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Dankort: What is Denmark’s payment card and how is it different from other card types?

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Dankort: What is Denmark’s payment card and how is it different from other card types?
Is it a Visa or is it a Dankort? Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

If you have a bank account in Denmark or have lived in the country, you’ll probably be familiar with the term “Dankort” being used to refer to payment cards.


Dankort, like the internationally-known Visa, Mastercard and American Express, is a financial service which facilitates the transfer of funds through payment cards. Unlike the other companies, Dankort is Danish and only available in Denmark.

The majority of payment cards issued by Danish banks are of the type Visa/Dankort. This is in fact two cards combined: a Dankort and a Visa.

The use of the Dankort is so widespread in Denmark that it has moved linguistically from being a proper noun towards a regular noun. In other words, many people don’t call their payment card a betalingskort (the accurate translation of “payment card”), but rather a dankort, even if it might not actually be a Dankort.

Because regulation in Denmark prevents banks from taking high fees for processing transactions with the Dankort (either from vendors or customers), there is usually no annual fee from your bank for having a Dankort. This is part of the reason it’s such a popular option and generally preferred to international alternatives like a Visa or Mastercard.

Unlike some debit cards offered as standard by banks in other countries, the Dankort allows you to overdraw on your account by a certain amount. This is seen as advantageous by some as it means you avoid your card being rejected at a checkout, but you should be aware that overdrafts with Danish banks usually come with high fees and interest rates.


Visa or Dankort?

If you pay with the Visa/Dankort in Denmark, you will almost certainly be using the Dankort part of the card, because payment terminals are set to prefer it. This is a good thing – Dankort has regulated, very low fees, making products cheaper for customers. International payment cards are not covered by these rules, which are set by the Danish parliament.

In some circumstances – for example, when you purchase something for delivery at a later date – you are more likely to use the Visa part of the card, because it has better provisions for refunds.

You can actually choose to use the Visa part of your Visa/Dankort by pressing the yellow button on the payment terminal before you start the transaction.

You can also choose to use Visa ahead of Dankort when shopping online by choosing Visa rather than Dankort as a payment option (provided it’s a Danish webshop that offers Dankort).

The Visa part of the card will be used primarily for online purchases, especially ones from international vendors. This also goes for airline tickets.

A useful tip is to make sure you always use Visa for buying airline tickets, including from Danish companies. This is because Visa protects you if the airline or travel agent goes bankrupt, but Dankort doesn’t.

Foreign webshops do not accept Dankort, so in these cases Visa will be your only choice or used automatically.


Why Visa/Dankort?

The link between Visa and Dankort goes back to 1988, and Visa has long been the only company that has an agreement with banks to issue Dankort on its service.

However, the Danish bank Sydbank announced last year that it planned to phase out Visa/Dankort in favour of a Mastercard Dankort. Another bank, Spar Nord, recently said it was not going to offer Dankort at all anymore, preferring to work with international alternatives.

A Mastercard Dankort will generally function in the same way as a Visa/Dankort with the difference of having two separate card numbers. Stores that use Dankort will automatically take payments through Dankort, while stores that don’t will automatically use the Mastercard.

What about Apple Pay?

Linking your payment card to your mobile device through Apple Pay might now be second nature in other countries, but is less so in Denmark.

In Denmark, Apple Pay is not widely used (though it still can be) because the Danish platform Mobile Pay dominates the payment app market.

Apple Pay, as well as Google Pay, usually only register the Visa part of a Visa/Dankort although at least one Danish bank, Danske Bank, allows its Dankort cards to be registered for Apple Pay.


What if I don’t have a Dankort?

It’s rare, but some stores in Denmark only accept Dankort (and not Visa or Mastercard) because their payment terminals are older models and are only linked to the Danish service. This can cause a problem if you have a foreign bank card.

Anecdotally, I have experienced this once in the last 17 years, and that one incident was in 2006. But I have heard of it happening more recently too.

If you have moved to Denmark and are opening an account with a Danish bank, it’s worth speaking to them to ensure you are issued with a Dankort (as this is not a given), because it’s an advantage to have this as your default when swiping your card in Danish stores.

If you use a Visa/Dankort to pay for an item in another EU country, you will be charged a fee for the currency exchange. This also applies to transactions outside of the EU which are also subject to a withdrawal fee on the card.

If you have a Dankort and lose it, you can call the number 44 89 29 29 at any time of the day or night to get it blocked.

Sources: Tænk, Dankort, Danske Bank


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