Among the many questions posed by people going to Greece for the first time, the question about the method of payment in local shops and taverns appears quite often. Many people wonder whether to take the holiday budget with them in the form of cash or in electronic form based on payment cards. It is for this reason that we decided to prepare the following article, which in some way collects our own experience related to this topic. We would also like to dispel some myths that are not always covered in reality, and often replicated in various types of discussion groups.
Banknotes payments are still popular in Greece
... so say many regulars of Greece and Crete. There is some truth in this statement, which, in our opinion, is in some part quite historical truth. Until a few years ago, card payments in some places in Greece were cumbersome or even impossible. However, this has changed quite a lot in recent years. Payment terminals at points of sale and service are becoming more and more popular. Today, very often, even in small shops, you should have no problem paying the bill by card.
What significantly accelerated this revolution was the financial crisis, which is still felt in Greece to this day. Among the many restrictions that affected the local residents at that time, there were limited possibilities of withdrawing cash from ATMs and banks. At that time, this significantly diminished the availability of physical money in the market. In many cases, the only option to pay for current purchases and bills was the use of payment cards. As a consequence, many retail and service outlets, which until then resisted the establishment of payment terminals, were forced to open up to this form of payment. Today, in many places, we can take advantage of this forced revolution. However, this does not change the fact that it is still worth going on a trip around Crete ...
There are still many places on the island where card payments are not available. It is worth mentioning the possibility of buying KTEL bus tickets. While you can count on the presence of payment terminals at the ticket offices at most stations, it will not be possible to pay for the ride directly on the bus, other than with physical money. Perhaps this situation will change in the near future, but at the moment, when traveling around Crete by public transport, it is worth having cash with you.
You should also ask about the possibility of paying by card, especially if you do not have classic money with you, when getting into a taxi. This way you will avoid unpleasant situations related to the inability to pay the toll. Most taxi drivers are adherents of money transfers in the form of hand-to-hand cash transfers. It is also worth mentioning here that the amount of the course fee is often agreed before the departure, and the taximeter only serves as a meaningless ornament.
You may also be forced to reach for physical money by visiting taverns and shopping in stores located far from civilization. In the case of such places, the lack of payment terminals is sometimes due not so much to the reluctance of the owners to have such devices, but simply to the fact that the terminals do not have the technical capacity to operate properly. The main problem may be the lack of availability of the GSM cellular network. Consequently, it can also mean the lack of an internet connection which is often necessary to complete a transaction. Therefore, if you plan to explore the so-called wild, it is worth stocking up on an adequate supply of physical money before setting off.
Away from civilization, card payments may be impossible - somewhere on the trail behind Agios Pavlos
Small amounts can also be useful on the beach, where usually, other than cash, you will not pay for sunbeds, drinks or small snacks bought in beach bars. So even if you are supporters of plastic money and contactless payments, in Greece it is worth renewing your acquaintance with physical money, especially those with smaller denominations.
Woe to those who, reaching into their wallet, take a high-value note from it. In many places, even those with the printed value of 200 € may arouse suspicion. Most likely, the banknote will be carefully viewed, checked and verified from every side. This should not surprise you, because in Crete there is a very vivid myth that banknotes with large denominations are often counterfeits. So don't be surprised, so if a seller suddenly starts complaining about undefined technical issues, an inability to spend, and similar excuses that would allow him to withdraw from the transaction.
It happens that in such cases, more than one friendly seller will direct you to the nearest bank, where, after waiting enough time in the queue, you will be able to exchange such heavy cash. Now imagine what if you were the lucky owner of a € 500 banknote. Taking it out will cause panic, nervousness, and possibly even resentment or aggression on the part of the seller. From our own experience, we suggest you to use low-value banknotes as much as possible for your own peace of mind.
And what to do if you already have such a banknote with a high denomination? Well, the only way to be sure is to use some service that is paid for when consumed. You can go to a restaurant for lunch or refuel your car. The service has been processed, so the payment must also be accepted.
It is also worth answering the question: where to buy euro in the form of physical banknotes? The answer is very simple: in the exchange office that will offer you the best exchange rate in your place of residence. However, avoid places such as: classic bank branches or secretive people offering this type of services. First of all, due to the usually literally bandit exchange rate, do not use exchange offices located directly at the airports. You can see how unfavorably such exchange offices compare to other solutions and places by going to the summary section.
If, while reading the article for this paragraph, you had the impression that, after all, we are trying to persuade you to keep your holiday budget in the form of physical money, then below we will try to reverse the situation 180 degrees.
For some time now, we have increasingly moved away from the use of physical money in favor of cards in Greece. This method of payment is not only convenient and safe, but is also increasingly available in local shops, taverns and service points. It will not be an exaggeration if we write that during our last trip, about 90% of payments were made in this way. Through non-cash operations, we paid bills for accommodation, ANENDYK ferry cruises, KTEL tickets at the station's ticket offices, shopping in shops and much ... much more.
Currently, we are very eager to use payment cards and most likely it will not change. It is no coincidence that the plural appears in this place, because we try to test at least a few solutions.
... is one of the main conditions that we currently place on this form of payment. This requirement allows to avoid such onerous costs as spreads resulting from currency conversion of payments. The second very important condition is the possibility of easy and inexpensive topping up the card with additional funds. Below we will describe to you examples of three multi-currency cards that we use and test (and by no means our article is NOT sponsored by any financial institutions) .
