Most of the time, you will find yourself having to use Visa/MasterCard to pay for your purchases in Europe because Amex has much lesser acceptance by the shops there. The reason for the low level of acceptance is because the American Express card charges merchants a higher transaction fee compared to Visa/MasterCard.
The higher transaction fee has caused many merchants to support other types of credit cards. The majority of the people in the Europe that have American Express card usually also have either a Visa or MasterCard. As a result, many retailers chose not to accept Amex, but do accept most other traditional credit cards.
Amex is accepted in 140 countries which is significantly lesser compared to Visa/MasterCard that accepts more than 200 countries. The types of stores in Europe that are most likely to accept Amex card are chain stores and restaurants. Amex is often accepted in shops where the products are expensive for example luxury hotel, and high end restaurant. You may also find shops with moderately expensive products accepting Amex. If you are a traveler with a low budget, the Amex card will not be suitable for you.
If you are traveling in Europe, you should always carry a Visa or MasterCard along. Both Visa/MasterCard will work great for big shopping centers, or car rental or tourism places in Europe. Big cities in Europe where there are frequently visited by American tourists will have a higher acceptance rate for American Express card. It is estimated that only 10% of the shops in Europe will accept Amex credit card. You can contact the customer service telephone number at the back of the American Express card and ask the representative where you can use the card in during your travel in Europe. Places that do not accept Amex will usually have a sign that inform customers about it.
Many consumers complain about foreign transaction fees charged by their Visa/MasterCard. There are some cards that do not charge foreign transaction, and annual fee. Many Visa/MasterCard also offer 0% APR rate during the introductory period. You also get to earn rewards points which you can use to redeem gifts and receive cash back for your purchases. The only Amex card that does not charge foreign transaction fee is Amex Platinum. Other Amex cards are charging a transaction fee of 2.7%.
In conclusion, you should always carry at least a Visa or MasterCard and bring along some cash as it is most certainly accepted in many shops in Europe. It is safer to carry more than one credit card in case any emergency arises. If you plan to bring your Amex card, you should check first to see if the shops you want to go will accept them.