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EXPLAINED: Is it better for tourists to use cash or card in Denmark?

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The Local ([email protected])
EXPLAINED: Is it better for tourists to use cash or card in Denmark?
Should you withdraw a large quantity of Danish kroner before heading to the Nordic country on holiday? Photo: Kristian Djurhuus/Ritzau Scanpix

For many heading to the bureau de change and getting their money exchanged into a foreign currency is a holiday tradition. But with card and app payments ubiquitous in Denmark, is cash necessary, and are there any better alternatives? 

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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 Denmark, do tourists need to have their money exchanged for Danish kroner? 

Well, it’s up to what you feel comfortable with, but if you prefer to pay with cash, then you shouldn’t have any trouble getting rid of it – even if you might be something of a minority. 

This is because Denmark lives up to its reputation as one of the most expensive European destinations, but equally because physical money, despite becoming less common, is still highly acceptable in the Nordic country.

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While Danes do generally use cards for most transactions, including small ones, predictions that the country will become cashless have not come to fruition so far.

Shops and restaurants cannot refuse to accept cash, although you might find that informal vendors like flea markets only take payment on the Danish app MobilePay.

Because this app is linked to a Danish bank account, it’s not really an option for tourists. Apple Pay is available in Denmark, but far less commonly used than MobilePay so you might find yourself caught out in the hypothetical flea market situation mentioned above.

Some shops, particularly tourist-orientated ones in places like Copenhagen where foreign visitors are frequent, accept euros, but they are not obliged to – the euro is not an official tender in EU member state Denmark, which opted out of the single currency in a referendum in 2000.

No other foreign currencies – for example, the US dollar – are accepted anywhere in Denmark unless you’re exchanging them for the krone at a bank or exchange bureau.

If you don’t want to withdraw or exchange a large quantity of kroner, your best option is to use a credit or debit card and not to rely on being able to use a payment app, for the reasons mentioned above.

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If you’re carrying a Mastercard or Visa, you could reasonably expect to be able to use them anywhere in card-ready Denmark, but this is not always the case. This is because some stores only accept cards that are on the Danish service Dankort.

A Dankort card is normally also connected to the Mastercard or Visa network but the opposite is not always true. Based on personal experience, this issue can particularly rear its head at supermarkets including the Netto chain.

Another place where you might be better off with cash than a card is on public transportation, especially buses. Buses are obliged to accept all bank notes valuing 200 kroner or less, but you cannot always pay with a card – it depends on the local provider and whether there is a card payment machine available on board the bus.

Most Danish residents who frequent public transport use the Rejsekort pre-pay card, which can be used across all types of transport. You can pick one of these up as a tourist at rail or some Metro stations, but there’s a deposit and minimum balance requirement on the cards that might not make them worthwhile for a short visit.

If you’re taking the Metro or a train, you can buy a ticket from a machine prior to boarding – so having cash is less of an issue here compared to a journey solely by bus.

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