Q & A: Will My Debit and Credit Cards Work in Ireland?
When visitors start getting to the nuts and bolts of their Ireland travel, the topic of money and credit cards comes up early. A Facebook chat with veteran Ireland traveler Judy Arnold reminded me it was time to revisit the most popular “newbie” questions about money.
Will my US debit card work in Ireland?
YES, your debit (ATM) card will work in cash dispensing machines in Ireland.
However, there’s a catch. You must notify your bank before you travel. It’s all part of your financial institution’s efforts to protect you from fraud. If you don’t call ahead, your transactions in Ireland may be flagged as “suspicious activity.”
The situation can be remedied with a simple phone call, but since the 1-800 number you’d normally call won’t likely work from Ireland, it might take some sleuthing to find right number and reactivate your card.
My credit card is not “Chip and Pin.” Will it work in Ireland?
Let’s start by explaining what this means. Most cards in North America use magnetic strips to communicate with devices; we’ll call it “Swipe and Sign” because the merchant swipes the card and the customer signs the receipt. Ireland and the UK have switched to a more secure system called Chip and Pin. Not surprisingly, it gets it’s name from the microchip implanted in the card and the personal identification number (PIN) required to authorize a transaction.
In most cases, Irish merchants can accept cards with either magnetic strips or Chip and Pin. In fact, their merchant contracts with Visa and Mastercard likely require it.
That said, you might encounter a sales clerk who tells you they no longer accept non-Chip and Pin cards (that’s only true for Irish and UK citizens). Before you lecture them on the “system” or tell them “the Irish Fireside says…” Simply ask if their manager could help suggest a solution. In most cases, the clerk simply hasn’t been trained on how to run your type of card.
In my travels, only once was I unable to use my card. The apologetic clerk set aside my purchases while I crossed the street to get cash out of an ATM. She simply couldn’t figure out how to run my card, and she wasn’t able to reach her manager by phone.
Should I use cards, cash, or travelers checks in Ireland?
Most visitors will benefit from using their debit and credit cards in Ireland. MasterCard or Visa cards are accepted throughout Ireland and provide a competitive exchange rate on purchases; American Express and Diners Club are accepted at a limited number of places; and Discover Card is rarely accepted. Customers should be aware that credit card purchases may be subject to an International Service Fee. This fee is usually 1%, but customers should check with their bank (some banks do not charge this fee).
It’s useful to have euros for basic purchases, tips, and to accommodate B&Bs, small pubs, restaurants, or shops that might not take cards. It’s usually easiest to carry your home currency in cash or travelers checks and exchange it at banks as you need it.