Payment in Poland – cash, cards, wireless

February 17, 2013 in Banking & Finance, Basic Information, Finance, General, Lifestyle, Polish Business, Polish Matters, Shopping, Travelling Poland

Payment in Poland 300x300 Payment in Poland   cash, cards, wireless

Graphic © svetabl – Fotolia.com

Once you arrive in Poland, whether you like ot or not, you will have to pay for many things, just like you do pretty much anywhere else. Your hotel, taxi, food, public transport and so on. As Poland is not in the Euro zone you may be a bit confused about the currency and worry about possible payment methods. It’s an unneccessary worry – payment in Poland is as easy as anywhere else.

 

Let’s start with the currency, as this is obviously the main factor of getting the hang of any payment in Poland. The Polish currency is the Zloty (pronounced zwhotyh) and the standard abbreviation is PLN but “zl” is also often used. The one hudreth of a Zloty is a Grosz (pronounced grosh) with the abbreviation “gr”.

The money comes in coins and bills. Payment in Poland can be made in cash with the following:

  • Coins: 1 gr, 2 gr, 5 gr, 10 gr, 20 gr, 50 gr, 1 PLN, 2 PLN, 5 PLN
  • Banknotes: 10 PLN, 20 PLN, 50 PLN, 100 PLN, 200 PLN

The exchange rates change obviously every day, but they have been pretty much oscillating about the same amounts for the last few years, so I think that when you want to calculate your currency quickly while shopping you can use the following conversions (please note they are not exact, I only mean to give you something you can remember and use on the go):

  • 1 PLN = 0,25 Euro or 1 Euro = 4 PLN
  • 1 PLN = 0,33 USD or 1 USD = 3 PLN
  • 1 PLN = 0,2 GBP or 1 GBP = 5 PLN

These may help you in figuring out how much stuff actually costs. I recommend you also go through my series on Polish prices. This may be useful for payment in Poland, regardless of what you’re actually paying for.

OK, so we now know what the currency is, how it relates to your currency and in what coins and banknotes it comes. At some point I’s also like to place some scans of the banknotes, but right now I’m not sure whether this is legal. As soon as I find out, I will do that. For now, you can take a look at them here, at the National Bank of Poland. Now the question remains, how do you go about payment in Poland?

Cash

Cash is easy. Every store, cab driver and just about anyone else will gladly accept cash. That’s probably obvious. You can get it either by taking in out of an ATM machine (there’s plenty of them around, almost everywhere you go and certainly in any bank) or by exchanging your foreign currency. The exchange places are called “Kantor” and you can find them in cite centres, in the airports (although they will have the worst rates) and in shopping centers / malls. Also, most banks will exchange your cash, so there’s no problem.

Card

Cards are a widely accepted method for payment in Poland but you must be aware that the main cards, which (almost) every decent store will take are Visa and MasterCard. You may run into problems when using Diners Club or American Express, although I don’t have any of those so it’s hard to compare. However, almost no Polish bank offers the latter two, so everyone pays with Visa and MC. Also, please note that while standard credit cards will be accepted everywhere with no problem at all, the Polish teller, just like everywhere else, may not accept the “flat cards” meaning cards like Visa Electron coming from foreign countries. You can use them in the ATM with no problem, but if you don’t have a real credit card with stamped name and number, you’re safer to get have some cash with you.

Wireless

Wireless payment in Poland is becoming more and more popular. All the new teller machines are equiped with wireless capability and will let you pay via Visa PayWave or MasterCard PayPass. You may have a problem with those in smaller towns or some small corner stores. But in shopping centers / malls, gas stations and the likes of that you can use wireless. The general amount without the PIN code is set generally to 50 PLN, but that depends really on your bank, so your limit may be different. Also, if you have a wireless card you’re safe because youcan always use your card if wireless doesn’t work. It’s only important if you use a sticker or key hanger to pay for your stuff.

Checks and Travellers Checks

Don’t even try. I can’t think of any store that will accept a check from a Polish bank, much less a foreign one. With traveller’s checks your odds are slightly better, but you will be able to use them only at really top-end stores or big chain stores. So, if you’re travelling with traveller’s checks and want to make a payment in Poland, you’re better off going to a “Kantor” and exchanging them for actual cash. And leave your regular check book at home – it won’t do you any good unless you go to a bank, so why bother?

Last, please be advised that really a lot of places take card. Also, all the main cab companies do. But not everyone does. It is always good to have some real cash in your pocket as the odd corner store, or shops in smaller communities may not have teller terminals and will not let you pay by card. So keep that in mind and have fun making your first payment in Poland!