Lilongwe - Post Report Question and Answers

Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cash is king. If machines are working you can use credit cards. It's hit or miss. Use the ATM at the Embassy. I don't recommend using it anywhere else. - Jul 2020

I don't know about "widely" accepted, but you can use credit cards at the expat stores, upmarket hotels and lodges. I have rarely used the ATMs. - Feb 2020

Malawi is a cash-based economy. Major stores and hotels will usually take credit cards but its not uncommon to find that the power outages or a power surge has rendered the card reader non-functional. Because credit cards remain the exception and not the norm, the typical issues related to credit card fraud and credit card theft haven't cropped up in Malawi yet. - Sep 2018

Credit cards are hit or miss. Always best to have cash on you. Most grocery stores take them, but often their card readers don't work. Most restaurants take them now. If you want to book a safari or something through a travel operator and want to use a card, they'll usually charge you 3.5%. I get my cash from the Embassy, so I'm not sure about the safety of ATMs. I do know that the denominations they'll give out are pretty small, so you end up having to do many transactions. - Jul 2017

Malawi is a cash society. You can rarely use CC and even if they say you can, often the machine doesn't work. There are ATMs but I believe the max withdrawal is 40,000mkw or US$80. - Oct 2016

Lilingwe is a cash based place. There are lots of ATMs which generally have a withdrawal limit of 40,000 Kwacha. - Aug 2015

Leave the credit card at home. ATMs work for getting cash out. - Sep 2013

This is a cash economy, but we don't really trust the ATMs here, and hardly anyone takes credit cards. If a store does take them, the employee won't know how to process the request, and it will take a lot longer for your transaction. - Sep 2012

We only used cash while we were there. Most stores didn't seem to take credit cards. - Sep 2009

You can find a bank that will accept your ATM card. Credit card use is very limited. You must pay cash for most things. - Jul 2009

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