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Norway - Banking

The kingdom of Norway is located in the Scandinavian area of northern Europe. It is not a member of the European Union (EU), but as a member of the European Free Trade Agreement it is part of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Norway has been using the Norwegian Krone (NOK) since 1875 and there is no expectation this will change. Because Norway is not part of the Eurozone, the Euros and Cents are not legal tender here.

The Kroner, distributed by the Central Bank of Norway, circulate as banknotes in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 NOK. Coins are found in the value of 1, 5, 10 and 20 NOK.

The Norwegian Krone can be subdivided into 100 øre, but since 2012 these øre coins have been removed from circulation. They now only exist as an electronic unit of currency.

Norway has had very few issues with the circulation of counterfeit money. However, they have been informed from the experiences and developments of other countries. At the end of 2016 a new series of banknotes was released incorporating sophisticated security techniques. They have broken with tradition by having no portraits, but instead have been designed around the theme of “the sea”.

Syrian money, whilst relatively rare in Norway, has been caused problems for coin operated machinery for more than ten years. The 10 Syrian Pound coin bears little visual similarity to the 20 NOK coin and is worth substantially less, but is accepted as a valid 20 NOK payment by many machines. The Norwegian postal service, “Posten Norge”, has in the past closed many of its coins-to-cash machines after widespread abuse, and a Norwegian man was given a suspended jail sentence in 2005 for using Syrian coins in arcade machines in Baerum.

Cash machines are found in plentiful supply across towns and cities. In rural areas small shops and kiosks will often hold an ATM. It is likely you will be charged a small fee for using one of these, because of the costs of maintaining the machines and supply of funds for a limited number of customers. The screens will inform you of the charge and ask you to confirm your agreement before the cash is issued.

The majority of payments across Norway are made by debit or credit card. Cash has become rare enough that some establishments will find difficulty providing change if you pay with a large note.

Foreign credit cards are sometimes not accepted by post offices, grocery shops and supermarkets if their machinery is aging. However, they will take debit cards from most countries. Meanwhile new machinery is continually replacing the old so foreign credit cards have an ever increasing acceptance rate.

It is normally possible to pay by debit or credit card for airport buses, long distance buses, automated car parks and petrol stations. To travel on normal buses, a tram or the subway in major cities, you can buy your tickets from vending machines which will accept card payments or from convenience stores. Bus drivers on urban routes cannot accept card payments. Multi-use passes may be a good alternative to individual tickets depending on your travel plans; the Oslo Pass covers local bus and ferry travel. Museums, hotels, restaurants and other places of leisure will welcome card payments. Even taxi drivers prefer your payment by card rather than cash.

Retailers are unlikely to ask for a minimum purchase amount for card payments.

Norway, like most countries using card payments, has implemented chip and pin systems across the board to improve security. The US has a different banking structure to most countries and the costs of chip and pin technology fell mostly on to retailers, so take up has been lagging years behind. Therefore many people arriving in Norway from the US will not have a chip and pin card. This is not a problem in most paypoints supervised by a member of staff, as they will often have an old card signatory printer available for use. However, no machine operated paypoint will accept cards without chip and pin.

Foreign credit cards often attract a currency conversion fee with each transaction. If you use credit cards, you should aim to secure one issued by a Norwegian registered financial institution as soon as you can after settling in Norway. The cost of living in Norway is high enough without paying unnecessary transaction costs.

American Express and Diners Club cards are accepted by many locations, especially at the more international or expensive service providers such as large hotels and city centre restaurants. However, these card providers levy a different fee structure on retailers than charged by Visa and Mastercard. Therefore, the number of retailers accepting American Express and Diners Club cards is less widespread than for Visa and Mastercard.

Norway is an expensive country to visit and live in. You can cut costs by:

• Doing more home cooking and eat less in restaurants
• Booking your bus, train and plane journeys well in advance to pay lower fares
• Enjoying hiking, biking and camping when the weather forecast permits
• Researching tourist attractions to see if they offer special free or discounted days

Norwegian banks have tight regulations in place to safeguard against corruption.

Norway has a small population of approximately 5 million people, but a large land mass with access to significant natural resources. Unemployment rates for the 28 member countries of the European Union vary significantly, but averages 9.4%. In Norway, unemployment remains well below 5%.

The nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Norway in 2016 was 334.9 billion Euros, according to the European Commission’s statistical information service Eurostat. When this is divided by the number of residents in Norway, the country has a level of wealth higher than many other European countries. Inflation rates have also been significantly higher than in many other European and westernised nations whose requirement for cheap lending has driven interest rates down.

The major credit rating agencies in 2016 assessed Norway as AAA or “triple A”; it is seen to have a healthy and stable economic position. The value of the Norwegian Krone against the Euro reached its height in December 2008, as many countries grappled with the global financial crisis. Whilst the value plummeted during 2012, it has again crept up again during the following five years.

Norway balances free market activity with significant state ownership in key sectors. These include hydroelectric energy production, the petroleum sector, aluminium productions, telecommunications and the banking industry.

Commercial and regional savings banks form the backbone of the Norwegian banking industry, which contains 168 banks. A number of foreign-owned banks from Sweden, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium are also present in the country. Just under 40 branches in Norway are operated by foreign banks from these countries.

The major banks in Norway, which all have a website accessible in the English language, are:

DnB Bank
Nordea Bank
Sparebanken Vest

Norway’s banking industry is regulated. You will need to provide proof of identity and residence when opening an account. You will also be asked to provide proof of your income so that checks can be made to ensure you are not involved with money laundering activities.

Norway is one of the 82 signatories to the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) which came into force after 1 January 2013, with further signatories joining the agreement after that date. It allows citizens from one country who now live in another to avoid paying two sets of taxation, as long as both the countries in question are signatories to the DTA.

Norway has also signed up to Tax Information Exchange Agreements covering 44 countries. These involve sharing information about an individual’s tax affairs with other relevant signatory countries. This applies to information which must be automatically sent following a country’s request, or because a relevant situation has arisen.

The United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) became law in March 2010. One of its aims was to receive relevant reports from foreign financial institutions about the financial affairs of US taxpayers. Since 2013 Norway has had a reciprocal FACTA agreement in place with the US, so financial accounts held in the US by Norwegian taxpayers will be reported to the Norwegian government from January 2017 onwards.

Norway’s economy remained strong in 2008 even as the rest of the westernised world grappled with a global and interdependent economic crisis. Norway’s bank accounts do, however, operate a Deposit Guarantee Scheme which would protect the depositor in the event that a bank cannot meet its obligations. The maximum protected deposit is 2,000,000 NOK, as long as the terms and conditions are met. These include the eligibility of the depositor, the participation of the bank in the depositor scheme, and the type of deposit held. It is important to check the terms of any account you are considering for your savings to ensure you understand the degree to which your individual circumstances meet the Deposit Guarantee Scheme’s conditions.

Read more about this country

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