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As far as I understand, most (if not all) places in Australia accept credit cards. But are there scenarios when one would still need cash or when using cash is more advantageous? To be specific, I'm talking about Sydney (+ Katoomba) and Melbourne. Particularly,

  • Are there any places that have a minimum limit that you have to pay in order to use credit cards? If so, what kind of places are these and are they widespread?
  • Do all small Chinese restaurants accept credit cards (which is not the case in the US)?
  • Are there any fees that one has to pay additionally in order to use a credit card in some places (when using a VISA or MasterCard with no FTF)?
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    Last time I was there (last fall), cards seems to be accepted everywhere for everything, regardless how small the purchase. Just make sure you have a card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. I think the system is called "EFTPOS" and you see the signs for it pretty much everywhere. Regular US credit card seemed to work fine – Hilmar Jul 7 at 20:34
  • Just make sure you have a card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. — if they don't, they probably charge instead by currency markup or general card fees. There's no such thing as completely free currency exchange. When comparing cards, make sure to take all costs into account, including hidden costs. – gerrit Jul 8 at 8:25
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    @gerrit: not if you get the right card. My travel card does convert currency at the current exchange rate without any fees or surcharges AND I get 2.66% cash back. I verified the exchange rates a few times on my statements and it always checked out. No hidden fees. – Hilmar Jul 8 at 12:09
  • @Hilmar What card is this, and how do they make money (1) they don't change for the card, (2) they give you money, (3) they don't charge you for anything, and (4) they use the mid-market exchange rate? What's the catch? Apart from fintech (which have openly communicated fees) I've never seen a card or service without hidden fees. – gerrit Jul 8 at 12:52
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    @gerrit: happy to explain how and why this works but perhaps as answer to a new question here or on money.stackexchange.com Short version: the merchant pays a 3%-5% fee and money credit card customers are dumb enough to carry a balance. – Hilmar Jul 9 at 13:42
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While you can get by without using cash for much of the time in Australia, there are exceptions:

  • I have seen places that have a minimum limit for credit card transactions (where there is a minimum, it's often $10 or possibly $20).
  • Virtually every restaurant will accept credit cards. Street vendors might or might not.
  • Some places may charge an extra fee for using a credit card. This, like the minimum transaction limit, should be clearly indicated.
  • Within the cities, every establishment accepts cards. Some places in towards the suburbs and regions deal only in cash, and they mention that on the counter. – Ranjith R Aug 7 at 4:51
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After my trip, I found that there are enough places (the vast majority of them being budget Asian restaurants) interesting for me that are cash only, both in Sydney and Melbourne, so in my situation it made sense to have some cash. A considerable number of places have a surcharge for using a credit/debit card (which is, from what I've seen, mostly below 1%, which is fine if the card gives you 1% cashback on everything; but some places had higher surcharges like 1.5%). I've barely seen any minimum transaction limits to be able to use a credit card. The upshot is that one doesn't need cash unless they are specifically interested in those budget Asian restaurants (you can find many others that accept cards).

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