Going on the Scandinavia Tour in July and with three different countries and three different currencies, plus Euros in Amsterdam before we go home, am curious what most people do as far as cash. Should we bring only American $ and exchange for what we need in each country or get smaller amounts in each kroner before we leave home? From what I read all three countries are pretty cashless but assuming cash to be necessary for small purchases (snacks, toilets, lockers at museums etc). What is the best plan?
Yes the Scandinavian countries are pretty much cashless. That means you can pay for all those small purchases with cards as well. Personally i hardly ever have cash on me. If you would like to have some cash, the best way to get it is at a bank operated ATM when you arrive.
Yes, credit cards are widely accepted and some businesses wil even accept krone. As you note Dansih, Norwgian and Swedish "Crowns" are not interchangable. Getting small amount of local currency via ATM withdrawal can last a long time. Dont worry about having local cash on arrival, especially if you are on a guided tour.
Use an ATM and take out small amounts as you need it. Generally in Sweden, the smallest amount you can get at an ATM (bankomat) is 500 SEK (about $60). Most places will still take cash, so you should be able to spend what you get.
Laura are you sure 500kr is the smallest amount you can withdraw at a Swedish ATM? it sounds like a lot to me, I would have guessed that it is 100kr like here in Denmark. But I must ad that while I go to Sweden at least a few times a year, both for work and pleasure, I don't think I have used cash there in at least 10 years. Also note that you can get small cash advances in almost every bar, shop or supermarket. So if you are at a museum and need that 20kr coin for a locker, just buy a small item and ask to pay 20 kr above the amount and they will give you the 20kr in cash.
The only place you will be able to exchange US$ for local currency in Scandinavia is at an exchange booth. These are not found many places any more except airports. Most banks in Europe in general no longer deal with currency exchange for non customers -- they point to their ATM and tell you to use that to get money.
So, have an ATM card (preferable one with no foreign exchange fees) and get what you need from a Bank operated ATM. Don't forget to tell your banks when and what countries you will be visiting so they don't shut off your cards thinking there is fraud occurring when transactions from Europe suddenly start appearing on your account.
Please remember that you are never “exchanging currency”, you are buying local currency using your $$s. As with any purchase, the seller is doing this for a profit, and with currency this is a healthy profit, either hidden in a large fee, or in a bad exchange rate. Get your money by a withdrawal of your own money from your own bank account at an ATM.
Laura are you sure 500kr is the smallest amount you can withdraw at a Swedish ATM?
Morten, It looks like I am wrong; I just saw an article about the newer 200 SEK notes being available in bankomats. Clearly my memory is fading. I lived in Stockholm for 2 years and I recall that the bankomat near my flat only had 500 SEK notes, but I think you could get 100 SEK notes at other machines.
Here's a variation on Morten's method to get "20kr coin for a locker". We were at one of the palaces in Copenhagen last July and needed to put our backpack into a locker before the tour. At our request, the lady at the admissions desk merely added 20 kr to our entrance fee and handed us the 20 kr coin for the locker along with a CC receipt. That was the only time during our 23 days in Scandinavia that we touched any local currency other than a 1 NOK coin my wife picked off the sidewalk in Oslo as a souvenir. We used our CCs for all other purchases, including automated ticket kiosks, unattended gas stations, the lockers in the Stockholm train station and buying a basket of strawberries from a roadside farm stand way out in the Norwegian countryside. For once we did not return home with an assortment of small foreign bills and coins that we often can't find a way to spend before finishing our travels.
@Mark -- We bought Danish krona with USD in a small-town Danish bank last month, not a lot, but they didn't send us to the ATM.
But I agree that ATM is generally the best way to go, and we found little need for cash in Denmark, Sweden, or Finland. The worst thing you could do would be to buy these currencies before leaving the US, just a big upcharge by your bank. But do let your bank know your travel plans so you can use overseas ATMs without hassle.
At two museums or palaces, we had to put our backpacks in the lockers, which required a 20 kr coin which was returned when you picked up the backpack in the end. Both times, the museum gave us the coin and told us to return it when we left, which of course we did gladly. What a civilized country!! If I could speak the language and didn't have kids and grandkids in the US, I'd think seriously of moving to Denmark or Sweden or Norway. This country (USA) is NOT great anymore.
I just returned from Stockholm and Helsinki, I rarely had to use cash, every transaction, even for a simple bottle of water was done by debit/credit card. Just need to keep track of how much you are spending. Also some atm in Helsinki don’t take debit cards with chips. Enjoy your trip.
Please remember that you are never “exchanging currency”
Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of 'exchange'
Definition of exchange
1 : the act of giving or taking one thing in return for another