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24. july 2021 · 2 minute

Is Lisbon Card Friendly or Is It Better to Carry Cash with You?

Moving to another city or another country is a great and exciting adventure that requires planning and researching. When it comes to financial preparation, it's crucial to think ahead and plan how you will pay for your daily expenses.

In the 21st century, one feels that travelling to a modern European capital like Lisbon with only a credit card wouldn't be an issue. But after reading the article below, you might want to have a bit of cash on you, just in case. Here's a short guide on credit cards and cash in Lisbon.

Credit Cards in Lisbon

Lisbon is a metropolitan city with international businesses, banks, and workers coming and going every day. So, of course, you will be able to use your credit card in most supermarkets, chains, and higher-end restaurants, as well as when buying things online from Portuguese websites. Portugal has also begun issuing chip cards instead of the old magnetic strip ones, meaning that if you use your phone as a contactless credit card, you will be able to do so here as well.

But this does not mean that it's all so simple. When paying, you want to make sure that your card is connected to either Visa or Mastercard – American Express (Amex) has far smaller coverage in Portugal. You also want to contact your bank and ask them about foreign payment fees. These may be very steep, and it may make sense to open a Portuguese banking account instead, even if just for a few months.

You might also want to inform your bank that you will be moving to Portugal just so that you don't get panicked calls about outstanding foreign payments when you land. Lastly, ATMs in Lisbon are as widespread as in any other large city. Your bank will have its fees on top of the ATM provider fees, but the exchange rate should be trustworthy and based on the current markets.

Cash in Lisbon

While most places in Lisbon will take your card, there are still many places that operate on a cash-only basis. These are smaller pubs and restaurants, corner shops and small businesses, and some local deliveries. Having a few hundred euros in cash just in case should be enough for a few months, but sooner or later, you may need to visit an ATM or exchange your home currency.

When exchanging currency that you brought from home, pay extra attention to where you get your money. There have been problems with shady exchange booths giving tourists exploitative rates. If a place seems like it has a rate that's too good to be true, it's probably because it is.

ATMs have also been reported to sometimes be rigged, so make sure that you check the card slot (if it feels smooth to put a card in) and the keypad (if it reacts well or sometimes misses input). If there are any problems, cancel your transaction and find another ATM.
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