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Credit card USA - comparison: which credit cards are suitable?

The USA is considered the credit card country par excellence. Everything that goes beyond small amounts in payments is not paid for with cash, but only with a credit card. A credit card is also required for essential items such as a rental car when you are abroad. Accordingly, in our experience, you don't get very far on vacation in the USA without a card. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing a credit card before traveling abroad.

Table of Contents
This is a credit card | Fundamental differences between credit cards | Which credit cards are suitable for the USA? | This is why you absolutely need a credit card in the US | These are the most popular credit cards in the US | You should consider this when choosing your credit card | You must meet these requirements in order to be able to apply for a credit card | This is how the application for a credit card usually works | Withdraw money by credit card while traveling in the USA | This is how paying by credit card works | Tip in the restaurant in cash or with a credit card? | This credit card limit is recommended for vacations in the USA | These costs are associated with the use of a credit card What to do if the credit card is lost | Paying with the mobile phone as an alternative? | Traveller's checks as an alternative to credit cards?

We have put together the most important tips and information for you here in order to answer the most frequently asked questions and to make payment transactions easier during your trip abroad.

Click here for a selection of the best credit cards for your USA trip

It's a credit card

The credit card is a widely accepted means of payment, but it is only used by around a third of the population in Germany. Like the EC card, the card is usually made of plastic, has the same format and is often used to make cashless payments for larger amounts or to carry out online transactions. Often times, the credit card is the only method of payment that is accepted when it comes to booking a hotel in the USA, booking a flight online on the Internet, or renting a rental car. In addition to the “right” cards, virtual credit cards are also increasingly being offered. Basically, credit cards from various retailers can be divided into the categories standard, gold, platinum or platinum and black credit cards. The Platinum credit card is the highest endowed credit card that can be freely applied for from the retailer.

Fundamental differences between credit cards

There are generally four different types of billing for credit cards.

These are:

  • Charge card: The charge card is the most common credit card issued in Germany. With it, the user is provided with a defined credit line and the balance is debited from the agreed current account at the end of the month of use or at the beginning of the following month. After the billing, the credit card is back to zero.
  • Revolving Card / Credit Card: The Revolving Card is the classic credit card and is widely used in the USA. With these revolving credit cards, you can either repay your loan all at once or in monthly installments. For example, if you were to spend $ 2,000 in January and agreed with your bank to pay back 25 percent per month, then only $ 500 will be withdrawn in February and there will be relatively high interest on the outstanding amount. In addition, it is possible to fully utilize the specified credit line month after month, even if the amounts from the previous months have not yet been paid in the settlement. A fact that repeatedly leads people into a spiral of debt. When using a revolving card, it is therefore recommended to switch to full repayment in order to avoid the interest.
  • Debit card: The debit card is not a credit card in the strict sense of the word, as the linked account is charged immediately upon settlement. This means that a debit card can only be used if the linked account has sufficient funds.
  • Prepaid card: Even the prepaid card is not a real credit card. Because here you can only access the credit linked to the card and must first ensure that there is credit on the card by transferring it. Prepaid cards are not linked to the current account, but to their own account.

Which credit cards are suitable for the USA?

In this section we have listed the credit cards that are particularly suitable for use in the USA. Most of the time, the different credit cards differ in the annual fee, but also in the cost of withdrawing cash and paying by credit card.

This is why you absolutely need a credit card in the USA

The USA is considered to be the credit card country par excellence. It's not uncommon to even pay for your Starbuck’s coffee or other little things like a candy bar for just a few cents by card. Credit card is ALWAYS used as a means of payment after entry during the trip, regardless of whether the payment is for purchases in shops, refueling, booking a rental car or hotel, using Uber or making small purchases for a few cents.

In contrast, without credit cards you are often restricted in payment transactions after entering the country. Not all companies allow, for example, the deposit for the rental car to be deposited in cash or with a prepaid card. Booking a flight online without having a credit card is no longer possible. Depositing the deposit at the hotel and paying at the petrol station is much easier with a credit or debit card. Because you can use it to pay directly at the petrol station at the petrol station. And to be able to travel to the USA as a European, you need a credit card. Because it is one of the conditions for submitting the ESTA application.

In addition, credit cards offer a decisive advantage over cash not only during your vacation in the United States of America, but also worldwide. The advantage is that if they are lost or stolen, they can be blocked after they have been lost or stolen, which prevents financial loss.

These are the most popular credit cards in the United States

Visa and Mastercard are the most popular credit cards in the US and are widely accepted. Cards such as American Express and Diners are a little less common and acceptance is lower. So if you want to be on the safe side with regard to acceptance, you should choose either Visa or Mastercard and rather avoid cards such as those of the Diners Club.

You should bear this in mind when choosing your credit card

There are many credit card providers, so it is sometimes difficult to make a choice for a stay abroad. As a future cardholder, it is important to make a thorough comparison before entering the country and to pay attention to the price-performance ratio. You can make a comparison quickly and free of charge using a credit card comparison.

