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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Using you Credit or Debit Card in Sri Lanka

I am sure most people dont like the idea of carrying around a lot of cash, and would prefer to use their debit or credit cards when ever possible.

So the question is are these prices of plastic accepted in Sri Lanka? 

Paying using your credit card

In short yes they are, but not as widely as in the west. The good news however is that most big outlets, hotels,  restaurants, supermarkets and department stores. I would say that most shops in any of the major cities will accept credit cards. However some places may charge you a small percentage on top of your bill as a credit card fee.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises always let your bank or credit card provider know that you are travelling, at the same time it may also be advisable to have some sort of card protection taken out as it is better you are safe rather than sorry. 
I tend to use my card a lot as it is easier to make payment than to use. I have always notified my bank that I will travel, and it will ensure that they don't block my card while making payments. I use HSBC Advance, which means the bank does not charge me any transaction fees when making payments or making withdrawals at an atm.

On a possitive note I have been quite lucky with my card, I have not had a single incident of theft or card fraud. There were however a few cases as with anywhere else in the world, reported last year of russian and chinese groups operating card fraud in Sri Lanka, this I think has now been dealt with.

To be on the safe side, always use ATMs at banks, most banks will have a security guard near their machine to add to your safety. Also when paying, keep an eye on your card especially if you feel uneasy with the location. That said, I felt my card was in good hands at most places I paid at. But there is no harm in being a bit extra safe.

Using your credit card or debit card at ATMs

You should find an ATM in most citis, and medium size towns, you wont find them in villages unfortunately. Like I stated previously I use my debit card a lot when I am travelling, but I also need to withdraw cash, in order to pay for entrance fees, fuel etc and it is generally a good idea to keep some cash on you, I would recommend that you keep something between Rs 2-5,000 in cash, just in case, and in various denominations as I have actually come accross small shops where they wont have change for the bigger notes, specially in small villages.

So are all cards accepted in all ATM machines, I cannot speak for all cards and all issuing banks, but I have tried and tested HSBC on all Banks in Sri Lanka. I can report that the following banks wont like your card,
  • HNB (Hatton National Bank)
  • BOC (Bank of Ceylon - some branches will not accept your card)
  • Nations Trust Bank
  • PABC (Pan Asia Bank)
I have had no problems using
  • Sampath Bank
  • Commercial Bank
  • HSBC (thought they are not as widely available)
  • Peoples Bank
  • Standard Chartered
Commercial bank is very widely available and have ATMs in most towns. I also noticed other travellers having difficulties with the above mentioned banks. Below I have provided links to the various banks and their ATM Locations accross Sri Lanka.

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