Can we do EFTPOS payments (debit/credit card payment) in Iceland using an international debit/credit card, or is it better to use cash as a tourist?
When my wife and I were in Iceland in 2019, credit/debit cards were accepted almost everywhere in the cities. Outside of the cities, card payment was common but not universal. I'd recommend carrying cash to be on the safe side.
In particular, if you're camping you may encounter showers and laundry facilities which can only be activated by putting a coin in the machine.
You should be good using your credit/debit card pretty much everywhere.
Make sure you notify your card's provider that you will be traveling there to make sure they won't freeze it when they see transactions made in Iceland.
Also, it's always a good idea to have some small amount of local currency in case of emergency.
We spent two weeks travelling through Iceland in 2018, and spent a lot of time outside of Reykjavík - we drove all the way around the island.
We did not carry any cash whatsoever, and paid on credit/debit card throughout the entire trip.
If you're planning on doing this, just ensure you follow the "basics" for travelling with credit/debit cards, such as:
- Take multiple cards if possible (with different banks) as a backup
- Don't keep all your cards in the same place (e.g. in case you lose your wallet)
- Notify your bank when and where you'll be travelling to.
I have been in Iceland for work and holidays about 14 times between 2009 en 2019 and even back in 2009 almost everywhere debit-card/credit card was possible. And it got better every time.
On my first trip in 2009 I pulled a small amount (about 50 euro equivalent) cash from an airport ATM, but I only spend 1/4 of it on that trip.
It took me 3 more trips to get rid of the cash. Never had a need for more cash.
Do note that your card needs to be VISA, Mastercard or Maestro compatible or it won't work (that goes for most of Europe, not just Iceland).
An important question is what networks does your card support. Generally your card will have logos for the networks it supports.
Visa and Mastercard have a large global presence, AMEX, Diners and discover somewhat smaller but still international. Some countries also have local card networks. "EFTPOS" seems to be a name used by local card networks in several countries.
If your card only operates on a local network then you are unlikely to be able to use it abroad, similarly if the merchant only operates on a local network then you won't be able to use foreign cards at that merchant.
In the specific case of iceland, searching suggests that Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, other cards less so.
My wife and I have visited Iceland twice recently. The first time we stayed in Reykjavik and the only time I saw cash was when another tourist used it. Everywhere accepted cards, even down to the hotdog vendors on the street. For our second trip, because we were travelling more widely, we took the equivalent of about £100 in cash with us "just in case". At no point did we actually need to use the cash. We only spent it when we were nearly back in Reykjavik and we didn't see the point of changing it back to Sterling. On a couple of occasions, before we used cash, we actually felt like we should check if it was ok to do so.
Depending on what you're doing, where you're going and how much you're happy to wing things, it might be worth having a small cash float but in general you'll be fine with cards all the way.
Other answers are right : You can use only your card everywhere in Iceland, even in remote places.
However, please note that almost all car rentals do not accept debit card - it's credit card only.
I had a 30 min negotiation with the supplier to pay with a debit card once arrived in Iceland, and I had to pay for full insurance to get a chance to get my vehicle.
As already said previously, make sure that your card belongs to an international network such as Visa or Maestro (debit). There are very few occasions in which card payment is not possible.
Electronic payment is also possible on board ferries.
It is normal to buy a cup of coffee with a card in Iceland. But since you'll be using a foreign card keep in mind that exchange rates apply, plus there may be a fixed commission on every payment. So if you buy a low-value item like a coffee, the effective end price could be multiplied by two on your credit card statement due to the service fees.
So for very small purchases (< 1000 Kr) I tend to favor cash when I have it.
Visa and Mastercard + Maestro have widespread acceptance, Amex is accepted in many outlets too, but not as much. Discover, JCB will probably be accepted in hotels, restaurants, tourist shops mostly.
There is broadband Internet almost everywhere, unless you venture into the highlands which is a desert.
The lack of cash can also be explained by the fact that the practice of tipping is rare in Iceland. You are normally not expected to tip even for good service but it's not forbidden. Therefore cash is seldom needed.