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Using a credit card in Sweden
The lowdown on using a credit card when travelling to Sweden.
There has been considerable talk about Sweden going cashless, but the situation on the ground shows that the vast majority of merchants continue to accept cash.
When it comes to using your credit card in Sweden, you should have no problems. Merchants across the country usually prefer credit or debit card payments. Since cash is still accepted, it’s a good idea to keep at least a little bit on you at all times, but remember that Sweden uses the Swedish krona – not the euro.
Using a credit card with Visa or Mastercard branding will not present any significant problems, given their widespread acceptance. However, American Express cards are less commonly accepted in Sweden.
While you can use your credit card just about everywhere in Sweden, some small businesses might offer discounts if you pay in cash, while some others may not accept cards at all. As a result, it’s best to keep small amounts of cash on hand at all times.
Cirrus, Plus and other networks provide connectivity to ATMs across Scandinavia, so you can use your Mastercard or Visa debit or credit card to withdraw money. Banks in Sweden impose fees when non-customers use their ATMs, and the fee is usually higher for international cards. This fee is in addition to any fees that your own bank might charge.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
Using your credit card to withdraw cash is known as a cash advance transaction and is not recommended, due to how expensive this type of transaction is. While you’ll pay a cash advance fee for this transaction, you’ll also face the cash advance interest rate, which is charged from the day you withdraw the funds. Unlike a purchase interest rate, a cash advance rate offers no grace period.
Use your debit card instead.
To withdraw cash in Sweden, use your debit card at an ATM. Although you’ll likely face an ATM fee, you can avoid the interest rate that applies when you use your credit card. If you’re looking to avoid the ATM fee, consider applying for a debit card with a bank that has a global ATM alliance, such as Scotiabank.
Watch out for these fees when using your credit card overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Typical credit cards tend to come with 2.5% to 3% foreign transaction fees – which you’ll need to pay every time you make a purchase with your credit card outside of Canada. To avoid this fee, consider applying for a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. Some merchants will ask if you’d like to be charged in Canadian dollars instead of the local currency. If your card is charged in Canadian dollars outside of Canada, you become subject to dynamic currency conversion (DCC). In this case, there’s no telling what exchange rate you’ll get and there’s a good chance you’ll need to pay a currency conversion fee as well. Always politely decline the offer to pay in Canadian dollars and pay in the local currency instead.
Using credit cards in Sweden is typically safe, however it’s best that you exercise some caution.
- Protect your PIN. Use one hand as a shield to keep your PIN hidden from concealed cameras and curious eyes.
- Use the right ATMs. Avoid using ATMs located in isolated areas and ideally stick to ones attached to banks.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. Card skimmers installed illegally in ATMs can steal your card’s information. If you feel there’s something amiss with an ATM you’re using, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM.
- Keep you card physically safe. While crime levels in Sweden are low, instances of petty crime are not uncommon. Petty theft and pickpocketing are common in Stockholm’s Old Town, popular tourist destinations, museums, amusement parks, public transportation, bars and restaurants. Don’t leave your bag unattended in hotel dining rooms or in parked cars.
- Choose Visa or Mastercard. If you want unhindered access to your credit card, consider carrying at least two cards – preferably a Visa or Mastercard. While you’ll find some takers for American Express, not all merchants will accept it.
- Use a no foreign transaction fee card. Paying a foreign transaction fee does not make sense when you can find a card that doesn’t charge this fee.
- Inform your bank. If you use your card outside of Canada and your bank doesn’t know you’re travelling overseas, it may block your card on account of suspicious activity. To avoid this, let your bank know you’ll be travelling before you leave for Sweden.
- Know which emergency numbers to call. These include numbers to call if you lose your card or if you end up needing a replacement.
- Plan your need for cash. While you won’t need a lot of cash in Sweden, it’s best to carry around a little bit at all times. To avoid ATM fees, find out if your bank has a global alliance with any ATM providers in Sweden.
By asking yourself these simple questions, you can look forward to a relatively smooth trip.
- Which credit card should I use? The most commonly used cards are Visa and Mastercard. American Express may work in some shops and restaurants, but it won’t be as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard.
- Have I informed my bank? If you don’t let your bank know that you’ll be using your credit card in Sweden, your very first transaction there might lead to a temporarily blocked card. Don’t take the chance – inform your bank of your travels.
- How much will using my card cost? Find out how much you’ll need to pay in foreign transaction and currency conversion fees. Remember that you can find cards with no foreign transaction fees and you can avoid paying currency conversion fees.
- Where will I get money from? An easy way to access cash is to use your Canadian debit card at an ATM. You can also think about carrying travellers cheques or exchanging Canadian dollars for Swedish krona.
How to use a credit card in …
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