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Is it better for tourists in Norway to use cash or bank cards?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Is it better for tourists in Norway to use cash or bank cards?
Pictured is somebody getting cash out of their wallet. Photo by Emil Kalibradov on Unsplash

For many heading to the bureau de change and getting their money exchanged into a foreign currency is a holiday ritual. However, as card is king in Norway, is cash necessary, and are there any better alternatives? 

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Question: I am travelling to Norway soon, should I exchange cash for the trip and do many places accept it? 

Getting your money transferred into the local currency is usually up there with packing and taking out insurance when most people prepare for a trip away. 

However, nobody wants to be lumbered with unspent foreign currency, nor do they want to lose out when they exchange it back into local money when they return home. 

So, when travelling to Norway, do tourists need to have their money exchanged for Norwegian kroner? 

Well, it’s up to what you feel comfortable with, but if you prefer to pay with cash, then you may actually have trouble getting rid of it if you bring a large amount. 

This isn’t because Norway doesn’t live up to its reputation as one of the most expensive European countries, but because physical money is becoming far less common. Many shops and restaurants may refuse to accept it- even if it is legal tender. 

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Additionally, very few shops accept foreign currency such as euros and dollars, so you’ll have an even harder time trying to get rid of that than you would the local currency. 

Norway’s government itself wants to try and reverse the decline of cash to try by attempting to solidify customers’ rights to pay with cash in Norway

On the other hand, cards are accepted everywhere in Norway, from the large cities and tourist hubs to remote mountain villages.

Many will be eager to point out that using a card has drawbacks. The biggest of these is that many banks will offer less than competitive exchange rates and charge fees on every card purchase you make while abroad. 

Foreign transaction fees can range from 1-5 percent, which can soon add up if you are spending a long time in Norway or spend quite a bit of money. 

Another drawback to using the plastic square abroad is that while Visa and Mastercard are accepted pretty much everywhere, not everywhere will take American Express. 

There may be a better option

Although, there may be an alternative that offers the best of both worlds. 

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These days, many cards are available that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. This means you won’t get lumbered with cash you can’t spend, nor will you have to stump up for using your cards abroad. 

Furthermore, many of these cards will not charge any fees for using foreign ATMs, meaning that if you need cash in a pinch, you can always draw some out. 

As well as getting out of being lumbered with any foreign fees, you can transfer the amount of money you wish to spend into an account with no foreign fees. This also helps you budget and prevent overspending while on a trip to Norway. 

If you are reading this before heading on holiday and are worried that your card with no foreign charges won’t arrive on time, you can typically link the account to your Apple Pay or Google Pay before the card comes and you activate it. 

For an overview of where you can set up a bank account with zero transaction fees in the UK, click here. For other countries, click here. If you can’t find an option for your own country with the links provided, you will need to search for accounts with the option for zero transaction fees online instead. 

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