, even if you have a PIN
Nobody has ever asked for anything except for my Passport, and I've walked the Camino over 7 times.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
I have never seen "swiped through" ATM's in EU :confused:
I might be confusing trips here, or perhaps I am thinking of EFTPOS terminals in businesses which have a chip reader, and don't run the risk of the card being captured by the machine.
 

NicoZ

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013
Nobody has ever asked for anything except for my Passport, and I've walked the Camino over 7 times.
Your passport would be photo ID. For most non locals it's likely the only one people carry and the shops will recognize.

The main problem with Amex is it's mainly a business traveler card in Europe. If you're a shop/hotel that doesn't deal with that market you won't go to the trouble to get setup for Amex.
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (1994)
Camino Francés (2013 - 2018)
Camino Portugués (2015 - 2018)
Nobody has ever asked for anything except for my Passport, and I've walked the Camino over 7 times.
that's right, your passport is ID (with a photo) and swipe or PIN, the vast majority of businesses will ask you to produce it when paying (that, or any other type of ID). i just mentioned this as (ie.) americans can find having to show an ID card a bit strange. being a spaniard and living in spain, we find the opposite just as strange - no judgement here.
 

Dutch

Straightforward
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-SdC sept '13
Porto-SdC May '14
SdC-Finis/Muxia May '14
SJPP-Finisterre sept '14
Pamplona-Burgos march '15
Porto - Sdc may '15
Camino salkantay june '15
SJPP - SdC aug/sept '15

Pacific Crest Trail april thru sept 2016
Cash is king, but what i a cash passport?

Mastercard or Visa, there is no real big noticable difference in acceptance between these two, in europe. Maybe when in deep dark africa you might be just a little bit better of with Visa.
 

Dutch

Straightforward
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-SdC sept '13
Porto-SdC May '14
SdC-Finis/Muxia May '14
SJPP-Finisterre sept '14
Pamplona-Burgos march '15
Porto - Sdc may '15
Camino salkantay june '15
SJPP - SdC aug/sept '15

Pacific Crest Trail april thru sept 2016
Bring several cards. Every trip it seems one or more cards gets blocked due to fraud somewhere in the system. It has never been fraud on my card, and I always tell them where I'm going, but they still block them, with a nice note that the new card will arrive at my home next week.
I had my card blocked once in Spain. I was so used to punshing in my PIN number in a certain way, that i just did not notice that the ATM i was using turned its numeric keyboard up-side-down :-#
3 times i punshed it in the wrong way. How dumb is that hahhaha Stupid keyboard.

I have never seen up-side-down keyboards anywhere else then in Spain. (Not all over Spain).
 

Ashley

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May/June 2015
@Dutch a cash passport card is an alternative card used for traveling. You are able to load the currency of the country you are visiting onto that card at the current exchange rate - so no matter what happens in the forex world ... if you put in 5000 euro's you will have 5000 euro's

From a South African's point of view ... any change in euro vs south african rand ... can change your budget.

I mainly want to use it to split my South African bank account from my Camino budget.

You can read up more about it ... if you want ... here:

http://www.cashpassport.com/1/en/za/multi-currency/
 
P

PANO

Guest
I had my card blocked once in Spain. I was so used to punshing in my PIN number in a certain way, that i just did not notice that the ATM i was using turned its numeric keyboard up-side-down :-#
3 times i punshed it in the wrong way. How dumb is that hahhaha Stupid keyboard.
I have never seen up-side-down keyboards anywhere else then in Spain. (Not all over Spain).
Ha, I am glad that I was not the only one.....I at first thought that the long hours on the Meseta had somehow fogged my brain, some sort of "Camino-gaga". I suspect that one reason for the many reported "card-eating" incidents could well be due to the "up-side-down keyboards"! :D
 

jeffnd

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2014
For what it's worth, I carry my American Express card (along with an ATM card) on the Camino. I agree that few places, other than high end hotels and nice restaurants, accept AMX. But I don't carry the AMX to purchase things along the Camino. I carry it because of the peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong on the Camino, or if something wrong goes wrong at home, I can call AMX and easily be on the next plane home. Their card services are among the best. And yes, I used cash along the Camino. Almost all albergues, and most small restaurants and convenience stores are run on a cash only basis.
This is what I came here to say. Amex might not be able to pay for your drinks or dinner, but if you do need something like an emergency flight home, an unexpected hotel stay, medical bills, and things of that nature, they will get you taken care of.
 

Albertinho

ninguém disse que era fácil !
Camino(s) past & future
2013 Lisboa - Sant.
2014 Ferrol -Sant.
2015 Porto -Sant.
2018 Porto -Valença
2019 Valença -Sant.
Cash. Cash is really good on the Camino. Cash means that the small, family-owned, businesses that provide most of the infrastructure on the Camino don't have to pay 6% on the gross transaction out of their 15% net. Cash means that they can, occasionally, forget to charge someone who is short of cash. Cash means that you can leave the small change on the bar where someone who needs it can pick it up or the Camarero can drop it in his apron till its needed. Cash means that ever so helpful suggestions from the World Bank such as raise your VAT rate can be safely ignored.

