Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland

Debit and credit cards in Iceland

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    You’re planning a camper road trip around Iceland and thinking about the essentials like what to pack and things to do. Something that inevitably pops up is travelers wondering about using cards on road trips in other countries. Most questions related to debit and credit cards in Iceland are either about camper rental or where they accept credit cards. Is it possible to do camper hire in Iceland with no credit card? And what's the preferred method of payment around the island?

    We’ve covered these questions along with some crucial information in this guide to using debit and credit cards in Iceland. Instead of scrolling through forums on TripAdvisor, LLC it’s much easier to read this comprehensive article for the answers you need.

    Your Trip to Iceland: Credit Cards Accepted or Not?

    So, does Iceland accept credit cards? Yes, of course! We are an extremely modern country with a thriving tourism industry. When you come to Iceland, credit cards are accepted virtually everywhere. From souvenir shops to restaurants to gas stations, you can pay with plastic everywhere you go. Want to take a Jökulsárlón boat tour? Pay with your card.

    It’s almost a little funny to ask because why wouldn’t they be? Paying with a card is the standard payment method in many places around the world. There are instances when you can spend an entire trip without dealing with actual physical money. In Iceland, credit cards are accepted just about anywhere you can think of, so have no worries or concerns.

    Essential Information About Using Credit Cards in Iceland

    There are a few things to know when traveling to Iceland if you plan on using your credit card. This will hopefully save you a lot of hassle and headache along the way. Taking the trip of a lifetime around our small Nordic island is quite easy and convenient. All you need is the knowledge of a couple of things beforehand when it comes to your rental or paying with a card.

    You Need an Iceland Credit Card PIN

    While credit and debit cards are widely accepted, please note that when using your credit card, you’ll need the PIN number. For holders of a debit card, PIN numbers are nothing new; that’s how they function after all. These chip and pin card types are the global standard for fraud protection and authenticating transactions.

    But what many people forget is that credit cards have a PIN as well. Normally, cardholders just swipe, jot down a signature, and go on their merry way. But credit card companies also send out PINs with all new cards. They send it in the mail separately, so you probably received it a few days after receiving your credit card. And like the rest of us, you promptly forgot about it because you never use it.

    This credit card PIN concept can be a little confusing at first because chip and signature card types are slightly different. With chip cards, you input your PIN to make your purchase. Signature cards have a magnetic stripe on the back, and they require you to sign after buying. But in Iceland, a credit card PIN is also necessary.

    Woman entering Iceland credit card PIN

    Best Credit Card to Use in Iceland

    Check with your card issuer before your trip to see if there are any charges or hidden fees while using your card abroad. Honestly, the best credit card to use in Iceland is the one with no foreign transaction fees. You don’t want to come home rested and relaxed from your awesome vacation to an unhappy surprise on your credit card statement or bank balance.

    As far as what credit cards are accepted in Iceland, you’ll find that vendors take major cards like American Express, Visa, and MasterCard.

    Camper Rental in Iceland Without a Credit Card

    One of the questions we get a lot is if it’s possible to do camper rental in Iceland without a credit card. Standard practice among the companies in the campervan rental industry is to take an imprint of your card as a guarantee. They won’t charge your card or block an amount. It’s more just to have it on record in case of damages incurred to camper rentals not covered by insurance. You’ll also want to watch the speedometer, because any speeding fines you rack up will be charged to your card.

    It’s completely understandable if you don’t have a credit card; many people, including myself, don’t. It’s still possible to rent a camper in Iceland without credit card. As long as one of your travel companions has one at pickup and drop off, you’re all set.

    What are Your Options Without a Credit Card?

    So, is it impossible to rent a camper if you don’t have a credit card? Yes, there are a couple of options. They’re a bit expensive and depends on what vehicle you will be renting, but if it’s the only way, it’s the only way. The first one is that you can opt for the platinum insurance option or the premium package. This is the most comprehensive insurance coverage available, so in the event of damage, you are covered. Do remember to check with Customer Service if this option is available for the selected vehicle.

    The second option is that the company blocks a deposit on your debit card, usually the amount of the insurance excess. This amount varies by company, but it is normally around $2,800 (2.500€). As long as you have the money in your account (along with what you plan to spend on your trip), you’re good to go. Talk with your rental company beforehand to see what their individual policy is.

    Customer service agent answering about camper rental in Iceland without credit card

    Debit, Cash or Credit Card in Iceland?

    If the idea of using credit cards in Iceland as your sole way of paying makes you uncomfortable, I understand. It’s always nice to have a little bit of local currency (ISK) in your back pocket as a backup. Road trips, especially here, can be a bit unpredictable and it’s better to be safe than sorry. If this is the case, I would recommend taking money out of an ATM once you’ve landed. You can also get some Icelandic króna at your local bank a few weeks before your trip.

    I would advise staying away from currency exchange offices. The exchange rates they offer are much less competitive than what you find at banks.

    Whether you opt for cash or credit card in Iceland, just do your research beforehand to make sure you're getting the best rates and no fees, always with the official exchange rate in mind.

    Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland

    So now you’ve got all the information you need for your trip. In Iceland, a credit card is a perfectly fine way to pay. Debit and credit cards in Iceland are ubiquitous, so you’ll be absolutely fine. If you’re hoping to rent a camper or motorhome, you need to present a valid credit card at the time of pickup. This is a guarantee on your rental.

    If neither you nor anyone else in your party possesses a credit card, other arrangements need to be made. Talk to your rental company before booking so you can know their policy and adjust accordingly. They are willing to work with you.

    The most important thing to remember is that while you can use your credit in Iceland, make sure you know your PIN. This is true even while paying at the pump at the gas station.

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