Getting Your Credit Card Accepted (or Not) around the World

Getting Your Credit Card Accepted (or Not) around the World


MasterCard has released the results of a recent study on the acceptance of U.S. business travelers’ corporate credit cards around the world and the survey offers some interesting statistics. The United States market itself is excluded from the survey, because, as the researchers note, credit card acceptance at U.S. hotels, restaurants, airlines, car rental offices and virtually all other merchants “is almost a foregone conclusion”. However, that is not the case in most other countries, even developed ones.


Many countries are still reliant on cash even for airfare, hotels, car rentals and other large expenses, we learn. To further complicate matters, acceptance of different card brands varies widely from one country or region to another. All in all, 95 percent of all business travelers have been unable to use a credit card on at least one occasion, we learn. Let’s take a closer look at the survey’s results.

Getting Your Credit Card Accepted (or Not) around the World


The researchers found that 78 percent of business travelers were required by their employers to use corporate cards for their business expenses and for 83 percent of their purchases they were able to do that (those that were not required to put spending on corporate cards still used them to pay for 68 percent of their purchases). When travelers were not using their corporate cards, most likely (59 percent of the time) that was because these cards were not accepted.


Canadian merchants are most accepting of credit cards outside the U.S. They scored 4.82 on a five-point scale of overall card acceptance and were followed by Europe and Mexico (I think European countries should not have been lumped together, because there are significant inter-regional differences, but here we are).


Canadian merchants are most accepting of credit cards outside the U.S.


MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted card brands around the world. That was not exactly a surprise, but we do learn that acceptance of all card brands has significantly increased over the past decade. MasterCard and Visa are now accepted by 33.3 million merchants worldwide, up from 26 million just five years ago and 24 million a decade ago. The respective numbers for American Express are 16 million, 9 million and 7 million.


MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted card brands around the world


Non-acceptance is the biggest reason business travelers do not use a corporate card. Travelers use their corporate cards to pay for 80 percent of their business expenses. The biggest reason for not doing so is that the merchant is not accepting their card, but more than a third of them preferred using a personal card, so that they could collect rewards points and some just preferred using cash. It turns out that a business traveler’s choice of a restaurant is largely determined by whether or not her corporate card is accepted there.


Non-acceptance is the biggest reason business travelers do not use a corporate card


Nearly all business travelers use cash to pay for their taxi rides. Not much surprise here. Cab drivers’ hatred for credit cards is well documented and not confined to the U.S. Hotel and restaurant tips are two of the other frequent cash expenditure, as are restaurant bills and subway and rail tickets.


Nearly all business travelers use cash to pay for their taxi rides


Half of all business travelers have been “caught in an awkward situation”, because their card was not accepted. No definition for “awkward situation” is given, but we are offered a couple of examples. One traveler reports that:

A hotel did not accept any credit cards and no ATM available. Prevailed upon hosts to lend us the money and we paid them back when we got back to a metro area.


Half of all business travelers have been "caught in an awkward situation", because their card was not accepted


What I didn’t find in the study, and wish I did, were data on how businesses were selecting their corporate card programs and which were the most popular ones out there. As the study was commissioned by MasterCard, I am inclined to conclude that some other card network has the lead in this segment.


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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