Sweden is a popular destination for design aficionados, Abba fans and those seeking to view the Northern Lights. Whether you’re exploring the northern wilderness or soaking up the culture of the cities, Sweden can be pretty steep so it’s worth knowing the best way to pay.
The Scandinavian nation is leading the way internationally with cashless transactions. Most of the country’s banks have stopped handling cash while many restaurants, shops and museums are only accepting mobile or card payments. Credit cards with Visa or Mastercard branding are accepted widely at banks, hotels, stores, restaurants, taxis and car rental companies. While acceptance of American Express cards is less common, even fewer establishments accept Diners Club cards.
The Swedish currency is the Swedish krona (SEK), not the euro. The currency went through some huge changes in 2017, with many of their coins and notes completely changed. If you have older krona (20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 notes and silver 1, 2 and 5 krona coins), they are likely to be invalid.
Cirrus, Plus, Maestro and other networks provide connectivity to cash machines 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 the fee that your bank might charge.
Cash in Sweden
The popularity of cash in Sweden has dropped significantly in recent years with the country becoming one of the most cashless societies on the planet. Some places have stopped accepting cash altogether and you’re likely to see many signs in shop windows saying “no cash accepted”. Be aware also that public transport in Stockholm and Gothenburg no longer accepts cash. Find a great deal on your travel money for Sweden
Chip and PIN
Chip and PIN (Personal Identification Number) is the most common form of payment method in Sweden, exactly the same as in the UK. Simply insert your card and enter your four digit PIN.
Before flying to Sweden, make sure your credit card has a chip and PIN. The older magnetic-stripe cards won’t work.
Potential credit card fees in Sweden
Depending on the card you use, you might end up paying different kinds of fees when you use it outside of the UK.
Foreign transaction fees
British credit card issuers typically charge a fee equivalent to 1% to 3% of your transaction, so carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a good time to switch.
Currency conversion fees
What should you do if a merchant in Sweden asks you whether you want your card to be swiped in UK sterling? You always say no. If your card is swiped in UK sterling outside of the UK, you become subject to dynamic currency conversion. In this case, there is no telling what exchange rate you will get, and a good chance you will need to pay a currency conversion fee as well.
Should I use my card to get cash?
Using your credit card to get a cash advance is not recommended and you may think about doing this only in an emergency. While you’ll need to pay a cash advance fee, the cash advance APR is usually noticeably higher than the APR for purchases. Besides, you’ll need to start paying interest from the day of the transaction.
The table below serves as an example of how much extra you may pay to use your credit card in Sweden.
What is a cash advance fee?
A cash advance fee is calculated (and charged) when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum £3.00”.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Sweden?
Using credit cards in Sweden is largely safe, although 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 overly curious eyes.
Use the right cash machines. Try not to use cash machines located in isolated areas. Ideally, stick to ones in banks or in crowded areas.
Keep an eye out for skimmers. Card skimmers installed illegally in cash machines can steal your card’s information. If you feel there is something amiss with an ATM you are using, cancel your last transaction and use a different machine.
Keeping your credit 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 transport, bars and restaurants. Don’t leave your bag or purse unattended in hotel breakfast rooms or in parked cars.
Think Visa or Mastercard. If you want unhindered access to your credit card, consider carrying at least two, preferably with a Visa or Mastercard connection. While you’ll find some takers for American Express, you might have a tough time using your Diners Club card.
Use a no foreign transaction fees card. Paying a foreign transaction fee does not make sense when you can easily find cards that come without it. Some credit cards come with no foreign currency conversion and overseas cash machine withdrawal fees.
Inform your bank. If you use your card outside of the UK and your bank does not know you are travelling overseas, it may block your card on account of suspicious activity. To avoid such a situation, 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 cash for much when you’re in Sweden, there may be a few occasions where it’s required. If you need to exchange currency, there are a number of currency exchange centres and banks from which to choose.
You should find using your credit card easier than cash when you’re in Sweden, and by asking yourself these simple questions you can look forward to a relatively smooth trip.
Which card should I use? Visa and Mastercard are the favourites. If you’re planning a trip, check out cards which give you complimentary airport lounge access. If you’re planning well in advance, consider earning rewards for your trip with a frequent flyer credit card.
Have I informed my bank? If you don’t let your bank know that you’ll be using your card in Sweden, your very first transaction there might lead to a temporary suspended card. Is that a chance you’re willing to take?
How much will using my card cost? Find out how much you will need to pay as foreign transaction and currency conversion fees. Remember that you can find cards with no foreign transaction fees.
Where will I get money from? An easy way to access cash is to use your UK debit card at a cashpoint. You can also think about carrying traveller’s cheques or exchanging UK sterling for Swedish krona.
Using a UK credit card will present no significant problems in Sweden, especially if you’re using a Visa or Mastercard credit card. What you need to look for is the most cost-effective option.
There is no limit on the amount of Swedish and foreign currency taken into Sweden.
Sweden’s currency went through huge changes in 2017 so if you have some older currency, you may not be able to use it. Sweden’s central bank Riksbank issued new 20, 50, 200, and 1,000 krona notes in 2015. A year later, it issued new 100 and 500 notes, as well as new 1, 2, 5 and 10 krona coins (gold or bronze). All older coins (which tend to be silver) and the older 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 krona banknotes were ruled invalid in 2017 so they cannot be exchanged at a bank.
Chris Lilly is a publisher at finder.com. He's a specialist in credit-based products including business and personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, and is passionate about helping UK consumers make informed decisions about their borrowing. In his spare time Chris likes forcing his kids to exercise more.
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