Country experience: Iceland 

10.28.        Statistics Iceland has been using information on payment card data since 2009 as supplementary information to the trade in services survey for the compilation of the travel item. Information is received quarterly from all three payment card companies in the country, two of which issue credit cards. 

10.29.        Data on the use of foreign payment cards in Iceland link the identification number of the services provider receiving payment to the business register (or national registry for those not registered in the business register) and NACE and EBOPS classifications. For some NACE numbers, such as hotels and restaurants, all transactions are automatically included in travel, whereas all other new identification numbers are examined manually. In order to avoid double-counting with the trade in services survey, businesses are asked not to report transactions on the survey if the payment was made by payment card. The data also includes the country code of the country in which the card was issued, the amount of the transaction and the date of the transaction. 

10.30.        Potential challenges concerning such data are misclassifications of the NACE category; identification numbers for which no NACE category is available (however, transactions with such service providers are typically of small value); missing or incorrect data; double-counting with the trade in services survey; misclassification of the country that issued the payment card (i.e., residents of country A with payment card from country B); and large amounts of data that are ATM withdrawals and cannot be identified. All ATM withdrawals are therefore assumed to be travel transactions. 

10.31.        For data on transactions made with domestic cards abroad, only credit cards are included, because the information on debit cards is not sufficiently detailed. The total figures that Statistics Iceland receives for the usage of debit cards abroad confirms that the use of credit cards abroad is much more common than the use of debit cards. Given that most of the debit card transactions are ATM withdrawals, Statistics Iceland assumes that the entire amount of the debit card transaction data is travel expenditures. 

10.32.        The data from credit card companies includes the merchant category code (MCC) identification name and number, which is linked to the EBOPS classification. While most MCC numbers are manually examined, some, such as for hotels and restaurants, are automatically included in travel. E-commerce data is excluded. The data also include identification of the card type (i.e., individual or enterprise), which may be useful in identifying travel transactions (e.g., if an individual card is used to purchase goods, it is assumed that those transactions are travel-related). The data can also supplement information on transportation and other business services collected through the trade in services survey. 

10.33.        The challenges in using data on credit card usage abroad include the fact that MCC categorization is imperfect and of unknown reliability; e-commerce transactions are often difficult to recognize; the volume of different sales/service providers makes individual investigation difficult; transactions are recorded in the payment card data at the time of purchase, not when the service is delivered;[1] and large amounts of data that are ATM withdrawals and cannot be identified.  All ATM withdrawals are therefore assumed to be travel transactions.


Back to B.4. Good practices in using payment cards data

[1] Timeliness is of particular concern for cases in which accommodations are prepaid and when Icelanders purchase fares online from foreign airline companies using payment cards. Timeliness is less of a concern with regard to other travel expenditures.