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These 5 words “we don’t accept this card” have actually caused major heartbreak and aggravation. They could literally ruin all your plans and leave you broke, desperate, and maybe just a little bit scared… especially when you’re on vacation!

I posted this on my social media channels a while back but it bears repeating and deserves a permanent place on my website: AMEX & Discover credit cards are not accepted everywhere in the USA, so why do you think you can use them overseas?

credit cards on SelfishMe Travel blog post


Back in 2018, I was enjoying lunch in a restaurant in Panama City, Panama when I overheard a customer huffing about his card not being accepted in Panama (actually the young man was about to blow his top).

I kindly introduced myself to him and explained that this is how it is everywhere, even in the USA. You see Visa and MasterCard charge between 1.5% and 2.5% on every transaction while AMEX charges 2.5%-3.5%. And that tiny 1% difference literally takes food off the table for most small business owners, so you won’t find many independent shops that accept the card.

Come to find out it was his family’s first trip abroad, that AMEX card was brand-spanking new, and he was hoping to give it a work-out to earn additional bonus points. Luckily, his wife had brought their backup MasterCard.

Side note

Discover was so late to the credit card game that a lot of merchants just didn’t feel it necessary to accept the card since Visa and MasterCard account for about 75% of all transactions worldwide.

But what about Capital One?

I know, I know! I’m forgetting to mention another credit card company. Here’s the dirt, only certain Capital One cards are on the Visa or MasterCard network but you better make sure you bring the right one when you travel overseas. Otherwise, it’s also not accepted internationally.

For International Travel

So… when traveling outside the USA, you might want to leave the AMEX, Discover, and Capital One credit cards at home. Instead, if you can, bring one Visa and one MasterCard credit card with you.


SPECIAL NOTE: please remember to bring whatever credit card you used to pay online and/or hold your reservations (accommodations, tours, cruise, etc.) because it is required that you show the same card but expect to be declined at the local shops and restaurants if it’s an AMEX, Discover, or Capital One credit card.



If this post was helpful, tell me so in the comments.



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Danielle Lewis

Danielle Lewis is a Travel Agent/Advisor who specializes in helping busy Women plan customized Culinary and Wildlife vacations worldwide. #GoSeeDoBe #SelfishMeTravel

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