The days of traveling around with wads of cash are long gone, and you’ll struggle to find a place willing to take cash as payment here in Iceland. But Iceland also has a few other things to take into account when paying with a card such as Iceland’s credit card PIN policy.
In this article, we tell you exactly what methods of payment are accepted and preferred here on the island, as well as explain the concept surrounding Iceland’s credit card PIN policy, and how to steer clear of a few local scams.
What is a Credit Card PIN and Why Do I Need it in Iceland?
A credit card is a four-digit number that you have to enter when making a credit card purchase with a credit card containing a chip. The driving force behind it is your own safety and to curb any theft or fraud. Most Iceland gas stations, shops, etc. will require a PIN-protected chip credit card when making a purchase.
How to Get a Credit Card PIN for Iceland
You will need to phone your bank/credit card company and ask whether you’ll be able to convert your current card into a PIN card or whether you’ll need to apply for a new card.
How to Use Your Credit Card PIN in Iceland
If you’re in a shop or restaurant, you will swipe your credit card or insert it into the credit card machine, whereafter it will ask you for your 4-digit PIN. If correct, and you have the funds/credit available, your purchase will be approved.
If you would like to make a withdrawal from the ATM (cash is still accepted as tips for guides, etc.), then insert your credit card into the ATM, and it will ask you for your 4-digit PIN. If correct and you have the funds/credit available, you will receive the amount you’ve requested.
Through the Grapevine
The credit card debacle in Iceland can sometimes become a bit confusing when hearing things through the grapevine. Some will tell you that using a US credit card in Iceland requires no PIN if you are paying with an attendant present. Others will tell you that there’s a way to bypass Iceland’s credit card PIN policy by simply pressing the green button on the machine when it asks you for your PIN.
Whilst we enjoy a potential loophole and a good gamble like the rest of the world, gambling with the availability of funds during a holiday doesn’t rank very high on our to-do list. Rather come prepared than show up in Iceland with a credit card with no PIN and realize that it has essentially left you penniless.
The Best Credit Cards to Use in Iceland
The next question we usually receive is which credit cards are accepted in Iceland. It should come as no surprise that the major players, Visa & MasterCard will always come out on top. Diners Club and JCB can also be used as they fall under the MasterCard umbrella, but please note that due to the fees attached to these cards some stores try to avoid them.
This will, however, not hinder you from withdrawing cash at the ATM (although a JCB card can only be used at Kreditkort, Reykjavik to withdraw cash). As long as you have a Visa & Mastercard in your pocket, you should have no problems whenever you need to use credit cards in Iceland. Just ensure that it’s a pin credit card (one with a chip).
Is AMEX Accepted in Iceland?
This is another frequently asked question. We would highly recommend that you do not rely too much on your American Express Card when it comes to using credit cards in Iceland. AMEX cards are rarely accepted here.
Foreign Transaction Fees for Credit Cards in Iceland
Most visitors will have to pay foreign transaction fees when using their cards in Iceland. These charges will vary between credit card providers and banks, but generally, these are between 1%-3%.
Common Credit Card Scams in Iceland and How to Avoid Them
Despite officially being one of the safest countries in the world, as is the case in the rest of the world, we also have a few credit card scams here on the island that you need to be aware of.
These include your usual phishing scams where you are prompted to give out your personal details, card skimming, and messages or emails claiming to be from couriers/the postal service requiring some sort of payment before delivery can take place. Stay alert and vigilant, and don’t click on anything or give out your personal information.
Credit Card Safety Tips for Iceland
The following general credit card safety tips will ensure that you have a memorable trip for all the right reasons:
- Never allow others to see your PIN as you enter it – whether at an ATM or paypoint.
- Remember to let your bank/credit card provider know that you’ll be going abroad, otherwise, they might just flag your own purchases as fraud and stop the card – nightmare!
- You might be eligible for a tax refund. If you’re not a permanent resident of Iceland, you can get up to 25% back on retail purchases if you spend 6000+ IKR on a single receipt. So, keep your receipts safe and hand them in at the Keflavik Airport or Reykjavik Airport, Seydisfjördur Port, or Reykjavik Harbour to receive a tax refund.
- Never allow anyone to wander off with your card. Always keep it in your sight, even if it’s a shop assistant or gas station attendant.
What to Do if You Lose Your Credit Card in Iceland
There are a few options when it comes to losing your credit card during a trip to the island. Firstly, if it’s stolen (which rarely happens, though), you will immediately need to notify your bank/credit card provider so they can block the use of the card, and you should phone our emergency number, 112, and file a police report.
Thereafter, you’ll need to contact your travel insurance company so they can help and provide you with an interim solution (this usually involves a bit of money or vouchers). If you’ve lost your credit card, you can contact your bank/credit card provider to ask that they put a temporary hold on your card, so it can’t be used whilst you’re looking for it.
In Iceland, there’s a very real possibility that someone has kept it for you, or handed it in somewhere, unless you’ve merely misplaced it in your room somewhere. If you still don’t find it after a day or two, we suggest going the same route as previously mentioned (without the police report of theft, of course).
Understanding Iceland’s Credit Card PIN Policy is Not So Hard
As you can see the entire concept around Iceland’s credit card use is not nearly as complicated as some make it out to be. And now that you know what credit cards are accepted in Iceland, you should have no problems renting a car in Reykjavik, going on a road trip around the island, and swiping your card at accommodation, attractions, activities, restaurants, gas stations, shops, etc.