Sweden has a higher rate of ‘paying by plastic’ than even Canada, which is a world leader in plastic. It is nice to be able to pay electronically nearly everywhere, and usually with no minimum purchase. People use plastic to buy a pack of gum at a convenience store!
Internet banking is also really common. All bills get paid with the computer, I don’t think anyone mails in a cheque or pays at their bank. However, this is not as simple as typing int a credit card or bank account number. Anyone could do that and steal your money! Instead, the bank sends you a little calculator-looking security thingy and a brochure of Swedish instructions.
The device has a slot at the top for you to slide in your card chip. It comes with a black cord that plugs into a USB port, but you don’t need that to make it work. In fact, it runs on batteries so I am not even sure what it is for, except as a decoy. This device’s function is to generate a code, not to help your computer read your card. You can use it to sign in to your online bank account, and to authorize payments. To start, you enter your card and a ‘kontrolkod’ on the website. Then you type in your card’s PIN, and it generates a ‘svarskod’ for you to type into the computer.
In order for it to work, you need to have the card, the device, and the correct PIN. This makes fraud pretty difficult, but also means you can’t make a payment at work unless you remembered to bring your card reader. We have a friend who ran out of batteries when he was a student in Canada, and couldn’t pay tuition or transfer money to his Canadian account for groceries because his the batteries ran out in his reader. He had to wait for a new reader to be sent to his parents’ address, and then for them to send it on to him (since you can’t have it sent to an address not registered with the bank).