Above all, make sure that there are no hidden costs. Ideally, only a small annual fee is due for the credit card or it is even completely free of charge for the cardholder and therefore free of charge. Often it is also worthwhile to compare possible extra services for the trip and, especially for the trip to the USA, to pay attention to possible foreign currency fees (foreign transaction fees), which may be calculated on the turnover.

In case of doubt, your house bank will certainly be happy to help you. There you can usually apply for well-known credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard. Another well-known alternative is the DKB credit card, with which you can pay free of charge and make cash withdrawals worldwide. As an active customer, no foreign transaction fee is due at the DKB.

The credit card from Barclay’s Bank offers similar advantages, as it also allows an interest-free payment term of up to 60 days. You can apply for this card directly from the provider.

Often free credit cards are requested for the stay abroad. The annual fee is not everything, however, and what sounds free or at least cheap at first doesn't have to be at second glance. For cards without an annual fee, pay attention to the costs that may be incurred for payments in foreign currency (foreign currency fee / foreign transaction fee) and for cash withdrawals.

You should also check exactly what the international transaction fee is, which additional services are really important to you and which are not. This applies to insurance, for example.

No annual fee cards that are great for traveling to the United States

Each of the cards from Santander to DKB has its advantages and disadvantages. For the reasons mentioned above, the charge card is the best choice for the billing model in most cases.

Cards without a foreign currency fee (foreign transaction fee) are, for example, the DKB-Cash cards, the 1plus VISA card, the Fidor SmartCard, the Eurowings Gold credit cards and the Barclaycard. With the Eurowings Gold Credit Card, no annual fee is charged in the first year.

Perform a credit card comparison

There are innumerable credit cards for travel to New York or any other destination in the land of opportunity. With the crowd, it is difficult for travelers to keep track of things. To solve problems like this, travelers can use a credit card comparison, such as the one offered by Check24 free of charge. In addition, you can often find good tips for worthwhile credit card offers on the Internet or in good travel guides.

It is best to first check the points that you attach particular importance to and then services that you do not absolutely need, but which are nice to have and which play a role in your decision. This can be insurance packages, for example. Such insurance packages often include travel insurance in their insurance benefits, which can be beneficial for your stay. Sometimes the insurance benefits also include travel insurance that you do not necessarily need or insurance that you may already have from another provider.

Then, after studying the comparison and, if necessary, reading further tips, select your personal test winner.

Do you need a second card? If yes why?

The second card, also known as an additional or partner card, is intended for the second user of an account. Thus, the second card has both advantages and disadvantages. The main cardholder is always responsible.

You must meet these requirements in order to be able to apply for a credit card

In order to be able to apply for a credit card for your trip to the USA, as a German citizen you generally have to meet the following requirements in order to become a cardholder:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must be domiciled in Germany.
  • You must have an account with a German bank.
  • You must have a regular monthly income.
  • You must have a valid cell phone number.

In addition, most credit card providers carry out a Schufa check in advance, which means that an entry with the Schufa precludes receiving a credit card in most cases. If you are not sure whether you have a Schufa entry, you can call up your Schufa score free of charge from Schufa. You can find more information on this topic at finanztip.de.

But there are also providers who do without the Schufa information. Likewise, prepaid cards are generally issued without prior credit checks.

This is how the application for a credit card usually works

Applying for a credit card to travel to the USA is very easy. The best thing to do is to contact your local bank a few weeks before you leave Europe, e.g. B. the Sparkasse, or directly to VISA, American Express or another credit card provider of your choice. Find out beforehand which provider offers the best conditions for your purposes.

The application itself is completed quickly. In addition to personal data, you usually have to enter your profession and employer as well as your monthly income. You will also be asked how long the current account has been in existence. In the case of Barclay’s Bank, you will receive information as to whether the application has been accepted or not immediately after submitting the online form.

Withdraw money with the credit card while traveling in the USA

Many credit institutions offer cash withdrawals from ATMs abroad free of charge. In order to save money, it therefore makes sense to choose a card for travel that allows cash to be withdrawn from an ATM without any fees. For cash withdrawals in the USA, use an ATM (cash machine) where you can withdraw money in American currency using your credit card and PIN.

In the United States of America, almost all banks charge ATM withdrawals. The fees for withdrawing cash from the ATM are between 2.50 and 5 US dollars. In a test in 2013, the San Francisco Federal Credit Union was the only provider that did not charge any fees for withdrawing money from an ATM. It is possible that house banks will reimburse the third-party fees. One bank that offers this is the DKB. In many cases, however, it is cheaper to pay in American currency with a credit card. In any case, apart from a small sum for first purchases, it is worthwhile to exchange euros for American foreign currency (US dollars) only in the land of unlimited possibilities, as the conditions are usually better here.

Whether you can withdraw money from ATMs with your EC card in New York or elsewhere in the USA after entering the country depends on the logo that is printed on the EC card. Because the service is only possible if a Maestro logo can be seen on the card. Before using your debit card in the USA, however, it is best to find out from the customer advisor at your house bank which fees apply and whether there are any cooperation agreements with banks in the USA. Nevertheless, the credit card is usually preferred. Because the transactions are often cheaper and the use of it offers various other advantages or the card is even mandatory for bookings.

