Is it really true that you can pay for everything with credit cards in Iceland? And that you absolutely have to have one to hire an automobile? Or is car rental in Iceland without a credit card possible? Many travelers have a lot of questions surrounding this common topic. Whether you’re debating cash or credit card in Iceland or simply want to know whether or not you can use your debit card for car rentals, read on. Consider this your comprehensive guide to debit and credit cards in Iceland.
Does Iceland Accept Credit Cards Everywhere?
One of the big questions we frequently get asked is exactly where they accept credit cards. I’ve got some great news for you. In Iceland, credit cards are accepted almost universally as a means of payment. They even take them at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik. So feel free to go ahead and put down plastic to pay for your “ein með öllu” (one with everything).
You can also use your card in Iceland at gas stations, souvenir shops, with tour operators, and more. While you will occasionally run into one or two vendors who only take cash, you’ll generally find the cards are widely accepted everywhere. Icelanders use credit cards to pay for everything, and you can too. They are as ubiquitous here as debit cards are in some other countries.
Best Credit Card to Use in Iceland
When traveling abroad, some credit card companies and banks charge for their services or cash withdrawals. It’s important to check this before you leave so that you don’t come home to a nasty surprise on your monthly statement. For this reason, the best credit card to use in Iceland is one with no foreign transaction fees. You don’t want to get charged a few bucks every time you make a purchase.
Whether you’re using signature cards, or chip cards, as long as you have one of the main card providers, you’ll be fine. American Express, Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly used and accepted cards around the island.
Iceland Credit Card and PIN Numbers
If you’ve used credit cards and debit cards elsewhere, you’ve probably used to a chip and signature card or a chip and pin card. It’s easy to assume that things here work the same way as they do wherever you’re from. Don’t make that rookie travel mistake. While it’s true that you can use your credit card in Iceland just about anywhere, there is something to be aware of.
Your Iceland credit card PIN is extremely important and you shouldn’t leave home without it. You can’t just swipe and sign like you do in some places. Many people are not aware of their credit card PIN or that they even have one. That’s because credit card companies send them separately from your physical card. You may have tucked that little piece of paper away somewhere and completely forgotten about it. Unless you’ve needed to get a cash advance from your credit card, it’s likely that you don’t know your PIN.
In Iceland, you need a credit card pin number pure and simple. So if you don’t know yours, contact your credit card company in advance of your trip. They have to send it to you through regular mail, so allow a few weeks for it to arrive. And of course, your debit card already has a PIN that you know and use.
Car Rental in Iceland Without a Credit Card
When booking a car or camper van, the customer service agent will tell you to bring a credit card as a guarantee for your rental. They don’t put a block on your card, but rather keep it on file just in case. When your rental ends, there may be some unforeseen costs like speeding tickets, parking fines, or damage to the vehicle not covered by rental insurance. In any of these scenarios, your card can be charged.
But what if you’re like many people, and don’t have a credit card? Is car hire in Iceland with no credit card still possible? If you don’t possess a card, the companies are willing to accept the credit card of someone traveling with your party. They just have to be present for pick up and for the drop off inspection.
But what if neither you or any of your travel companions have a card? Can you still do car rental in Iceland without a credit card? Don’t worry; where there’s a will, there’s always a way. You can rent a car in Iceland without a credit card, it just takes a little bit of flexibility. Most rental companies are willing to work with you to find a solution.
There are usually two options presented, and both of them involve spending a bit more money. You can pay for your rental using your debit card, and you can also use your debit card to pay for one of the two options. The first is to choose full insurance coverage on your rental. This is usually in the form of a platinum package or other comprehensive insurance. If you get into an accident and have some or have some sort of damage to your vehicle, you are covered.
The second option is to leave a deposit, usually around the same price as full insurance coverage.
Cash or Credit and Debit Cards
Of course, there are those who don’t feel comfortable using credit and debit cards as a sole means of payment on road trips. If this is your case, then, of course, get some Iceland money to have some Icelandic krona in your pocket. My best advice is to either do this in advance at your bank or take the money out of an ATM once you’ve landed. If you plan to go through your bank, give them ample time (at least a few weeks) to receive the foreign currency. Please note that you may be charged by either your bank, the dispensing bank, or both when taking money out.
What I don’t recommend is using the currency exchange at the airport or in town. They offer really poor exchange rates and usually charge a commission on top for their service.
Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland
Using your credit card in Iceland (or your debit card) might be the best way to save money on fees or commissions for exchange services. Talk to your card provider beforehand to see what they have to say on the matter. You’ll also want to alert them that you are traveling abroad so that they don’t block your card for suspicious activity.
Credit cards and debit cards in Iceland are an easy and hassle-free way to pay for expenses that come up during your trip. As long as you know the policies of your particular company, you should have a pretty smooth experience. And if you’re still a little worried, bring a backup card or another means of payment like traveler’s checks.
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