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Posted by on Apr 25, 2011 in 1reland, Budgeting, Q&A | 13 comments

Q & A: Will My Debit and Credit Cards Work in Ireland?

credit cardsWhen 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, I still recommend contacting your financial institution to confirm AND to find out if they charge foreign transaction fees.

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 its 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.

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13 Comments

  1. I am so happy someone asked about this. I was stuck in Glasgow Scotland for 2 days because I forgot my bank card at home in California & had brought a Visa card that didn’t have a pin number set yet. My Husband, bless his heart, spent $45.00 USD to have my bank card overnighted to me; which in UK time is actually 2 days. My last day in Glasgow was spent on the hop on hop off bus, snapping pictures like crazy of all the prominent sites.
    I diffinitely have to tour Glasgow again. This time with my bank card in hand… lesson learned….

  2. very smart to answer this. our 1st B&B we stayed in (dubhlinn house, doolin) asked for cash, and told us where the local ATM was (at the cliffs of moher visitor centre!)…we found that most small businesses preferred cash – not a hardship.

  3. All so it’s good it you know approximately when your bank updates their system. Ours typically updates around 3 am, which just happened to be about the time we landed in Dublin and couldn’t use the ATM at the airport. And make sure you notify your bank of the country you are traveling in along with any credit cards you may be using.

  4. We have had retail shop clerks tell us that they can’t run our card, because it isn’t “chip and pin,” but not often – only a few times. Fortunately, we were always able to find someone who could run our card when we wanted to use one. :)

    We also have to warn people not to let the shops charge in U.S. dollars. Just let them charge in Euro or Sterling Pound (depending upon where in Ireland you are, of course). Otherwise, you’ll probably get a really poor exchange rate and a bunch of crappy fees!

    Great information. Good to reinforce this information occasionally!

  5. Be weary of paying cash in Ireland? some (not all) ask for cash to avoid not only paying bank charges but tax themselves as well, as cash transactions are not necessarily recorded? Which means by paying cash you are supporting the black economy which is hardly fair on the rest of those institutions that are law abiding and helping to get this country back on its feet.

  6. Asking for cash is NOT a way of fiddling the country (although God knows the county is screwing us). It is a way of avoiding the extra 5% that doesn’t come back from the credit card companies and Banks. So for €100 spent on a card the provider of the goods gets €95 that can equate to over €50 per day for a typical Guest house, or the wages for Two possibly Three staff members. Half that for the typical struggling B&B also having to compete with the rates charged by the Zomie Hotels.

    So paying cash is doing more to keep one person employed by a B&B than the Government is doing for our tourist industry.

    We as a Nation are extremely grateful for the support that Cash paying customers are providing to our minimum wage employees. (I am anyway).

  7. When it comes to businesses like B&Bs, small shops, and other businesses tourists frequent, it’s definitely the monthly and per transaction credit card fees that move them away from accepting cards. They simply don’t have the volume of sales to make credit card sales economical for them.

    Rather than using cash sales as a measure for “black economy” tactics, be wary of businesses that avoid giving customers receipts. You should get a receipt for every transaction… be it for goods or services.

  8. I prefer using cash in Ireland, and, as Corey says above, just getting receipts. I am usually in rural areas with small businesses anyway, and this saves both the merchants and me the bank fees. I find credit cards useful to guarantee a reservation at a lodging, but request to pay in cash when I arrive, and large place or small, Republic or North, have never had a problem with this.

    It might not apply to many travelers, but I’d mention that if you are going to rural areas you may find out that while atms are indeed widespread, they are not in every small town.

  9. Has anyone used a TravelEx card? I’ve been told that it works a lot like a debit card and widely accepted because it is a “chip and pin” card. After reading these posts, I’m questioning if it’s necessary to get a TravelEx card since it seems MasterCard/Visa debit cards are so easy to use in Ireland.

    Cash is king, but I thought it would be helpful to have a backup card if needed.

    • The travelex card is a chip and pin card. However, be aware of the hidden fees. Travelex makes their money up front by giving you a poor exchange rate. For instance, the Euro is now .74 to the dollar. Travelex gives you an exchange rate of .69. Therefore, you are paying 5% for convienience versus the 1 -3% the bank will charge for a foreign transactio. Sadly and ironically, it is actually better to get your money converted at your home bank and just carry the cash.

  10. A caution. Don’t take American Express Travelers checks to Ireland. I got them in Euros before I left home- not an easy process so we knew what we were paying at a time when rates were in daily flux. We paid our conversion fees upfront. We cashed then in banks and they wanted to charge us a hefty fee. I vowed never again.
    Always let your bank know when you’re traveling these days to avoid issues. We had great success with the ATMs in Ireland.

  11. My grandaughter is going to Ireland, so can she use her “normal” debit card from USA or does she need a “special” debit card for going out of the country?????????????

    • If your granddaughter has a standard debit card with a 4 digit PIN, it should work, but she should check with her bank to confirm.

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  1. Curiosidade: O que significa cada número do cartão de crédito? | Anuidade Zero - […]  (Fonte da imagem: Reprodução/Irish Fireside) […]

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