One of the most obvious solutions is reaching for a multi-currency card issued by a bank. Unfortunately, the bank where we keep our daily accounts does not allow this solution. Fortunately, however, there are several other banks on the market that offer multi-currency cards. One of such banks is Bank Pekao. Opening an account is relatively simple and can be entirely done online. The cost of issuing and maintaining the account can be minimized to zero, provided that the minimum monthly inflows to the account are at the level of PLN 500. In order to avoid fees, it is required to perform one payment operation with the card at least once a month.
Topping up a foreign currency account is very simple and can be done in at least several ways. One of the least convenient is to deposit money in the classic way directly at a bank branch. Of course, we do not have to use such archaism and we can pay foreign currency to our bank account using online transfers from virtual exchange offices.
Another method available under the open account is to make an internal transfer between our PLN account and the account denominated in euro. You must know that this method, however, entails the necessity to accept the high cost of such an operation. At present, the bank's spread, i.e. the difference between the purchase and sale price of the currency, amounts to approximately PLN 0.35. This means that the currency exchange rate will be much less favorable compared to competing online exchange offices. The difference for each euro mentioned may be from a dozen to several dozen groszy. The relatively high cost of this type of top-up is undoubtedly the biggest drawback of this card.
All options related to setting limits on the card or blocking it is possible via the bank's website or via a mobile application. Everything is relatively easy and intuitive. We also have no comments about the card payments themselves, which are available both in the classic way and through contactless payments. Everything is done similarly to the zloty cards. Well, maybe one more small aspect that needs to be mentioned is that the card in some Greek terminals is reported as a PLN card and the terminals offer to perform the operation in PLN. You have to bear this in mind and reject such operations, while asking the seller to pay in euro.
Remember that ATM withdrawals may incur additional commissions
As part of an individual account maintained by the cinkciarz.pl online currency exchange office, you have the option of obtaining a physical Visa card, which can be linked to up to 20 foreign currency accounts. Initially, this card was offered completely free of charge, but now it costs PLN 15 to obtain it. This fee is charged only once for the entire period of validity of the card. At present, the card service is free, and as part of the standard package, you can take advantage of two monthly withdrawals from any ATM located in the EU countries.
Topping up a card with new funds is relatively simple, although its description may seem complicated. As part of your account on the cinkciarz.pl website, you will have a list of bank accounts to which you can make transfers signed with your identifier. In order to obtain the euro, you just need to transfer the appropriate amount to your PLN account, which you want to exchange for this currency. Then, using the currency exchange option, make a PLN to EUR conversion transaction. You can transfer these funds in any size between your virtual currency wallet and the payment card. This gives a very high flexibility and control over expenses. In addition, it also limits the availability of the payment card to all funds accumulated on the account.
Money transfers between the card and the virtual wallet can be performed from the cinkciarz.pl website, and, which is very convenient, from the level of a dedicated application. The only necessary condition to be met is the availability of the Internet (which should not be a problem with the current cheap roaming packages).
As part of your account on the cinkciarz.pl website, you can also get a virtual card, which is issued for free.
In shops, we most often pay by card for small purchases
For our part, we must admit that we were very eager to use the payment card offered by the money changer. What convinced us to this card is a simple, intuitive mobile application, as well as the ease of limiting the funds available on the card and introducing various types of limits. We treated this card as a kind of prepaid card, which was our primary means of payment for all kinds of small purchases or payments.
Revolut is another holiday payment solution that we tested during our trips to Crete. The fact that this fintech was at the end of our list does not mean that there is the worst solution or the one we used the least often. In the case of Revolut, we used both a physical card and virtual cards. The latter cards were used by us for online payments in the booking service. It is worth mentioning here that virtual cards are also available in the form of disposable cards that expire after the payment is made. This can be especially useful, for example, in online stores where you do not have complete confidence in the way data is stored.
An account in Revolut can be topped up in at least several ways, including, for example, by means of transfers. In our opinion, however, the most convenient form is to top up your account with a different payment card. By depositing funds in this way, you will have them available immediately in your Revolut account. The sale of zloty can be done immediately. Importantly, the offered exchange rates are very attractive. The exchange rates differs from the stock exchange rates by literally a penny.
Most of the accommodation can be paid for by credit card
It is worth mentioning here that the possibility of personalizing the settings or managing the account is available to the full extent only through a dedicated mobile application. The Revolut fintech website does not have full capabilities and allows you to change only some of the options. However, it should be emphasized that the application itself is very easy to use.
Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages. You should analyze the choice of the optimal one based on your own needs and your own sense of comfort. For our part, we can only share with you the information that at the moment all the methods of payment we have described, as well as solutions, will accompany us in our next trips around Crete and more. What's more, as part of the available options, we will mix them with each other, choosing from them what they have the best.
Finally, as a curiosity, we throw you information about the purchase cost of 1 € (as of the day of writing this article - 10/06/2022) in individual places in the order of the most expensive to the cheapest:
Today we would like to present to you the advantages of using collective communication, or characteristic green coaches. In our opinion, it is worth introducing this topic, as perhaps not every person arriving in Crete is aware that within the island there is a large KTEL company providing public transport services.
Our memory card, which has been used for a good few years and survived many a trip to Greece with us, caused us a very unpleasant surprise and during one of the trips completely refused any cooperation. In one moment she stopped working and deprived us of photos from the whole week of rest in Crete.