A lot has been written about Sweden’s march towards becoming the world’s first truly cashless society. And as the options for paying electronically expand, Swedes are increasingly seeing good old-fashioned notes and coins as an unnecessary annoyance.
Most forms of public transport, including trams and airport buses, are now completely cash free and at many tourist attractions, clinics and shops you can only pay with credit or debit cards.
Amazingly, only around half of all Swedish bank branches actually allow their customers to withdraw or deposit cash. And when Swedes give each other money, they’re more likely to ‘Swisha’ than pull out a couple of paper bills.
There are lots of benefits to Sweden being mostly cash free. You won’t have to worry about being mugged for your money or losing a wad of kronor on the subway. But foreign tourists can face challenges when trying to pay for things in Sweden.
The biggest problem is that many foreign banks still levy charges for credit and debit card transactions made abroad. It may only be a couple of dollars for each transaction, but if you’re using your card to pay for lunch, dinner, taxis, drinks and entrance fees, the charges can quickly add up. Fortunately cash is still accepted in lots of places – especially at smaller businesses like cafés, bars and food trucks.
It also looks like cash is going to stick around for a few more years; Sweden’s central bank recently issued a series of newly designed bank notes. Our advice is that if you’re travelling to Sweden, you should be prepared to use your card a lot.
Check your bank’s charges before travelling to avoid any nasty surprises. If the charges for withdrawing cash or making transactions in Sweden seem high, look elsewhere. There are plenty of pre-paid travel cards that you can load with money before setting off – some of these have low fees; others are completely free.
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