This page provides you with the most important tips on credit cards and cash in Cambodia.
Why do I need a credit card for Cambodia?
A credit card is not really necessary for your trip to Cambodia. You can also travel with cash. However, in terms of security, this is not recommended. Once lost or even stolen, the money is gone. If necessary, you can have a credit card blocked and thus protect yourself from unauthorised withdrawals.
It must be said, however, that cash is the cheapest way to get cash. Take your currency with you and change it into dollars at a local exchange office! Normally you get the official exchange rate minus 1 or 2 cents when exchanging euros for dollars. This is very cheap and does not cost any fees!
When withdrawing cash with a credit card, the banks that provide and maintain the ATMs usually charge between USD 4 and 6 per transaction, regardless of which card you have. So it’s better to always withdraw more money from the ATM. If, for example, you only take 50 USD for security reasons, the fees of 5 USD already amount to 10% of the withdrawn amount!
Flight, hotel and cashless payment on location
- If you want to book your flight to Cambodia online, you will definitely need a credit card.
- The same applies to hotel bookings. The card serves as a security for your booking until the money is finally debited after your stay.
- You also need a credit card if you want to make cashless payments in Cambodia. Good to know: You can only pay cash at markets and in small restaurants.
Which credit card is the best?
First of all, there is no such thing as “THE” best credit card. Comparisons often praise those with virtually no fees. But which credit card is best for your trip to Cambodia depends on your personal requirements. Some credit cards offer an additional “Travel-package”, where health insurance is included during your stay in Cambodia.
What should I look for when choosing a credit card?
As already mentioned, this depends on your personal preferences. The four most important points for us:
- Security: The best credit card is no good if it is not secure. Barclaycard was already a step ahead here in the past. But at the latest since the implementation of the PSD2 (Payment Services Directive), a lot has changed in terms of security for all providers. This is because the so-called “strong customer authentication” has been in effect since 14 September 2019. This means that card payments must be confirmed by 2 independent characteristics from the categories of knowledge, possession and inherence. [Source and further information: Bundesbank.de]
- Accessibility: Something can always happen with a credit card. For example, a charge you can’t remember or the card is cancelled because you entered the wrong pin number three times. In these and other cases, it is helpful if you can reach the institution.
- Acceptance: Probably the most important aspect of all. What good is a credit card if it is not accepted? American Express and Diners, for example, are only represented at comparatively few ATMs.
- Additional services: Many credit cards, especially so-called “travel credit cards”, offer additional services. More or less useful ones. They are always useful when you need them. For example, the card may include foreign health insurance, which is often cheaper than insurance taken out separately. Your own health insurance is only valid in your country of residence; the European health insurance, which is issued free of charge on application by your own health insurance company, is only valid in Europe. For all non-European countries of travel, a separate foreign health insurance policy must be taken out!
MasterCard, Visa or American Express in Cambodia?
You won’t be able to get very far in Cambodia with American Express and Diners. However, MasterCard and Visa are widely available in the country.
Practical: Visa and MasterCard offer an ATM search. This way you know in advance whether there is an ATM near your current stay in Cambodia.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is worth taking a look at the respective map, especially in rural areas or on one of the popular Cambodian islands. In the tourist hotspots like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, there are plenty of ATMs.
What does ATM mean?
ATM is an abbreviation for many different terms. In banking terms, the abbreviation for the English “Automated Teller Machine”.
ATMs in Cambodia usually have an English menu. You can withdraw money with the two options “Fast Cash” and “Withdraw -> Savings” and your pin.
Very important: Cambodians are particularly fussy about the appearance of dollar notes. Make sure you have new notes if possible. As soon as a dollar note has a small tear or something, you may not be able to get rid of the note again, or only with difficulty. This is not bad will, but pure self-protection. Because even the person who accepts the “damaged” note from you can only get rid of it with difficulty! This applies especially to 100 and 50 dollar notes. With smaller denominations, especially 1-dollar notes, no one is so fussy.
Five tips for your credit card
1: Pay attention to the withdrawal limit
Depending on the credit card company, you may only have a certain withdrawal limit per day or month. Make sure you find out the amount before you travel.
2: Inform your credit card company in advance that you are travelling abroad
Depending on the provider, cards that are used abroad for the first time may be blocked automatically. Even for small amounts. You can save yourself the hassle by informing the company before you leave. The best thing to do is to find out in advance from your provider about the respective handling,
3: Important: Take a second card with you
To give yourself additional protection, it is advisable to take a second card with you. If your main card no longer works, you still have the other one.
