How to do cash/credit card tax refund in Europe

In summary:

In Japan (Tokyo):

  1. You meet the minimum spending requirements and the store will process the tax refund for you on the spot.
  2. You have to produce your passport and the store keeper will keep the tax refund slip inside your passport.
  3. The tax refund is processed immediately and deducted from the total payment.
  4. Upon leaving Japan, there is no need to do any customs inspection or tax refund.
  5. Yes, as easy as ABC.

In Thailand (Bangkok):

  1. You meet the minimum spending requirements and the store will process the tax refund for you on the spot.
  2. You have to produce your passport and the store keeper will keep the tax refund slip inside your passport.
  3. Upon arriving at Bangkok airport, you have to locate the customs inspection before checking in for your flights.
  4. You show to the customs your tax refund slips and obtain a stamp on your tax refund slips. You may have to show the customs your purchases.
  5. Then you can proceed to check in for your flights and check in your luggages.
  6. You have to clear the immigration and enter the transit area.
  7. You will have to locate the tax refund office inside the transit area and show them the stamped tax refund slips.
  8. You will then receive your tax refund in Thai baht.

The reason why I have listed down both Japan and Thailand tax refund procedures is to differentiate the different procedures. Also, to highlight the challenges.

In Europe:

I am restricting this tax refund process to Paris CDG airport. It is more or less the same procedures in Europe.

No matter where you have purchase your items eg. Italy, Spain, Germany, France and etc. You only can claim your tax refund from the airport you are flying out of Europe.
Just make sure you have meet the minimum spending requirements and the store keeper has issued you a tax refund slip. At this point of time, the store keeper will give you two options for tax refund. Although some shops only have credit card option, please ask the storekeeper.

(1) through credit card (it don’t have to be the same credit card you use to pay for your items) – you will get back the full 12% tax (depending on the country) and it will need at least two months for the refund.

(2) through cash – you will get back less than 12% tax (depending on the country) and a charge fee of 3€ per tax refund slip for commission.

Therefore, you can consolidate your purchases and process the tax refund on the same day. You cannot purchase today and process the tax refund tomorrow. You have to process the tax refund on the same day you purchase your items. 

For example: you can buy Prada bag, LV bag, Chanel Bag from three dirrenent stores on the same day in the same shopping mall. Then you take these three receipts to the tax refund counter and process them into one single tax refund slip. This one single tax refund slip will cost 3€ commission fee instead of three tax refund slip which will cost 9€.

Next, it is the most crucial part on how to get back your tax refund.

I am restricting these process to Paris CDG airport. It should be more or less the same in other airports.

  1. Locate the tax refund counter in the airport.
  4. There is a bar code on the top right corner of the tax refund slip.
  5. Use the tax refund counter machine and scan the bar code.
  7. It will tell you whether the bar code has been verified.
  9. If it says error, then proceed to the human tax refund counter.
  10. If it says verified then you are good to go.
  11. Do not proceed to check in your flights and luggages, you have to collect your tax refund before you check in your flights and immigration.
  12. If you have chosen cash refund, then take your verified tax refund slips to the human tax refund counter and s/he will proceed to process and return you the money. Please take note that you will not get back the full 12% tax refund because they will charge a commission. However, you get back your money on the spot.
  14. At this point, the officer may request to check your purchase.
  15. If you have chosen credit card refund, then take your verified tax refund slips and insert into the envelop provided by the storekeeper. Then you will seal it and drop into the mailing boxes provided at the tax refund office. There is no need for stamp as it is a prepaid envelop. You will have to check again in 4-8 weeks on your credit card bank statement for the refund.
  18. You can proceed to check in your flights and luggages now.

I hope you have fun shopping and a smooth journey for claiming back your tax refund in Europe.

Yes the branded names in Europe are definitely cheaper but only in relative terms.

Please spend within your means.

Prego/A bientôt/You’re welcome/不客气

*added on 14 Apr 2017*

I realised I did not include South Korea tax refund. I hope is not too late.

I have just came back from Seoul and in a few words, the tax refund in Seoul have gotten simplified. 

