Norway has turned down membership in the European Union (EU) twice and firmly sticks by its own strong currency, the krone. That hasn’t stopped an increasing number of merchants in Norway, however, from accepting euros at their cash registers.
Narvesen and 7-Eleven kiosks, Burger King outlets and several hotel chains including Rica and Thon are among those accepting euros in Norway, reports newspaper Aftenposten.
Retailers including Hennes & Mauritz, several jewelry and watch shops and the exclusive clothing store Ferner Jacobsen in Oslo also accept euros from their customers.
“The limit goes to NOK 40,000 (about EUR 5,000) worth of merchandise,” watch shop operator Halvor Bjerke told Aftenposten. “Any amount over that has to be cleared with Norges Bank (the country’s central bank), because of concerns over money laundering.”
Bjerke regularly accepts euros as cash payment, calling it both “good service” for the customer and profitable for himself. He gets more sales and the exchange rate charged can also be favourable, with many retailers offering just NOK 6-7 for one euro, when the market rate is closer to NOK 8.
While Norway is known for its high prices, high-quality items like watches are often viewed by tourists as relatively reasonable, Bjerke noted, not least since they’ll get much of the sales tax refunded when they leave the country.
“Because we have such high VAT (sales tax) in Norway (25 percent), we’re allowed to price the watches a bit below suggested retail elsewhere in Europe,” Bjerke said. “So when the tourists also get a lower price, and their tax back, the price they’ve paid is very nice compared to what they’d pay back home.”
A spokesman for an Oslo retailers’ group said more merchants in Oslo are also accepting euros, as are restaurants. “We’ve encouraged our members to accept euros, because it’s a smart way to boost sales,” Gunnar Larsen of the Oslo Handelsstands Forening told Aftenposten. “Not everyone is as used to using credit or debit cards like we are.”
Other tourism officials contend visitors to Norway often expect to be able to use their euros and should be able to. The euro customers in turn, though, must often accept their change in kroner.