Tip: It makes sense to keep the second card in a different place.
4: make sure you have enough credit on your card
Admittedly, a credit card can sometimes tempt you to spend money you don’t even have yet. And that costs you interest. Always keep an eye on your spending. At best, you can even top up your credit card with credit in addition to the credit limit. If you take 2 cards with you anyway, you can use one for everyday expenses and the other for emergencies.
5: benefit from the advantages of a travel credit card
A travel credit card gives you the advantage of being able to withdraw money worldwide. Not only that, but there are even some that allow you to withdraw money and make payments worldwide for free.
Riel, the national currency in Cambodia
The actual currency in Cambodia is the riel. However, the riel is usually only used for small amounts. Otherwise, you can pay for everything in US dollars.
Don’t be surprised if you get riel back as change. The reason: 1 USD is the smallest unit in the country. Everything below that is exchanged from hand to hand in riel. The established conversion rate is 1:4,000. This means: 1 USD equals 4,000 riel. 50 cents are 2,000 riel, etc.
In hotels or shops, for example, you may find that a different exchange rate is used. For reasons of simplification, the exchange rate is usually 1:4000, but the correct rate is actually 1:4200 or 1:4100 – depending on the current dollar exchange rate. So this is not a rip-off, but a more accurate conversion, which is perfectly acceptable. There is usually a small sign at the cash desk pointing out this practice of more accurate conversion!
The riel conveys a sense of “belonging” in Cambodia. I liked to pay in riels most of the time – even larger amounts. Many ATMs let you choose whether you want your money in dollars or riels. 200 dollars is equivalent to 400,000 riel! Even if you get a lot of paper – after spending the 400,000 riel, you know the individual banknotes of the riel currency, differentiated by colour ;-)
Riel also has the advantage that you don’t have to be as careful about the integrity of the banknotes – even the larger ones – as you do with the dollar hundred! But – don’t overdo it!
“At the beginning of my travels in Cambodia, I once changed 1500 euros into riel – and got around 6 million riel. Thank God I had a spacious bag with me” :-)by Rüdiger
Changing money in Cambodia
It is generally worth changing cash in Cambodia first. The exchange rate is comparatively cheaper than if you change euros into US dollars at your local bank or even a travel bank like Western Union. After entering Cambodia, you can change your euros into dollars or riel at the local bank or exchange office at the airport. Remember: The exchange rate at the airport is more expensive than at the banks and exchange offices in the country. Here, too, it is worth making a comparison. It’s best to ask for the best conditions locally or, for example, in our Facebook group.
It can also be an advantage if you get a certain amount in small dollar notes from your local bank before you start your trip. Preferably in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 dollar notes. Then you will always have enough small change at hand. For example, paying a tuk-tuk driver with a 50- or even 100-dollar note is usually anything but expedient.
By the way, you can’t get riel in your home country and you can’t exchange it back after your trip.
And another thing: Don’t be surprised if you come across a 2-dollar note. It is not counterfeit, but this dollar bill actually exists. But it is rare and not very common outside the USA.
Banks in Cambodia
You can also get cash on your credit card at a Cambodian bank by showing your credit card and passport. The banks charge a fee of 1-2% of the amount of money for processing. The best known and most common bank in Cambodia is ABA Bank. Other banks include ANZ Royal Bank and Acleda Bank.
Opening hours of banks in Cambodia
Ähnlich wie bei uns in Deutschland schließen die Banken in Kambodscha bereits vor dem allgemeinen Ladenschluss (den es in dem Land nicht wirklich gibt).
- Mo. – Fr.: 8 – 15 Uhr
- Sa.: 8 – 11 Uhr
As you can see, with a little preparation, money in Cambodia is easy to manage. We hope that this article has helped you to make the right decisions. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please let us know here in the comments. We look forward to it and will definitely answer, promise!
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I was not able to pay for a trip based in Cambodia with my Mastercard contrary to you saying Mastercard is accepted in Cambodia! I am told by my Canadian bank that Cambodia has no relationship at all with our Bank of Montreal that carry’s the Mastercard charge card. Check your facts.
Hi Julie, yes, it is not possible to pay with a Mastercard or Visa in each hotel, guesthouse or restaurant Cambodia. There you need cash. But of course you can get cash with Mastercard at ATM on many places. You can find them here: https://sea.mastercard.com/en-region-sea/personal/get-support/find-nearest-atm.html – just insert “Siem Reap” for instance.