I recently got a comment asking for tips on cash, debit and credit cards. What an excellent question. Remember, though, that it can be difficult to open a bank account if you are here for less than 6 months. So if you’re here in the short term, you may want to use your account from home. Here’s my experience on money handling practicalities:
Our helpful commentor said, “I heard that you can pay for everything using a debit/credit card in Norway. Is that true, and if yes, is a debit card enough to get you through daily life?”
You heard right! Personally, I almost never have cash. The only times I’ve been sad about that are the rare occasion where there is a coffee machine that takes coins only. Generally, a debit card, student card, Skyss (transit) card, and laundry card (if you’re in student housing) are what it takes to get you through your daily life. I can’t think of any other examples, apart from above-mentioned mediocre but cheap coffee, where I regretted my lack of cash-carrying.
That being said, I have spent most of my time in Norway in larger cities. If anyone wants to weigh in about carrying cash outside of major cities and towns, please comment below!
Our commentor also asked: “…[D]o you have any suggestions on which banks most students tend to open accounts with?”
I don’t know much about other banks, but I personally opened an account with DnB and I’m reasonably happy with them. One fabulous thing (as an American, anyway) about Norwegian banks is that you can not only bill pay via your account online (something we’re used to already), but you can quickly and easily transfer money in to friends’ bank accounts (say if you’re traveling together and sharing expenses). Yet another reason not to have to carry cash.
DnB is the only bank that currently has English language online banking, so that may be helpful to keep in mind if you don’t speak Norsk. Also, remember that there may be a charge for having a bank account and these fees as well as other policies can vary from bank to bank.
DnB also has a handy mobile app so you can keep an eye on your budget (and I hear other banks have apps as well, but perhaps not in English).
Opening an account
Ask the bank what documents to bring to open the account. You’re likely to need to bring the following when you open an account in person:
- Norwegian national identity number (only assigned to students here more than 6 months)
- Housing contract showing your Norwegian address
- Passport photo
- Citizens of certain countries may require additional documentation
Remember your passport! Image: http://www.britsoc.nl/applying-for-a-british-passport/
Most banks provide a VISA debit card which you’ll receive separately from your PIN code both by post. This card has a chip, which is only interesting and new if you’re from the U.S., I think. You can insert said chip into the debit/credit card machine instead of swiping the card. Occasionally not having a chip card can be a problem, but mostly cards that only have a swipe strip (pretty sure that’s the technical term for it) work too.
In the meantime
What do you do before you have a Norwegian debit card?
If you transferred money to SiB as a self-financing student you can get money cards of some of your money from SiB while you’re waiting for your debit card (see image below for details).
Information from the Spring 2015 semester startup brochure. Remember to check the newest brochure for any updates! Images: http://www.uib.no/sites/w3.uib.no/files/attachments/46832_uib_46832_semesterstart_eng_innmat.pdf
If you have a debit or credit card from your country, make sure you have the pin and are aware of any currency conversion fees, but these also work in Norway (almost always).
When your studies are complete
Remember to close your account when you leave Norway. You can read more about that here.
Thanks to everyone who’s been commenting. Keep those student life questions coming, everybody! I’m happy to address them in the blog!