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Cashless Iceland

When I was going to Iceland I thought there would be nothing much to say about payment habits in this country. Bank cards all around — contactless, easy, convenient, universal, boring. No cash needed. I was right.

Payment for parking

But hey, here are a few things that I can say.

Americans might not feel themselves at ease with their magnetic stripe-only cards, but the rest of the world is alright. American no chip & PIN cards are notorious for being prone to fraud. EU banks are not even issuing such cards, Russian banks as well. And in some places in Iceland you won’t be able to pay without the chip & PIN.

Payment for toilet

Absolutely everywhere you can pay with your card — almost always contactless. ApplePay, GooglePay, SamsungPay — whatever you have, you’ll be alright in Iceland. Ironically, all these Pays are for foreigners. Icelandic banks are not enrolled in either of these programs, so the Icelander cannot proudly flash their phones in front of the POS and have to take the card out to touch. However, in this contactless haven there is a limit of 5000 kron. Above this amount you absolutely have to insert the card and confirm with your PIN.

Payment for coffee

No WeChat Pay or Alipay seemed present on the ground.

There was one interesting find, though. QR-code generated by the largest Icelandic bank’s mobile app — Arion Pay. It is not clear how opening the app, showing QR-code to cashier is easier or faster than just touching the card from this bank. Apparently, this is very familiar ‘let’s try the QR-codes like Chinese do’, this kind of situation. As a cashier in Reykjavik put it: ‘I have never seen anyone scan it, dear’.

That’s all that can be said about Iceland. Land of ice, geysers, horses and contactless bank card payments. Hail to cashless society!

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