Turkey is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The country uses TRY (Turkish Lira) as its official currency. In Turkey, using credit and debit cards to pay is very common. Cash tends to be more popular than in North America so it’s also advisable to keep some on hand.
During your trip to Turkey, you can use your major credit card to pay for most purchases: hotel rooms, rental cars, airline tickets, fancy dinners, and more substantial souvenirs. There are even soft drink machines that accept credit cards.
However, we recommend carrying cash if you plan to shop in traditional and small bazaars as well as for smaller vendors. You can use local ATMs within Turkey to withdraw money as well. It’s also recommended to keep small change as some vendors, taxi drivers, and stalls may not be able to easily “break” larger bills.
Tips for Using Credit Cards in Turkey
Using a credit card in Turkey can be tricky in some cases. If you pay attention to the following points, you can ensure a hassle-free experience.
Notify Your Bank Before Leaving Home
You should notify your bank of your planned travel and check with your bank's fraud department to ensure they will honor your charges and won't stop payment on them in the belief that your card has been stolen and used illegally. In other words, tell them you're going to Turkey so they're not surprised when charges show up from Istanbul.
Turkey uses the European credit card system whereby you are required to use a PIN (Personal Identification Number) when making charges. Turkish credit cards may have an electronic chip in them, or a magnetic stripe on the back, or both, but a PIN—not signature—is required.
In North America and some other places, older credit cards use magnetic stripes (or chips) and signatures (not PIN): you are required to sign the credit card slip when making a charge. (Bank debit cards require a PIN, but credit cards require a signature.)
So here's the problem: you have a US or Canadian credit card but not a PIN, and some Turkish businesses are prepared to take your signature to confirm the sale, and some are not. So when the Turkish vendor hands you the keypad device to input your PIN and confirm the sale, you don't know what to do. The answer is simple; you have to carry cash.
This is especially true for fuel stations since they usually require a PIN. So if you plan to buy motor fuel for a rental car, you should be prepared to pay cash unless you have a credit card with a PIN. For other purchases, please confirm in advance that your credit card and signature will be accepted.
It is also possible to “tap” to pay in most places, though there is often a higher likelihood of the transaction being rejected, especially if you are traveling. It’s advisable to insert the chip and use a PIN to pay. Apple Pay is not currently available in Turkey.
Also, try to bring the most used cards in Turkey. The most popular card is VISA, followed by MASTERCARD/ EUROCARD. AMERICAN EXPRESS is accepted in many of the more expensive places, such as luxury hotels.
Beware of Credit Card Service Fees
If you've bargained for an item or been quoted a price and you haven't mentioned that you'd be paying by credit card, the merchant may want to add the credit card service fee (called komisyon, usually 2% to 4%) to the price you pay, as that was not included in the deal you made. This was made illegal in June 2003, but may still be in practice (especially with foreign visitors who are not aware of the law.) Instead of charging extra, some businesses may offer a discount for payment in cash rather than by credit card.
Bring Your Card with You
If you make a reservation and pay in advance online with a credit card for some travel services such as airline flights, ferry voyages, car rentals, etc., you may be required to provide the exact same credit card at boarding time!
If you've left it at home, when you show up at the airport, ferry dock, or car rental office without that same credit card, you may not be allowed to board or take a car.
It's all part of the extra security we must all put up with since your credit card information is being used to identify you. So bring your credit card with you to ensure you are not engaged in credit card fraud.
If you do find that there are unexpected charges on your card or you lose your card, be sure to call your bank and inform them immediately. Many banks also have a “lock card” feature within the app which can stop your card from being used without your authorization. It’s a good idea to write down your bank’s number that is on the back of the card.