1. Most stores are giving instant tax refund on the spot.

2. You can scan your tax receipts downtown such as Myeongdong before you arrive at the airport. 

3. This means that you will only need to proceed directly to the tax refund counter to collect cash at the airport.


9 thoughts on “How to do cash/credit card tax refund in Europe”

  1. Hello,

    I will be flying back from CDG, so this is really helpful, but I still have questions if you don’t mind answering.

    I thought that I’m supposed to check-in first in order to obtain the boarding pass. If I don’t do this, how will the custom officer realize that I will be leaving the country for sure?

    I was told once that I need to get my document stamped and proceed to Global Blue counter. Is it necessary? I think I will be getting refund by credit card. I also have already applied for Global Blue card, so I don’t know if they will still ask me to sign off on anything. I thought that everything will pre-filled.

    More importantly, if I shop inside the gate of CDG terminal, do things sell inside the airport cheaper than the boutique in Paris city center? I know for certain that I will not have to file tax refund for the purchase made inside the terminal, but I don’t know if it is actually cheaper with the tax refund included.


    1. Hello

      From CDG, is easy to do tax refund because my post was written for CDG.

      There is no need to check in for your flight. This is because the custom officers may check your items so you cannot check in your baggage first.

      After you have obtained the stamp or scanned your receipts then you can check in your luggage together with your duty-free items.

      Nowadays there are hardly any physical stamp. Everything is scanned electronically by yourself. I was in Seoul last month and I also scanned my receipts using the machine, then checked in my luggage and collected my tax refund. For Seoul, you have to passed through immigration then you can collect tax refund.

      For CDG, you will collect tax refund (if you request cash) before you clear immigration.

      I have notice that most airport duty-free have limited designs. Sometimes when you shop in the city/boutique, you can buy limited edition/newer/more colors stuff.

      I feel that tax refund via credit card is not as attractive as collecting in cash. This is because of currency rates/admin fee. But then, it is easy and you have to track your statement for the refund.

      Happy shopping!

      1. Hi!
        Thank you for the useful information.

        I have questions and hopefully you don’t mind to answer and inform me. I will be departing from CDG Airport Terminal 1.

        The manual verification (or by PABLO) of the tax refund form is made before we do the check-in process. Furthermore, You inform that instant cash collection is also made before we do check in and clearing the immigration procedure. I am asking this question because from my experience in Singapore, the verification is made before the check in process however the cash collection is made after clearing the immigration. It seems that the procedure is different between EU and Singapore.

        My question, Do we use the same line or through the same counter for the manual verification and instant cash? Or we have to verify the tax form in Counter ”A” and then move to the other counter for collecting the cash? Thank you in advance for your kind reply.

      2. Bonjour

        Different airports have different procedures.

        For eg. In Bangkok, you verify items and get stamped then check-in and immigration. Then once you enter the transit area then you locate the Tax refund counter to collect tax refund.

        For Tokyo, everything has been dealt with before arriving at the airport. In other words, you have received your tax refund at point of payment. This is the best I have ever encountered.

        As of April 2017 at Seoul, their tax refund has improve a lot. Updated here

        In CDG, the verification office and tax refund office (where you collect cash) are right next to each other. You have to Q twice, first to verify either through counter/machine then proceed to collect cash/credit card refund. For cash option, the cash is refund immediately. For credit card option, there is a mailbox for you to mail your tax refund documents. Then you will wait and check your credit card statement. You will lose out on currency exchange rate but it is quite insignificant. Sometimes, the refund may also never happen. Yes, shit does happens.

        After you collect your cash refund then you check-in and clear immigration.

        Pls note that different EU airport has their own procedures. But more or less similar.

        Also, CDG tax refund always have Long Q.

        Some airports only have electronics verification and mailing option which means credit card refund. Usually for this type of situation, only when spend a huge significant amount then you will have to speak to an officer for s/he to verify your purchases. There will be phones provided at the counter.

        Yea, is complicated.

        Hope it helps.

  2. Hi,
    do you know if I make my purchases using a debit card, will I be able to get back the tax refund in cash? thanks!

    1. The shopkeeper determines the mode of payment. Some places only allow credit card tax refund! So for debit card, pls check with your issuing bank. But I will say if the shopkeeper allows debit cards, then you can get tax refund but most probably through the bank.

      Also, you can use credit card A to pay but indicate credit card B for receiving the tax refund.

      Just remember to track your tax refund because it will takes time.

      Hope it helps.

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