Visa will enable you to pull cash from ATMs as required and most if not all of the pre-loaded Cash Cards will do the same, though its worth checking with the provider. Try to always use your cards in an ATM during banking hours - if it gets "gobbled" you won't have to hang-about too long waiting to get it back :)
Mind withdrawing money out of the ATM with a VISA or other creditcard the bank charges you for a higher fee than a normal bankcard. I never use my creditcard in an ATM for that reason.

Cash money in Spanish is called "efectivo ". "¿ puedo pagar en efectivo ? May I pay in cash ?
 
Last edited:

ManyMiles2Go

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
We used the Charles Schwab card also. Great card, like Anniesantiago said, all transaction fees are refunded at the end of the month. I tried to get some cash out one morning as we were leaving and my card got eaten. Waited for the bank to open, and they said they couldn't get our card back. Not sure why? Anyway, we had my wife's card, so we were OK. Called Charles Schwab and they even offered to "overnight" a new card to us. Only other problem we had was in France when we tried to use our Visa card to purchase train tickets. The lady kept saying it was denied, but as I watched her, she was swiping it backwards. The magnetic stripe was not being read. I asked her to turn it around, but she said she knew how to work the machine and was doing it correctly. Guess she couldn't even humor me to try :( I called Visa, and they said there was no attempt to use my card, so I knew she was doing it backwards. Anyway, we paid cash for our tickets and continued on our journey :)
 

sjhannes

Member
Hi all,

I am doing the Camino in April 2015. I would like to split my current bank with a Cash Passport. However, the ones I have found all differ, namely Mastercard, Visa and American Express

So I need to know which one I won't have a problem with if I need to pay for stuff along the way or draw money from an ATM.

Regards
Ashley
When you get your credit card request one with a chip and PIN #. Ours didn't have one so we couldn't use it in train station ticket kiosks etc. when I used it in a restaurant they had to process it a different way because it didn't work in their machines. They took it but it was annoyance.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
that's right, your passport is ID (with a photo) and swipe or PIN, the vast majority of businesses will ask you to produce it when paying (that, or any other type of ID). i just mentioned this as (ie.) americans can find having to show an ID card a bit strange. being a spaniard and living in spain, we find the opposite just as strange - no judgement here.
Yes, that's true.
Americans also tend to freak out when the hotel asks to keep their passport overnight.

Chill.
It's common and you will get it back.
 

ThisIsSpain

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2015)
OK, just some tidies. I have lived her 15 euros and work with all kinds of payment solutions.

Cash is KING. Period (We say, "punto, pelota" by the way) None of the family-owned businesses want to work at zero to support the corrupt Spanish banks.
AmEx is absolutely 100% completely and utterly useless here. The last hotel I worked in (220 bedrooms) would not accept it - in fact we COULD not accept it as we had no merchant agreement with them. The ONLY places you MIGHT find it accepted are large chain hotel groups where they have an international/national agreement. If I saw an AmEx sticker on a restaurant, I would personally steer clear.......I know it will be a wallet-sucker.

That said, AmEx does have an "insurance value" (as noted above) and I needed/used it in Bangkok 10 years so can vouch for that. To pay for a 10 euro menú or a round of coffee? No!

All the other advice is good. Use indoor ATMs within banks themselves and only within banking hours for maximum security. Using one at a petrol station on a Friday evening could leave you skint until Monday and unable to progress if it is eaten. My advice would always be to get a SPANISH-issued debit/charge card. DISA (petrol/retail) chain have a good one that is universally accepted and anybody can open one with a Passport and 10 (?) euros. Can be used to book trains/planes etc online if a foreign-issued card is rejected. They have English-speaking customer service too.

Good luck to you all. Sí, buen camino a todos.
 

FooteK

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, SJPdP to SdC, mid May-late June (2013);
CF, Spring/Summer (2015)
I had my card blocked once in Spain. I was so used to punshing in my PIN number in a certain way, that i just did not notice that the ATM i was using turned its numeric keyboard up-side-down :-#
3 times i punshed it in the wrong way. How dumb is that hahhaha Stupid keyboard.

I have never seen up-side-down keyboards anywhere else then in Spain. (Not all over Spain).
I had a similar experience, not with a numeric pad, but with a computer keyboard. I had just arrived in SJPdP and wanted to let my Dear Husband know that I had arrived safely and would would be starting on my first Camino the next morning. But everything I was writing was gibberish! I erased and re-wrote but the same gibberish kept appearing, over and over. I couldn't figure it out until I actually looked down at the keyboard and saw that many - but not all - of the keys were in very different places from my home laptop.

I took a chip debit card from my Credit Union attached to VISA. My Credit Union is in Germany (military base) and I had no problem using it in Spain. I tried to take a week's worth of cash out at a time since the Camino is a cash society. The only problem I had was one time the ATM was out of cash - and so was I!! A kind pelegrino stranger GAVE me the euro I needed to get a bed at the albergue for the night (and I paid it forward in gratitude many times) and the hospitalero then gave me a lift to the nearest town so I could use the ATM at a real bank. It was the first car ride I had had in several weeks.

Great point about using an ATM on a Friday afternoon.
 

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