Credit Cards, Travelers Checks
Credit and debit cards are widely used in Turkey, but there are special situations you must know about. Travelers Checks are a bother, and not recommended.
Turks live on plastic credit cards just like eveyone else.
On 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 the more substantial souvenirs. I’ve even seen soft drink machines that accept credit cards. But there are some complications:
IMPORTANT! Avoid Denied Boarding!
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 because of bank fraud and terrorism. Presumably, your credit card information is being used to identify you, assure that you are not a threat, and that you are not engaged in credit card fraud. So bring that same credit card with you on your trip!
Notify Your Bank
Before Leaving Home
You should notify your bank of your planned travel and check with your bank’s fraud department to assure 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 that you’re going to Turkey so they’re not surprised when charges show up from Istanbul.
Most-Used Credit Cards
The most popular card is VISA, followed by MASTERCARD/ EUROCARD.
AMERICAN EXPRESS is accepted in many of the more expensive places, such as the luxury hotels.
Magnetic Stripe+ Signature
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 PIN—not signature—is required.
In North America and some other places, older credit cards use magnetic stripe (or chip) and signature (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, 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.
Some Turkish businesses are prepared to take your signature to confirm the sale, some are not. In my experience, fuel stations usually require a PIN, so if you plan to buy motor fuel for a rental car, you should be prepared to pay cash (and Turkish fuel is expensive!) unless you have a credit card with PIN.
For other purchases, you should confirm in advance that your credit card and signature will be accepted.
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.)
In place of charging extra, some businesses may offer a discount for payment in cash rather than by credit card.