Getting around South Korea is mindlessly easy when paying with a credit card. Many small businesses and companies accept a wide variety of cards. Compared to many other cash based travel destinations I have been to, South Korea is the most convenient and user friendly when it comes to ease when making purchases at train stations, restaurants, cafe, and shops.
Can you imagine traveling around a country where literally almost every place accepts your card for each transaction? Buying an expresso at Cafe Bene ? Swipe your card. Ordering take out cham-chi kimbap from a local fast food joint? Swipe away. It’s really that easy. As most street food carts only accept Korean won as well as subway tickets around Seoul, Daegu, Busan, and Gwangju you can literally pay for just about anything else with your card (including small businesses).With all this information in mind try to have a credit card with zero international transactions fees so that you don’t rack up fees.
As South Korea is a generally safe place to travel around I still don’t like traveling with paper money because of my personal travel style but keep in mind that getting robbed can happen anywhere in the world as there are crazies everywhere. I recently revisited South Korea for a week beginning my sightseeing in Seoul. Beginning with buying my AREX ticket from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station and popping by GS20 to find my favorite drinking yogurt I was paying with my card. Buying over the counter medicine at a small pharmacy (yak) to lunch in Itaewon to purchasing my train ticket to Daegu, I was swiping my credit card left and right. This really makes travel so much easier because you don’t have to keep checking your wallet for how much money you have left. You don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping money or keeping track of cash when you can just use your card. You can easily access wifi and browse your recent transactions online which I prefer hands down.
Another benefit of using your credit card is that you can continue to rack up your points. With my Capital One Venture card I don’t have to pay for international transaction fee and I am constantly earning points for my purchases that I can redeem later for gift cards or airfare once I have enough points. If you are paying with cash for everyday purchases you can say goodbye to these points when traveling around.
TWO PLACES WHERE USING A CREDIT CARD MAY NOT BE ALLOWED:
Overall, out of all the countries that I have visited I was completely blown away by the convenience of credit card acceptance around the country. Don’t have any won left? Just swipe your card. Lastly I always recommend keeping spare cash in the case that credit card machines are down or your purchases are cash only. There are delicious streets foods to try in and around Korea including tteokbokki, hoddeok, and these corn bread muffins baked with an egg inside. There is new grapefruit craze at food stalls where the pulp and juice is blended and poured back inside the grapefruit that you drink with a straw. Who knew?! I specifically found these all around Myeongdong and I know for sure that the food stall owners aren’t accepting your visa for that. Happy travels.
Note: Mastercard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards in South Korea in hotels, coffee shops, eateries, and for paying for train stations. When purchasing subway tickets you need the Korean currency of the won. Street foods and outside markets only accept cash.