Using Cash or Card in Prague
This Post WILL SAVE YOU MONEY
It’s a common problem in any city i.e. to use cash or card. If you are in your own country you don’t think twice about using your debit card for things worth only a couple of quid but what do you do when you get to Prague. Read this post and save money. Let’s start with the common questions “Do they accept Euros? or Should I bring Euros?”. Yes there are places here that will accept Euros although the exchange rate will be worse than paying by card and your change will be in CZK. Feel free to bring Euro cash with you but use it only for exchanging to CZK if you need extra cash. So the rest of this post deals with using the local currency i.e. the Czech Korun (CZK) or cards.
I’m not sure if anybody still uses Travellers Cheques so it comes down the three options of either credit card, debit card or cash.
Using cards in Prague is fine so long as they display the sign which about 90% of places do but to be safe before you start ordering just confirm that they accept the method of payment that you’ll be using. Be aware though that your bank will be charging you about 3% of each payment/withdrawal transaction plus a separate single payment charge usually between 50p and a pound. This means that using cards for low value items like non-alcoholic drinks and snacks is an expensive option. So in cases where the total is less than CZK300 (about 10 pounds) then cash is better.
Getting Cash – The 100 Euro Test
I’m not going to go into all the charges and foreign exchange percentages. Here I just point out the difference in using 5 methods. Just as an example, below you can see that if I spent 100 Euros using each method, how much Czech Koruna I would get:
- Exchange Office for Cash: I spend 100 Euros and I get CZK2520.
- Bank ATM Debit Card – Local: I spend 100 Euros and I get CZK2419.
- Bank ATM Credit Card – Local: I spend 100 Euros and I get CZK2406.
- Bank ATM Debit Card – DCC: I spend 100 Euros and I get CZK2356.
- Bank ATM Credit Card – DCC: I spend 100 Euros and I get CZK2341.
- Euronet ATM – DCC: I spend 100 Euros and I get CZK2290.
Exchange rates will vary but this should be telling you it’s cheaper to exchange cash at a good rate, use a bank ATM if you have to and AVOID private ATM’s like Euronet. If you want to be guaranteed to get some small notes then after you put in your PIN choose the “Other Amount” and type something like 800 or 1800 i.e. this ensures you’ll get at least a few smaller notes.
Old Notes Before Year 2000
This is just to be aware of but from July 2022 any banknote issued before the year 2000 is no longer legal tender i.e. shops will NOT accept them. You can still exchange them at a bank but it’s going to take some time to get them out of circulation. There are text and watermark changes in the newer notes but the fastest way to spot an old “not legal tender” note is the security thread. In the above picture I’ve used a CZK200 note for comparison so the OLD note (picture above – top) has a basic metallic thread whereas the NEW note (picture above – bottom) has a thicker holographic thread
Using Cards – DCC and Local **Really Important to Know **
You’ll notice that against the Credit and Debit cards above there is an option for DCC or Local. DCC is Dynamic Currency Conversion. When withdrawing from an ATM it is the question “Do you accept this conversion?” so always answer no. When paying its the “Do you want want to pay in the currency of your card or the local currency” so always answer local currency. The reason for this is that the card provider will ALWAYS offer a better exchange rate than the host country. As a rough rule debit cards will be charging 3% plus a fixed charge, credit cards will be charging 4.5% (depends on your card details) and DCC will see you paying around 6%.
Illegal Money Changing Scam
Twice I have personally observed a money exchanging scam in Prague. Right now this is not a cash transaction on the street. This is what to look for.
- You’ll be looking at the exchange rates of a legitimate exchange office.
- You’ll be approached by a man who will basically say “this is rubbish, there’s a much better place, I’ll show you”.
- You then get taken to another apparently legitimate exchange office close to the Old Town Square.
- You handover the cash but you don’t get a very good rate.
- When you turn around and ask the guy that showed you this place, he’s gone.
How to Beat this Scam: Politely thank him for his advice but you are only looking at rates and won’t be exchanging anything today.
Where do I Recommend for Exchanging Cash?
On the day one-off deals pop up all the time so just note if there is a minimum cash transaction required to get the published rate and as usual the best non-commission rates have the LEAST amount of difference between the buy and sell rates. For consistently good rates I recommend a company called Exchange.cz on the corner of Maiselova and Kaprova which is 100 metres from the Old Town Square. The exchange rates are published online daily and they have an online calculator on the main page. Change “Chci Koupit” (buy) to “Chci Prodat” (sell), enter the amount and the currency that you will be changing and finally click the “Kolik Zaplatim” button. It shows you the exact amount that you will receive at the window. Or go direct to their new online calculator page (pictured).
On the left side (I want to change) just select your currency and how much you want to change. On the right side (What I get) select CZK. I’ve tried this out at 50 Euros and 100 Euros to see that the exchange rate and amount transacted is the same. Plus before you accept the notes you can ask for smaller denominations.