Here’s a helpful guide on using a credit card in Laos. Whether you’re exploring the beautiful temples of Luang Prabang or cruising down the Mekong River, it’s good to know how to use your credit card effectively:
- Cash is King: While Laos continues to modernize, cash is still the primary form of payment, especially in smaller towns, villages, and for small businesses. Credit cards are more likely to be accepted in larger cities like Vientiane and at higher-end hotels, restaurants, and stores. However, always have enough Lao Kip (the local currency) for your daily expenses.
- Notify Your Bank: It’s always a good idea to notify your bank or credit card company before you travel to any foreign country. This helps prevent your card from being blocked due to suspicious activity when you start making transactions in Laos.
- Consider Fees: Be aware that some credit cards will charge foreign transaction fees, usually a percentage of each transaction made in a foreign currency. These fees can add up, so check your card’s policy before you travel. You might want to consider getting a card with no foreign transaction fees if you travel frequently.
- Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC): If a merchant offers to charge your purchase in your home currency instead of the local currency, this is called dynamic currency conversion (DCC). It might seem convenient, but the exchange rate is generally unfavorable compared to your bank’s rate. It’s usually best to decline DCC and pay in the local currency instead.
- ATM Withdrawals: ATMs are available in larger cities in Laos, and you can use your credit card to withdraw cash. However, be mindful that you’ll likely be charged a cash advance fee, and interest usually starts accruing right away. Also, local ATM fees may apply. It’s generally cheaper to use a debit card for cash withdrawals.
- Security Measures: Keep your card safe and always cover your PIN when entering it. Regularly check your transaction history and report any suspicious charges to your bank. Be wary of card skimmers on ATMs, which are illegal devices that can steal your card information.
- Have a Back-Up Plan: Always have a back-up plan in case your credit card doesn’t work or gets lost or stolen. This might include having an extra credit or debit card, or keeping a reserve of cash.
- Should I inform my bank before using my credit card in Laos? Yes, it’s always a good idea to inform your bank or credit card issuer about your travel plans to Laos. This helps ensure that your card transactions are not flagged as suspicious, potentially leading to a hold or block on your card.
- Are there foreign transaction fees for using a credit card in Laos? Yes, most credit cards have foreign transaction fees that are typically a percentage of the transaction amount. It’s important to check with your credit card issuer to understand the specific fees associated with your card.
- What is Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), and should I use it? DCC is a service offered by some merchants that allows you to pay for your purchase in your home currency instead of the local currency. While it may seem convenient, it often comes with a less favorable exchange rate. It’s generally recommended to pay in the local currency (Lao Kip) to avoid higher conversion costs.
- Can I use my credit card to withdraw cash from ATMs in Laos? Yes, you can use your credit card to withdraw cash from ATMs in Laos. However, keep in mind that cash advances from credit cards usually come with additional fees and higher interest rates compared to regular credit card purchases. It’s advisable to check the specific fees associated with your card before using it for cash withdrawals.
Here are some of the major banks in Laos that offer credit cards:
- Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao (BCEL): BCEL is one of the largest banks in Laos and offers a variety of credit cards, including Visa and MasterCard, with different features and benefits such as cashback, rewards points, and discounts at partner merchants.
- Lao-Viet Bank (LVB): LVB is a joint venture bank between Laos and Vietnam and provides credit card services to customers. They offer Visa and MasterCard credit cards with features such as rewards points and discounts.
- Joint Development Bank (JDB): JDB is a local bank in Laos that offers credit card services. Their credit cards provide various benefits such as cashback, rewards points, and discounts at selected merchants.
- Lao Development Bank (LDB): LDB is a government-owned bank in Laos that offers credit card services to its customers. They provide Visa and MasterCard credit cards with features such as rewards points and installment payment options.
- Foreign Banks: Some international banks, such as Standard Chartered and ANZ, operate in Laos and may offer credit card services to their customers.