VISA AND MASTERCARD USE IN UKRAINEBY ALEKS KRAVCHENKO
Credit and debit (also known as pre-paid) cards from MasterCard and Visa are commonly used in Ukraine. Cards issued by Maestro also fall under this category, and should not cause any headache while paying a bill, or getting hryvnias.
The only major credit card that is very rarely accepted (if at all) in our country is American Express (aka Amex). While checking out from one luxury hotel in Poltava, a client of mine was not able to pay his accommodation bill with his Amex card. Fortunately, it was not the only card he had. His MasterCard did the job without complaining.
If you are coming to Ukraine, and planning to use your credit or debit card extensively, it can be helpful to know your card's PIN number (code). A PIN number is a 4 digit combination that might be required if you decide to withdraw cash at an ATM. A PIN code is also sometimes required when you are using your card to pay for your groceries, or a meal at a restaurant. As such, if your card is supplemented by a PIN code, make sure you have it on hand before boarding your plane to Ukraine.
Note: credit and debit cards with a PIN code are more common throughout Europe and Canada, and are very rarely issued by banks in the United States.
It is also important to notify your bank in advance of your travel to avoid being turned off.
DO UKRAINIAN BANKS CHARGE A FEE FOR THE USE OF A FOREIGN CARD TO WIDTHDRAW MONEY AT AN ATM?
Some do, while the majority of them don't. Having inserted your card in an ATM, choose English as your preferred language of communication. If the ATM's bank charges a fee, this information will be displayed on the screen. If you are not willing to pay the fee, simply disrupt the operation by hitting the Exit or Cancel button. The operation will be cancelled, and your card will be returned to you.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO USE AN ATM TO WITHDRAW MONEY IN FOREIGN CURRENCY?
Although some ATMs offer this option while prompting you to select your desired currency, so far I have not encountered an ATM in Poltava that offers such a transaction. I assume the same is true of all the other cities in Ukraine, including Kiev the capital.
PAYING WITH A CARD
Personally, I like using my pre-paid card to pay for just about anything. It is convenient, and it saves me from having to carry lots of cash in my pocketbook. Some cards even allow you to earn free miles that can later be exchanged for an upgrade in a seat, discounts, and in some cases free flights.
Unfortunately, not all businesses in Ukraine accept credit card payments. And those that do would rather have you pay in cash.
From what I was told by one businessman, banks that provide businesses with credit card processing machines (terminals) charge them a fee for each credit card transaction. This fee is usually as low as 2% (but can be more) of the total amount you pay. Small businesses that do not want to lose this money may at times:
- Ask that you pay that fee from your own pocket (in that case, your credit card will be charged the total amount, plus the 2% fee). Needless to say, this does not make customers like you and I happy. According to our banks, this goes against their policy. Once, while ordering a custom cake at a restaurant in Poltava, I was asked to pay an additional 7% processing fee. I kindly refused and called a bank that issued their terminal to submit a complaint. As of this moment I am unaware if the bank took any measures against the restaurant.
- Say that their terminal does not work for whatever reason.
As such, I urge that you carry enough cash to pay your bill, in case a business (be it a small grocery store, a restaurant or a computer store) takes one of the described routes.
Finally, do not withdraw more money than you can possibly use during your stay in Ukraine. At the end of your trip you may decide to exchange some (if not all) of that money back into a foreign currency. To do this, you would need to go to a bank. Nowadays, to exchange Ukrainian hryvnia into a foreign currency banks require that you provide them with an 377 form. This form is given to each foreigner who buys Ukrainian hryvnia. Unfortunately, a receipt from an ATM may not be sufficient for reverse currency exchange.