Can you pay with cash in Denmark?

All around the world, people seem to be moving away from cash and towards the use of credit cards for more and more transactions. But this transition is not happening at the same pace in every region.

Image by ASSY from Pixabay

In many developing countries, for example, cash continues to reign supreme, and cards are accepted only in nicer or more tourist-driven areas. Meanwhile, in Sweden, cash has essentially disappeared from the scene.

But what about Denmark? Is cash as rare as it is in its Scandinavian neighbour? Do most places accept cards? While the Danes are just behind the Swedes in leading the charge toward a fully-digitized economy, you can still pay with cash in Denmark.

Don’t be surprised to see the locals using their credit cards for minuscule purchases. Carrying and using cash has become rare for many Danes. Even hot dog stands are installing smartphone-based payment systems, as the Danish population has come to see cashless transactions as the norm.

Why do Danes prefer to go bill-free? Both consumers and business owners find digital transactions to be easier. Also, Danes harbour few fears about surveillance of their financial activity, something that keeps the denizens of some neighbouring countries returning to the ATM.

A similar cultural phenomenon in Sweden has seen businesses increasingly refuse to accept cash altogether. This is rarely the case in Denmark, however, as people understand that many visitors still prefer to use cash. In fact, it is often easy to distinguish tourists from locals just by their payment methods.

The politicians are walking a tightrope

Until quite recently, businesses were legally obligated to accept cash all of the time. A change in 2017 weakened this stance, allowing stores to apply for the right to refuse cash between 10 PM and 6 AM.

In 2019, the government considered axing the requirement to accept cash altogether. While this change would be acceptable to many Danes who already eschew cash anyway, many fear that it is the most vulnerable citizens who have no other means to pay.

The new law would not apply to businesses that fulfil “central societal functions.” This means doctors, pharmacies, and supermarkets would be required to continue accepting cash.

Denmark, like Sweden, also has its eyes on a cash-free future, with politicians intent on transitional to an entirely digital economy by 2030.

Most Danes seem to like the idea, feeling that the handling of physical money is unnecessarily inefficient and expensive. Still, there is a vibrant conversation being had among the Danish citizenry about the possibility of full-digitization and the effects on privacy such a move would entail.

But before this full-fledged changes take place, what can you expect as a tourist in Denmark? Should you even bother keeping a few kroner in your wallet? Or is cash already as good as gone?

Don’t throw away those kroner just yet

Whether you want to avoid credit card fees or you simply like the way money feels in your hand, you may prefer to use cash on your travels. Despite all the changes, there is no reason that you cannot continue to do so in Denmark.

Recent travellers to Denmark can attest to the fact that cash is still very much usable in the country. While refusing cash at certain hours of the night may be legally admissible, few businesses have actually started doing so.

The reality of the matter is that, even as credit cards push paper money toward the sidelines, many people around the world still prefer to pay with cash.

Denmark, as a beautiful country with a rich culture and history, attracts many tourists who arrive in Copenhagen with cash in hand. Danish businesses are aware of this and continue to accept cash as a result.

So if you’re on your way to Denmark and intent on using cash, do not be too worried about the “cash-free” nature of the Danish economy. You can still use bills and coins to pay for all that delicious Danish food. Just don’t expect to look like a local as you going rifling through your wallet for the correct denomination.

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