1. Know the Currency. Currency in the Republic of Ireland is the euro, which uses the following symbol: €. Each euro consists of 100 cents. Notes are issued in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. In Northern Ireland the currency is the British pound sterling, divided into 100 pence. The two currencies are separate and not interchangeable. You cannot use US dollars or other foreign currencies in Ireland. Sometimes areas near the border of NI & ROI will accept cross currency.
2. Cash. Do not bring $100 bills. Instead bring lesser denominations. Because of the high incidence of counterfeiting Irish banks won’t cash them. It is best not to travel with too much cash since it can easily be lost. Bring enough to cover any travels en route to Ireland and back home. Once in Ireland use the tips below.
Cash Advances. Using a credit card for cash advances is not smart. From the day you get a cash advance till you pay it off you will be paying the top interest rate your credit card applies. Check with your credit card for details. Such transactions are best used in an emergency situation.
3. Traveler’s Checks. Traveler’s checks are Stone Age technology. They still work and you can use them in Ireland. However, in order to get cash for them you must go into an Irish bank during banking hours, wait in line, sign them and show your passport. The exchange rate for traveler’s checks is not the best you can get. Each bank varies slightly as to rate. You will pay the bank a fee per transaction. Some people think they can avoid the exchange rate problem by purchasing Traveler’s Checks in euros. Unfortunately that is not the case. The place you purchase euro traveler’s checks from – your bank, an online company or AAA – will not give you a good exchange rate. After all they must make a profit on what they are selling. Very few – if any – establishments in Ireland will actually accept euro traveler’s checks. In the end you will be frustrated because you will have to go through exactly the same transaction as for regular traveler’s checks in your home currency.
4. Cards Accepted in Ireland: The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard followed by American Express. Very few places take Diners Club. Discover is not accepted. Lighten your wallet and leave store credit cards and those not used in Ireland at home. If you lose your cards there will be less to deal with. Be sure to have the non toll-free phone numbers for each card you bring in case you need to report a lost or stolen card. ATM and debit cards should have Plus or Cirrus noted on the back. You will need a 4-digit PIN.
Chip and Pin. Many European countries including Ireland have gone to a credit card system called “chip and pin”. European credit cards are implanted with a microchip. When using such a card in Ireland, the user swipes it and then enters their PIN (personal identification number). Don’t worry if you have a regular credit card issued in the USA. Instead of using a PIN you will hand the cashier your card, they will swipe it and you will sign a receipt. When paying for petrol (gas) you will have to go in to pay with your credit card instead of paying at the pump.
5. Best Exchange Rates. Use credit cards, debit cards and ATMs for the best exchange rates in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Check rates.
6. Ireland ATMs. Banks in Ireland do not charge to get money out of their ATMs. However, ATMs at stores, shops and sightseeing venues might do so. Some of the smaller towns in Ireland don’t have ATMs. You will need a 4-digit PIN to use an Irish ATM. The various banks in Ireland have online ATM finders and some have apps you can download. Follow the links below for banks in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland:
- Bank of Ireland
- Allied Irish Bank
- Ulster Bank
- MasterCard ATM Locator
- Visa Card ATM Locator
- Exchange Rate Info
7. Go Shopping for a Credit Card and ATM Card. If you have time before your trip, shopping around for a credit card can save you money. Most credit cards charge a 1% conversion fee but you still get their excellent low exchange rates. However in recent years credit companies have instituted a foreign transaction fee or international surcharge of 3% and up for using a credit card outside the country of origin. Call yours in advance to check on this issue. If your card has extra fees it will be worthwhile getting another that does not charge such fees or has lower fees. Currently Capital One does not charge those fees. Sometimes cards issued by credit unions have lower fees.
Bank ATM cards also carry fees, which can add up quickly. Out of network fees, per transaction fees, international surcharges and more can apply. Check with your bank in advance and consider shopping around for another account that is more favorable. Credit unions often have much lower fees. You may want to temporarily increase the per day cash limit on your transactions for your travel dates.
8. Notify Your Credit Card Company and Bank in Advance: When you decide which cards you are taking on your trip, call each company to inform them of your travel dates and where you will be traveling. Otherwise they may flag your account for suspicious activity and freeze your account.
9. Dynamic Currency Conversion or DCC. In Ireland before handing over your credit card for purchases instruct the clerk to charge in either euros (Republic of Ireland) or pounds sterling (Northern Ireland). Do not let them charge your card in dollars or your home currency! If they do the company, shop, car rental or restaurant you are dealing with will get a cut for themselves at your expense. The fee is often 3% or more plus an unfavorable exchange rate. They may tell you they are doing you a favor but in fact they are price gouging. Read the receipt before signing. If you see the transaction in dollars or your home currency, make them void the transaction and run it again. Keep all your receipts and paperwork.
10. Value Added Tax. Get money back on VAT. Over 17% Value Added Tax is included in most of your purchases in Ireland. Though you cannot get a refund on things you consume like food, drink, lodgings, car rentals, gasoline, etc. those who live outside the EU are entitled to a refund on gifts they purchase. As you shop collect your refund forms and keep them all together. Fill them out before leaving Ireland and turn them in at the airport. Your refund will be given to you in cash, credited to your credit card or sent to you as a check, depending on which company was involved. There is a 2 – 3% fee charged for refund processing.
© 2011 Michele Erdvig
“Ireland Travel Expert”
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