LivingTravelPaying for things in Ireland: cash or plastic?

Paying for things in Ireland: cash or plastic?

Unless you’re on an all-inclusive cruise, chances are you’ll have to pay for at least some goods and services in Ireland. Straight up, you might think, just take the plastic out. It is not that fast: cash is the most immediate form of payment and is accepted everywhere, in fact, cash is preferred in several cases, while credit cards and traveler’s checks should be considered an alternative to cash.

There are some unexpected pitfalls to relying on cash when visiting Ireland, as you may have to deal with two different currencies – the Republic is part of the Eurozone, while Northern Ireland uses British Pounds. The good news is that, in border regions, both currencies tend to be accepted, but this should never be taken for granted.

In general, using cash or plastic in Ireland shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s always important to brush up on your knowledge of local money and the methods of monetary transaction available when traveling abroad. A little preparation will save you from having to pay over the odds or running into a tough situation where you can’t pay at all.

Euros and cents

Here are the most important facts you need to know about the euro used in the Republic of Ireland.

One Euro (€) has 100 Cent (c) and the coins are available in denominations of 1 c, 2 c, 5 c (all copper), 10 c, 20 c, 50 c (all gold), € 1 and € 2 (silver with gold). While the design of the side bearing the numbers is standardized across the euro zone, the reverse is locally designed; In Ireland, you will find a design featuring an Irish harp.

Non-Irish euro coins are legal tender, but be aware that some machines will only accept non-Irish euro coins with a little persuasion (try, try again) or not. Spanish coins are notorious in the latter department and can be a headache at automatic tolls on motorways.

Banknotes are fully standardized throughout the euro zone and are most commonly available in denominations of € 5, € 10, € 20 and € 50. There are higher denominations (€ 100, € 200 and even € 500), but they are rare, and some merchants may refuse them. Improvements in the design and quality of the paper have resulted in two versions of the € 5, € 10 and € 20 notes, with the older ones still being accepted but in the process of being out of circulation.

Note that the cost of producing 1 and 2 cent coins exceeds their actual face value, which is why they are also taken out of circulation. In Ireland, a ’rounding system’ was introduced in 2015, whereby a transaction total will generally be rounded (up or down) to the nearest 5 cents. Therefore, a sum ending in 11 or 12 cents will be rounded to 10 cents, 13, 14, 16 and 17 cents will be rounded to 15 cents, 18 and 19 cents will be rounded to 20 cents. In the long run, it will not be better or worse than before.

Pounds and Pennies

Here are the most important facts you need to know about the pound used in Northern Ireland:

One pound sterling (£) has 100 pence (p) and the coins are available in denominations of 1p, 2p (all copper), 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p (all silver), £ 1 (gold ) and £ 2 (silver with gold). 50 c and £ 1 coins may have commemorative or local designs on the reverse.

Banknotes are commonly available in denominations of £ 5, £ 10 and £ 20. Higher denomination notes of £ 50 are available, but they are rare, and may be rejected by some dealers.

However, you should know that banknotes in the UK are issued by individual banks rather than a central authority, and you will find that each bank uses its own layout. In addition to notes issued by the Bank of England, you will find notes from the banks of Northern Ireland and the Bank of Ireland, plus you can also receive Scottish notes as exchange. They are all valid currency, but the different designs can be confusing. Additionally, Northern Bank is now part of Danske Bank, which issues British Pounds under the name of a Danish company.

All of this will only really get you in trouble if you have a lot of money left over when you get home. Notes not issued by the Bank of England can be difficult to change in your home country, so spend them first!

Rounding as described above is not the practice in Northern Ireland.

Cross-border purchases

Many stores in border counties are flexible with currency and you accept Irish foreign currency at your own (sometimes quite favorable) exchange rate. However, you will only receive changes in the local currency. The only other place where you will find some monetary flexibility is at the odd parking meter that will accept euros in Northern Ireland.

The plastic is fantastic

Credit cards are widely accepted everywhere in Ireland, with Visa and Mastercard being the most popular. Acceptance of American Express and Diners cards is decidedly lower and JCB cards are almost unknown. As in the US, there may also be a minimum purchase clause in many stores (no credit card transactions below € 10 or even £ 20) and beware of the merchant charging you at your own currency “for convenience.” Insist that you are billed in pounds sterling or euros when purchasing products, not dollars. By charging you in his own currency, the merchant uses his own exchange rate, which will be very convenient for him and will most likely let him pay more.

Debit cards are also widely accepted, but you should also check with your card provider for information on fees before you travel. In Ireland, the ‘cash back’ function when making purchases is possible in some stores. Most ATMs (colloquially called “Hole in the Wall” or simply ATMs) will also accept credit cards to withdraw cash, but first check the fees for cash advances and foreign transactions with your credit card company. Credit card rubbing is on the decline, but it’s still a risk. So beware of suspicious-looking ATM gadgets.

Note: In Northern Ireland, credit cards using the »chip and PIN» system are only accepted in stores. In the Republic, things are also going that way.

Personal and traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks used to be a safe and convenient alternative to cash and credit cards, but even historically they were not accepted outside of major tourist centers. These days, they are definitely facing extinction. Most merchants will no longer accept them and you will even have trouble exchanging them at most banks.

Personal checks, in general, are not accepted at all. Especially not those from non-Irish banks.

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