Using a credit card in Finland
There are many reasons to be happy visiting Finland. One of them is the convenience of using your credit card in this increasingly cash-free country.
Finland is a member state of the EU and has adopted the euro. Credit and debit cards are the most common form of payment in Finland, which is closer to becoming a cashless society than most other countries.
Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly-accepted credit cards, but there are plenty of retailers, hotels and restaurants that will accept lesser-known brands too. Discover is one relatively major network that isn’t accepted at all.
It’s rare you’ll face a minimum purchase amount in order to use your card. Whether you’re buying salmiakki, Karelian pasties or something more extravagant, you’re likely to be fine using plastic. However, it’s common to be asked to present some form of photo ID in order for your transaction to be accepted.
Bank branches are on the decline in Finland and so are ATMs. It’s not a big deal because card payments are so widely accepted, but if you want to spend cash, it’s probably best to withdraw plenty before you start your journey.
All ATMs are run by the same network, Otto. These ATMs have single withdrawal limits of €1,000 but charge no withdrawal fees.
What about fees?
Although Otto won’t charge a fee for ATM usage, there are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic in Finland.
Be aware 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.
EU ban on credit card surcharges
In January 2018 the EU required member states to adopt the Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2), which is a ban on card payment surcharges (that’s when a retailer adds a fee because you’re paying using a credit card). It’s important to note 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 may still levy a surcharge.
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 euros, since you know 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.
Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Finland
Are American Express cards accepted in Finland?American Express is accepted by some merchants in Finland, although it’s not as commonly accepted as Visa or Mastercard.
Merchants may levy a surcharge for Amex payments.
Contactless and chip-and-PIN payments
Finnish retailers were quick to adopt the contactless payment trend and the majority of consumers are happy to use it too. The Finnish banks are reportedly in talks to double the maximum contactless spend from €25 to €50.
Most Finnish retailers will allow you to pay via contactless or chip-and-PIN.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Finland?
Crime rates are low in Finland compared to most other European countries. However, ATM scams are one form of crime that is relatively common. Here 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.
- 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 Finland, but just in case, don’t let your card out of your sight.
How to prepare before travelling to Finland
- 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 worldwide and Finland is no exception. You won’t be able to use your American Express cards in some locations, which makes a Visa or Mastercard even more useful in Finland. 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 Finland. 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 Finland. 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.
Do taxis in Finland accept credit cards?
Taxis in Finland have accepted credit cars for many years. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find one that does.
If you travel to Finland, 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. With a decent travel credit card, you’ll avoid paying foreign transaction fees. By simply declining the DCC when offered, you’ll also avoid a poor exchange rate or commission.
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