Hundreds of billions travel with Hungarian bank cards and wallets

In the last year as a whole, our compatriots traveled abroad 13.3 million times, which was an increase of more than 4 percent compared to the level of 2020, but the data of the base year were severely degraded by the fact that tourism.

The impact of the pandemic is shown by the fact that compared to 2019, even last year’s more than 13 million trips are down nearly 50 percent.

Last year, travelers spent HUF 512 billion abroad on our visits abroad, which is also roughly half of the 2019 figure. In other words, in the year before the epidemic, foreign expenditures amounted to roughly HUF 1,000 billion, according to official CSO data.

Most Hungarians traditionally spend the most money in Austria, leaving HUF 99 billion in the treasuries of Austrian shops and service providers last year after HUF 106 billion in 2020. However, this is only a third less than what we left with our brothers-in-law in 2019, which, in addition to working abroad disguised as “travel”, also indicates that one-day trips to Parndorf were part of our lives even during the viral crisis.

Compared to the 2019 data, we saw the most serious decline in Germany within Europe. While in 2019 we left HUF 113 billion with the Germans, last year it was only HUF 65.6 billion according to the CSO. The biggest returning title in 2021 belongs to Croatia: in 2020, Hungarians spent only 29 billion in our most sought-after seaside resort country, compared to HUF 46 billion in 2021. Of course, this was still 11 billion lower than the peak of 57 billion in 2019, but this year the peak will have a good chance – only due to inflation and the weak forint. ( dealt in detail with travel and credit card spending in Croatia in a previous article available here.)

An increasing share of foreign spending is paid by credit card. After the number of trips abroad decreased due to the pandemic, of course, transactions with Hungarian bank cards at physical merchants abroad also crashed. (At the same time, the MNB also saw an increase in total spending at foreign traders during the epidemic, but this was due to a drastic jump in the purchase of goods ordered from abroad on the Internet.)

As for the actual foreign bank card traffic, our compatriots

  • In 2019, payments were made 23 million times with cards and 4 million times from ATMs, worth HUF 273 billion and HUF 61 billion, respectively.
  • In 2020, the number of card purchases halved, with cash withdrawals falling 70 percent. Hungarian bank cards with a value of HUF 141 billion and HUF 19 billion were issued 11.5 times in foreign stores and 1.2 million times at ATMs – ie the decline in the amount of spending in both types of card transactions was around 70 percent.
  • With the pandemic boosting interest in secure, non-physical electronic payments at home, we should not be surprised that foreign bank card purchases, compared to a 4% increase in the number of trips last year, increased by 43% compared to 2020. . Our compatriots pulled out their bank cards 16.5 million times (or touched their phones and watches at terminals) for a total value of HUF 211 billion.
  • Since we also received card payments at home, it is not surprising that the amount of bank card withdrawals increased by just over a third and only by 27 percent in terms of value: we took out HUF 24.2 billion in foreign currency during 1.6 million cash withdrawals. from ATMs.
  • Since twice a month cash withdrawals cannot be validated abroad, we should not be surprised that beyond our borders, Hungarians really only withdraw as much cash from vending machines as they think they spend. While last year the IV. In the third quarter, Hungarians withdrew an average of HUF 99,000 from ATMs during a visit to Hungary, and the average amount of money withdrawn abroad fell below HUF 15,000.

Overall, therefore, a significant amount can be expected to land abroad this year, a significant portion of which may be related to credit card transactions. According to the experts of, it is not a good idea to repeat what it is worth paying attention to when playing cards abroad.

  • In Hungary, stores are obliged to accept credit cards, no matter how low value the purchase. However, there is no guarantee for this abroad, in case of a very small amount they can be refused or – where the law allows for this – unlike in Hungary – they can only allow card payment for a separate fee.
  • If the card accepting terminal gives you the opportunity to decide on payment in HUF or local currency, it is worth choosing the latter. This is because the so-called “Dynamic Currency Conversion” (DCC) service enters the picture for “forint” payments. In practice, this means that the transaction takes place at the exchange rate of the bank operating the terminal, which is worse than the exchange rate of the home bank and the card company, as the foreign bank already has an exchange rate that provides it with adequate coverage in the ‘exotic’ currency. to redeem the Hungarian forint.
  • It is worth setting card limits when traveling abroad, but anyway. If you still need to pay a larger amount with the card, the limit can be changed in netbank or mobile banking.

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