Using a credit card in Denmark
Spending money on your credit card in Denmark is simple, whether you're visiting Copenhagen or other areas of the country.
Denmark is one of the most popular Scandinavian countries for tourism, with Copenhagen being the most widely-visited city. The whole nation is well-equipped for overseas visitors who want to spend money using their credit card.
Despite being a member state of the EU, Denmark hasn’t adopted the euro. In January 2018 the EU required member states to adopt the Payment Service Directive 2. The PSD2 is a ban on retailers adding a fee when you pay using a credit card. However, it’s important to note that there are limitations and exceptions to this directive and there are other fees that may apply when you pay by credit card. If your card is from a non-EU bank, uses a network other than Visa or Mastercard or is a business/corporate card, then the merchant is still within their rights to charge you a fee. Prior to January 2018, card surcharges in Denmark were very common.
Visa is the most widely accepted international credit card network in Denmark, closely followed by Mastercard, although there are plenty of places to spend lesser-known credit cards such as American Express or Diners Club too. The Dankort, the country’s national debit card, is usually issued on both the Dankort and Visa networks.
There are plenty of retailers that will allow you to make even small purchases via card, so there’s no problem with pulling out your credit card to purchase a delicious Danish cookie or some Leverpostej. However, it’s recommended to carry photo ID if you’re planning to make credit card purchases, as some retailers will ask you for this before approving the transaction.
You can buy a public transport ticket with a credit card, and many taxi drivers will allow credit card payments too.
What about credit card fees?
As with any other overseas country, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Denmark.
It’s also worth noting that when it comes to cash advances and non-sterling transactions, many card issuers will start charging interest on the day your account is debited, rather than the customary “up to 55 days interest-free” that usually applies provided you clear your balance in full each month.
So how can I avoid the fees?
Consider taking out a credit card offering commission-free currency conversion (see table below), even if you only use it when you’re out of the country. Once you have one of these cards, if a merchant offers to take payment in pounds, say you’re happy to pay in kroner, since you know that your own bank won’t add a margin.
Generally speaking, it’s not a great idea to use credit cards to withdraw cash, but some travel credit cards won’t penalise you for this either. Finally, make sure to check whether any ATM you use is going to charge a fee. High street bank ATMs are generally a safer bet than those in convenience stores or bars.
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Are American Express cards accepted in Denmark?
Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly-accepted cards, but Amex holders needn’t sweat. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and hotels that accept Amex as payment too.
Merchants may levy a surcharge for Amex payments.
Contactless and chip and PIN payments
Contactless payment technology is starting to take off in Denmark. A study by StatBank suggests 72% of Danish card payments in Q2 2021 were made contactlessly.
You are still likely to make a chip and PIN payment, provided you have a four-digit PIN. If you don’t have one, visit your bank to get one.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Denmark?
As far as safety goes, you can freely use your card in Denmark. However, there are some precautions you can take for increased security.
- Use an ATM within a bank. If for some reason the ATM eats your card, you’ll be able to quickly retrieve it. Also, ATMs within banks are less likely to be tampered with. Should you use one outside a bank, check for devices attached to the reader and cash return slot. ATMs tend to be easy to find across Denmark and these machines will rarely charge you to withdraw cash.
- Consider taking an additional credit card. You can use your primary card for payments and keep your back-up card in your hotel room safety deposit box. That way, you’ll never be left without money.
- Keep your card in sight. Card cloning is rare in Denmark, but just in case, don’t let your card out of your sight.
How to prepare before travelling to Denmark
- Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. If you travel often, avoiding the 3% foreign transaction fee can save you a lot of money. Consider getting a travel credit card to avoid the foreign transaction fees.
- Opt for a Mastercard or Visa. They’re the most-widely accepted cards and Denmark is no exception, though you can still use your American Express cards in some locations. There are also enough ATMs around if you want to withdraw cash with these cards as well.
- Carry a back-up card. Try to always carry a second card when travelling abroad, given you don’t know what could happen to your primary card.
- Get some cash. In general, you can pay with plastic almost anywhere in Denmark. But if you want to make a cash withdrawal, keep in mind that credit cards have additional fees while most debit cards don’t.
- Inform your bank you’re travelling to Denmark. If you don’t let your bank know ahead of time the dates you’ll be away and where you’ll be, it may block your card if it suspects the charges are fraudulent.
- Make a note of your bank’s phone number. If you lose your card or have payment issues, you’ll be able to call the bank to resolve it.
If you travel to Denmark, you can safely use your credit card to make payments and withdraw cash. You’ll just have to be careful to not incur fees you can otherwise avoid. If you’re visiting from the UK, then with a decent travel credit card on the Visa or Mastercard network, you’ll avoid paying foreign transaction fees and card surcharges. And by simply declining the DCC when offered it by merchants, you’ll also avoid a poor exchange rate or commission.
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