Visa is the most widely accepted, and MasterCard is usually accepted where you see signs for Access or Eurocard. Diners Club is also increasingly recognized. American Express is less frequently accepted because it charges a higher commission and is more protective of the cardholder in disagreements.
Even when credit cards are accepted, most smaller restaurants and shops are reluctant to accept payment in plastic unless the bill is above a certain amount. Many small establishments will accept them only if you agree to pay their commission (usually about 6%); this seems fair enough, especially in some of the more out-of-the-way destinations where negotiating and receiving payment remains difficult and time-consuming for the proprietors.
Credit cards are a safe way to carry money, they provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer good exchange rates. You can also withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, provided you know your PIN. If you've forgotten yours, or didn't even know you had one, call the number on the back of your credit card and ask the bank to send it to you. It usually takes 5 to 7 business days, though some banks will provide the number over the phone if you tell them your mother's maiden name or some other personal information. Your credit card company will likely charge a commission (1% or 2%) on every foreign purchase you make, but you may be getting a good deal with credit cards when you factor in things like ATM fees and higher traveler's check exchange rates.
Keep in mind that credit card companies try to protect themselves from theft by limiting the funds someone can withdraw outside their home country, so call your credit card company before you leave home. And remember: If you use your charge card to obtain cash, you are borrowing money and presumably going to pay very high interest. It might be better to use your bank's card as a debit card, which means you are simply taking cash out of your bank account.
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