Using Credit Cards in Rio de Janeiro

Tips for Using Cards Safely in Brazil

Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants, clubs, bars, and stores in Rio. Visa and MasterCard are most commonly accepted and the American Express card less so. We have found that the exchange rates given by card companies are usually as good, if not better, than the daily Rio de Janeiro bank rates.

We recommend to bring at least two different cards with you when traveling in Brazil. Keep one in the room safe and the other hidden away in a zippered pocket.

It's a good idea to make a photocopy of the front and back of your cards and to keep these copies in the locked safe in your apartment or hotel room.

Insider's Tip - Your card company may charge a "transaction fee" for each separate purchase made while on your Rio de Janeiro vacation. Check with the company before leaving home. Also, call each card company and let them know of your travel itinerary as this will keep them from refusing charges made while you are in Brazil. Confirm the toll free number to call from Brazil to use should you encounter any problems.

Credit card fraud by "card cloning" is rampant in Rio de Janeiro and less so in other parts of Brazil. While on your Rio de Janeiro vacation, keep your card in sight at all times.

The better restaurants will usually bring the portable card reading machine to your table when you are ready to pay the bill. If they don't bring the machine, it's OK to ask the waiter to do this. If the restaurant does not have a portable card reader, you should walk with the waiter to the cashier's station. You won't be insulting the waiter, as Cariocas (Rio natives) are well aware of the credit card fraud problems.

"Por favor, traga a maquina de cartão de crédito".
(Please bring me the credit card machine.)

When using your card in a bar or nightclub, never let the bartender take your card out of sight or use it to "run a tab". It's best to pay as you order or have the waiter or bartender keep a tab without using your card. Upon entering many nightclubs, you will be given a small paper menu which the bartender uses to keep track of your orders. The club will use this menu to have you pay when when you are ready to leave. Don't lose this menu or you will pay a large minimum charge!

When using your Visa or Mastercard while shopping in retail stores, once again keep it in your sight at all times. Avoid using a charge card at open markets such as the Ipanema Hippie Fair or at one of the many Rio de Janeiro Farmers Markets. However, some of the gemstone vendors at the Ipanema Hippie fair will use legitimate charge card processing machines.

You can easily withdraw Brazilian currency by using an ATM inside a Brazilian bank lobby. Visit our currency page for more info.

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