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In some countries such as Japan it's almost unheard of for a fast food chain or convenience store to accept credit cards.

In others like Australia all convenience stores will and some fast food chains at least, but there will probably be a minimum purchase of $10.

In some countries including some in Eastern Europe many or most of these and petrol stations will accept cards for even small amounts.

So which is Bulgaria? (I have no lev left, it's night, I'm hungry)

I know all the alternatives such as changing money and using an ATM but for this question I want to focus on just the problem asked please.)

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You could always collect a few others from your hostel, buy everyone dinner on your card, and get cash from them for their part. Gets the amount up enough that cards should be taken, and you'll then have some cash again :) –  Gagravarr Sep 4 '11 at 19:42
    
I actually did that the past couple of days but when I got here this time everybody had already eaten and/or also had no lev left (-: But I did find a non-chain food place at the bus station that accepted Visa for a tiny amount (-: –  hippietrail Sep 4 '11 at 22:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

What Mark Mayo said is basically correct. Some other tips/notes:

  • You should have no problems making purchases with a credit card in any petrol station in Bulgaria. Same applies to international chains such as McDonalds, Subway, Billa, Metro, Lidl etc.

  • Coffee shops, bars and restaurants, as well as clothing and apparel stores will usually accept credit cards, unless they are decidedly of the low-cost/fast-food variety.

  • A hard-and-fast rule: if it looks fancy or is a brand name you recognize, it shouldn't be a problem, especially in big cities.

  • I'm not sure whether there's a hard limit on the minimum amount of purchase, but if paying by card is an option, anything above $3-$4 should be okay.

  • Paying with card for travelling (e.g. city transportation, trains, buses) is particularly troublesome, and you probably won't be able to do it anywhere, so I'd always keep cash on hand for that.

  • If you just want to get something to eat at a random place you see on the street (especially at night), chances are they won't accept your card.

  • There's a small possibility that your card won't work with some POS terminals, for inexplicable reasons -- I had this problem a few times with my foreign-issued VISA while shopping in Bulgaria.

  • Most commonly accepted credit card types are VISA, VISA Electron, MasterCard, Maestro (debit cards). If you have some other card operator, be prepared for a major disappointment.

Disclaimer: I am Bulgarian.

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True what you say about fancy places. I'm shoestring budget though. My favourite restaurant in Serbia didn't take visa but now I'm at an outdoor cafe beyond the heart of Skopje Macedona and they will take it even though my bill won't be much more than $5. It really varies a lot from country to country. When the first petrol station near the Metro is Sofia wouldn't take it I was a little surprised. –  hippietrail Sep 12 '11 at 20:36
    
Good answer, but I have to say that even it is written on the door that they accept credit cards, they have often communication problems (real or not?) when you make the payment or they pretend the machine is not working. In many places although I was able to pay with my credit cards (Visa and mastercard mainly). –  ruffp Nov 5 '12 at 17:23

(trimmed)

Best I can find is http://www.bulgaria-travel-guide.com/Bulgariantraveltips.html which claims that credit cards are taken in most hotels but must smaller hotels and restaurants won't accept them...

http://wikitravel.org/en/Bulgaria claims that "Bulgaria remains a largely cash economy in the rural areas but in major cities credit cards are generally accepted. "

http://www.mcdonalds.bg/#/restaurants-rest specifies a list of all the Bulgarian McDonalds and which have wifi, and which support credit cards. Certainly not all of them appear to. So I'd go with keeping cash on your person, just in case ;)

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I would say "yes", gas stations, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants will accept credit cards for small purchases. I have encountered problems with cashiers not knowing how to accept my credit card from the US, though.

I have been in Bulgaria for 2 months. I brought a couple credit cards from the US. It has been hit and miss with them, even for larger purchases. Some cashiers know which buttons to press to accept the card with a manual signature (instead of putting in a pin). Some cashiers don't. I've even went grocery shopping in a modern supermarket, spending $50, and the cashier didn't know how to print off the receipt to let me sign. I don't speak Bulgarian, so I paid with my debit card and put in my pin.

Eventually I watched which buttons cashiers pushed on the pad, so I would know how to get it to work when they didn't. If they accepted credit cards, I was even able to make small purchases.

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As an operator of one of those card processing machines, it's not always the operator's fault when they can't process your card in a way where you can sign for it. There seems to be some digital communication protocol over the wire which tells the machine which options to display on the screen. The operator only has a button for each displayed option. But there are other problems too. Many countries with many different kinds of cards from many different banks being used in many other countries many banks on many kinds of card machines - it seems inevitable that some combinations don't work )-: –  hippietrail Jun 13 '13 at 3:12

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