Conclusion: Having both an EC card with the Maestro logo and a credit card avoids problems and provides more security.

This is how paying by credit card works

Paying with the card is easy. The card is simply inserted into the reader or swiped on the side of the device. The credit card holder then enters the PIN. The amount is authorized and the receipt is printed out. Sometimes a signature is required instead of the PIN. That depends on the process with which the respective counterpart, such as the store in which you go shopping, works.

It is best to familiarize yourself in advance with the current exchange rate and the fees that are calculated on the turnover, such as the international transaction fee, that may apply. Because this way you avoid nasty surprises with the credit card bill. You can calculate the exchange rate with the major providers such as Visa or Mastercard directly on their website.

Tip in the restaurant in cash or with a credit card?

In the USA, credit cards are also often used to pay in restaurants. Often also the tip. For this purpose, there is a field on the receipt in which the tip can be entered manually. If you prefer to give the tip in cash, you should cross out the fields in any case so that something cannot be entered afterwards. Sometimes the tip is already included in the bill. For this reason, pay attention to the corresponding notes on the invoice.

This credit card limit is recommended for vacations in the USA

There is no general answer to which credit card limit is recommended for a trip to the USA and, of course, depends primarily on criteria such as your own liquidity and holiday budget. If you want to increase the credit limit beyond the actual credit, you can turn the card into a plus in advance.

Important! Remember that hotels and rental car providers often block amounts beyond the actual date and allow for this accordingly. If the limit is too low, this can lead to difficulties!

These costs are associated with the use of a credit card

Every credit card is a little different, but in the end it is always the case that the banks want to “make” money with the cards. The costs of a credit card should be limited to the one-time issuing fee and, if applicable, a manageable annual fee, and should completely dispense with fees for cash withdrawals.

Whether the countless additional services that are offered for a fee, such as insurance for the rental car, other insurances, bonus programs, discounts on refueling and many more, play a role for you and are among the criteria by which you select a card decide individually. Compare the individual offers and additional services thoroughly here and choose the card with the best price-performance ratio for your needs.

The DKB, which was again awarded the test winner in the “Best Current Account” category in 2018, offers, for example, a discount of up to twenty percent on online cashback, while airlines such as Lufthansa and Eurowings often offer bonus miles.

Do this if the credit card is lost

In the unfortunate event that the card is lost or stolen, you should call the emergency number on the card as soon as possible after it has been lost or stolen in order to block the card after it has been lost. Be sure to write down this number in a safe place so that you will have it to hand in the event of theft or loss.

The central emergency number can be reached free of charge within Germany on 116116. From abroad, the corresponding number is +49 30 4050 4050.

More restricted numbers

  • Advanzia Bank: Tel. 0800 88 011 20 (Germany) / Tel. +49 (0) 345 2197 3030 (abroad / mobile)
  • Barclaycard: Tel. +49 (0) 40 8 90 99 877
  • Comdirect: 069 - 97 97 20 00 (blocking number for American Express Gold Card, Visa and MasterCard via blocking emergency number)
  • ConsorsBank: Tel. +49 (0) 69 66 57 13 33 (blocking number for Visa credit card)
  • Hanseatic Bank: Tel. +49 (0) 40 600 096 422
  • International Card Services B.V .: Tel. +49 (0) 211 69 15 26 99
  • Mercedes-Benz Bank: Tel. +49 (0) 69 6657 1333
  • Postbank: Tel. 0228 5500 5500 (Germany) / Tel. +49 (0) 69 6657 1333 (abroad)
  • Santander Bank: Tel. +49 (0) 2161 27 29 889
  • TeamBank AG: Tel. +49 (0) 721 12 09 66 001 (blocking number easyCredit Card)
  • TARGOBANK AG: Tel. +49 (0) 211 900 20 444
  • PPRO Financial Ltd: Tel. 00800 48437776
  • Valovis: Tel. +49 (0) 69 26 48 97 55 5
  • Wüstenrot Bank: Tel. +49 (0) 7141 16 75 66 00

The DKB credit card can be blocked via internet banking. To do this, log into your account and scroll down to the “Block card” item in the “Security” tab.

Paying with the mobile phone as an alternative?

Apple Pay and other cell phone payment systems require the credit card information to be stored on the phone. With Apple Pay, you must have an iPhone 6 or later to do this. Apple Pay is stored in the wallet on the smartphone and only activated for payment.

advantages

  • The account information is no longer shared with the seller.
  • You don't have to carry any money or credit card with you.

disadvantage

  • The smartphone is becoming indispensable.
  • If the smartphone is lost, all stored information can be decrypted by a skilled hacker. A real risk.

Traveller's checks as an alternative to credit cards?

A few decades ago, travelers checks were a must-have for a tour of the USA. If you ran out of cash or your credit card didn't work, you could exchange such a Traveler Check for cash in the hotel or at the bank. Today the travelers checks have more or less lost their importance. They are by no means suitable as an alternative to credit cards.