For payments in cash, the euro is practically the only option. No other currencies will be accepted, so visitors from outside of the euro zone will likely need to exchange some cash, traveler’s checks or get the euros from an ATM.
Currently the ‘euro zone’ consists of the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. In addition to the above, the euro is officially used in Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Vatican.
Whenever possible, you should use cash while in Germany. You can find currency exchange desks at any airport you arrive into, most train stations (Bahnhof) in larger towns and cities and all banks.
You can use your ATM card at most ATMs in Germany, which are commonly called “Bankomats.” ATMs are multilingual so your you should be able to use your card without problems.
Some banks have a reciprocal agreement with other banks (for example Deutsche Bank with Barclays and Bank of America) which saves on bank charges when using the ATM. Also big cities will have branches of major banks (e.g. Citibank) that may help you get money without so many fees.
Try to use main bank branches, as ATMs at railway stations or convenience stores may charge extra. Before you go, ask your home bank if it charges a fee for using an ATM abroad. The best way to avoid paying expensive exchange fees is to withdraw cash directly from an ATM.
Paying with a credit card is not common. Most Germans simply carry cash or pay with a debit card. Larger department stores and hotels accept credit cards, but smaller shops and restaurants generally do not. Restaurants and cafes rarely take credit cards and many don’t accept debit cards either. It’s a good idea to keep cash on hand.
Traveler’s checks can be exchanged at banks or exchange offices. Some stores in tourist areas will also accept them for payment. For best rates, travelers should take the checks in euros, US dollars or British pounds.
Finally, be careful of your money, wallet, and credit cards when you are in crowded areas like markets, busses, metro stations, subway cars and train stations. Your pocket could be picked at these places if you’re not vigilant.