Tips For Using Your Discover Card Internationally

Discover doesn’t have wide acceptance internationally, what they do have is partnerships with other payment networks. These partnerships allow you to use your card where ever these other cards are also accepted. Below are the payment networks they have partnerships with:

  • China Union Pay (Mainland China)
  • JCB (Japan)
  • Diners Club International

Basically when you see any one of these logos below, you should be able to use your Discover card.

discover alternative payment networks

Tips For Using Your Card Internationally

  • Call Discover to let them know where you’re travelling to and the duration of your trip. International charges will usually be automatically declined if you have not let them know in advance. Call 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683)
  • Use the credit card acceptance map to see what payment network signs you should look out for. For example, when your in mainland China you’ll want to look for the UnionPay sign.
  • Download and print a wallet-sized instruction card. Discover provides basic instruction cards that let cashiers know how to process your Discover card in their native language, you can find these at the following links:
    • China
    • No instruction cards are currently available for Japan or any other countries at this stage.

Why Would You Want To Use A Discover Card?

  • Discover does not charge any foreign transaction fees
  • It’s possible to get EMV chip cards from Discover, you just need to call and request one
  • Discover cards have good earning rates (e.g Discover it Miles is 3% cash back on all purchases for the first year)
  • Their partnerships have good acceptance rates, especially in China & Japan.


The biggest problem with using your Discover card internationally are language barriers, it’s extremely difficult to explain that UCB has an agreement with Discover when one of you is speaking Cantonese and the other is speaking English and neither of you understand the other.

The instruction cards help somewhat, but I’ve still found difficulties in getting this message across. It’s still worth trying, but you might be better off just using an American Express, Visa or Mastercard without any foreign transaction fees if they are accepted.

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I am in the Qingdao area of China, and Unionpay is used everywhere, which should be a good thing for my Discover It card, but, unfortunately, I haven’t made one successful purchase with the card in the last year and a half. I have been showing my card that explains the Unionpay partnership, but nothing. I think it’s the machines that they’re using, maybe. Super frustrating though.


In China Discover cards have so much wider acceptance than Visa/MC in stores because of the dominant presence of UnionPay out there. However, online transactions are still problematic because I don’t seem to be able to enter a Discover card number where UnionPay is accepted, and Visa/MC is not always an option.


They are also widely accepted all around South Korea. JCB card has an office in Korea, and issues cards in Korea. Naturally, Discover is also accepted everywhere in SK. Actually JCB is all over Asia – I actually haven’t tried using my Discover card in any other Asian country, but I’ll assume that if there’s a JCB logo next to the Visa/MC logos, Discover will also be accepted. No fx fees make this a good no AF card to use abroad. Also, nobody EVER looks at the card’s logo in Asia – they just swipe when you purchase. It the payment is processed, it’s processed and if not, the clerk will hand the card back and he’ll make it clear that the payment didn’t go through, no matter the language.


FYI, Discover’s partnership with JCB is only in Japan. JCB POS in Taiwan, Korea, etc. don’t work. Diner’s Club has poor acceptance and UnionPay is only in China.

You’ll have to stick to Visa/MC for widespread acceptability in those countries.

Chris F.
Chris F.

“Also, nobody EVER looks at the card’s logo in Asia – they just swipe when you purchase.”

That may be true in other countries, but using Discover in China can often be difficult, as most people WILL look for the UnionPay logo unless they accept foreign cards, which isn’t common outside of the larger cities. The slip helps, but it’s best to be able to tell them in Chinese that the card is a UnionPay partner, and that it works everywhere. Usually they’ll agree to try it once, but occasionally they’ll flat-out refuse.

Also be aware that some terminals cannot accept Discover cards regardless of whether they’re marked for UnionPay. This seems to be smaller businesses which I guess are not using UnionPay-managed equipment, so there are more difficulties. I also have yet to find a smartphone-powered device that will accept a Discover card.