Is American Express Accepted in Portugal?

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James Cave / Last Updated: August 20, 2022 / Posted in: Travel in Portugal

If you’re travelling to Portugal, particularly from outside the Eurozone, you may be wondering which card you should bring with you. And you may be thinking of taking your American Express. After all, it’s typically travel friendly, offers perks for using it, and has great customer service if things go wrong. 

Unfortunately, American Express isn’t widely accepted in Portugal. In fact, foreign credit cards in general aren’t accepted in a lot of restaurants and small shops – even on the metro and at toll booths (carrying cash as a backup is always recommended). However, you will have a much easier time with a VISA or Mastercard credit or debit card than you will with an AMEX card.

So, it’s definitely a good idea to have a backup credit card – ideally one that’s travel-friendly and doesn’t charge you a fee for foreign transactions and doesn’t charge you an unnecessarily punishing exchange rate. Revolut, a debit card that is available in both the UK and US among other countries, is one option to consider. 

Of course, there are some merchants that will pay the higher fees and accept American Express (AMEX typically charges 3% versus 2% for Mastercard or Visa), but it does depend on where you’re staying and the types of shops that you’re visiting. 

  • If you’re staying in international chain hotels, for example, you are much more likely to have your AMEX accepted
  • If you’re eating at touristy restaurants that are right on the beach or in the city centre, you’re more likely to have your AMEX accepted
  • If you shop at large, international designer shops, you are more likely to have your AMEX accepted.
  • Most car rental companies should also accept AMEX

Unfortunately, all of this isn’t very off-the-beaten path, which is why it’s good to have a backup credit card. It’s also a good idea to have a card (typically debit but it can be a credit card) for withdrawing cash from the ATMs: foreign cards aren’t accepted everywhere, so it’s good to have access to cash. 

Finally, if you want to use your American Express credit card, try to make as many of your purchases online and in advance. For example, book your hotel in full online and in advance. That way you can ensure it’s paid for and that the purchase goes through the card you want rather than waiting to find out when you get to the hotel. You’ll also still be able to use your AMEX to pay for services you already use, like Uber or other taxi apps. 

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