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05 Money Matters, Apple Custard Pie and Molly Malone

April 9, 2006

Episode Guide – Podcast #05 Money Matters, Apple Custard Pie and Molly Malone

In this episode we answer your questions about managing your money while traveling Ireland with tips that will allow you make intelligent decisions as you travel. We also feature Mary Ryan’s Apple Custard Pie and Liam sings Molly Malone. CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON below to listen.

Our Podcasts are availble on iTunes

Show Notes

  • Currency: Republic of Ireland – euros, Northern Ireland – pounds sterling
  • Exchange Rates
  • Converting Cash
  • Using Traveler’s Checks
  • Using Credit Cards: Debit Cards and PIN, Dynamic Currency Exchange, International Service Charge, Informing Your Credit Card Company of International Travel
  • The Knockahopple Irish Fireside Cookbook: Apple Custard Pie
  • Value Added Tax
  • Tax Back
  • How Much Money Should You Take?
  • Common Expenses
  • Irish Fireside Song: Molly Malone

Money Tips in Ireland Overview


The Republic of Ireland uses the euro. This is the same currency used in several western European countries. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland uses pounds sterling, also known as British pounds, which is the currency of Great Britain. If you travel between the Republic and Northern Ireland, you will need to use the local currency.

Current exchange rates:

The most common ways for tourists to pay for things are cash, credit or debit cards and traveler’s checks.

Converting Cash

For cash purchases, you will need to convert your dollars into the local currency. This can be done at many tourist offices, some hotels and at Bureau de Change locations throughout Ireland. However, you will usually get the best rate by going to an Irish bank.

Most banks are open from 9:30 or 10 o’clock in the morning to 4 or 5pm Monday through Friday, and the practice of closing between 1 and 2pm for lunch has almost disappeared. Be aware that there are several bank holidays throughout the year. These long weekends are popular vacation times for the Irish and banks will be closed.

Note that most banks will not accept $100 bills, so you will need to carry smaller denominations.

Another tip, although the rates at Bureau de Change locations might be slightly higher than banks, they are often open later and have weekend hours, so they can be a convenient alternative.

Another option is purchasing euros at your home bank before you leave. Some banks will need advanced notice of up to a week to assure they have the currency available. This can be a good option if you would like to have euros handy when you arrive.

Using Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks are a viable alternative to carrying large amounts of cash in Ireland. In general, it is recommended to get your traveler’s checks in US dollars or whatever your home currency may be. When you get to Ireland, you can convert the travelers checks anywhere you can convert cash. The only difference is that you will need to show photo ID. Realize that most merchants, such as stores and B&Bs, do not accept traveler’s checks, so you will need to convert them into the local currency first.

According to the guidebook Lonely Planet Ireland, in Northern Ireland, getting your traveler’s checks in pounds sterling can be an advantage because they can be cashed in for a feeless and commission-free exchange. I haven’t used this option, but I thought I’d pass it along.

Because there is a lower chance of counterfeiting and fraud with traveler’s checks than US dollars, banks will welcome traveler’s checks in any denomination.

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are the most convenient and usually the most cost effective method of paying for things. MasterCard and Visa are accepted throughout the country, even at small stores and shops, so using these cards is fast and convenient. Meanwhile, American Express is less common, Diners Club even less so, and Discover Cards virtually not at all.

Like at home, your debit cards can be used as a credit card and at Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) that allow you to withdraw cash. Another name for an ATM in Ireland is a Cash Point.

To use an ATM, you will need to know your 4-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). If you have a three, five or six digit PIN you’ll need to check with your bank to find out if it will work in Ireland. Unlike most North American ATMs, the keypads usually only have numbers on them (no letters), so if you rely on the letters to remember your PIN, you will want to rememorize it with just numbers.

Fraud Protection

The European Union is going to great lengths to curb credit card fraud, so you may be asked to show photo ID when you use your card. Irish banks have also switched over to the chip and PIN system, which means all cards issued in Ireland have a computer chip embedded in them. This should have no impact on your ability to use your traditional magnetic strip card.

Dynamic Currency Exchange

Anyone using their credit card in Ireland, should be aware of is the dynamic currency exchange scheme. This “service” allows vendors to bill you in your home currency. The one advantage is you get to see the amount of your purchase in a currency in which you are familiar, but the rate of exchange can cost as much as 4% higher than if they billed you in euros or pounds.

To avoid this “service” and its hidden costs, all of your totals should appear in the currency of the country you are visiting. No dollar signs or even any mention of dollars should appear on the slip. If you see dollars, ask them to run it through in euros (or pounds). They may tell you that the “machine does it automatically” or that “they can’t change the setting” or even that it’s “for your convenience.”

Most vendors will rerun it without a challenge, but if they don’t, you must be assertive and ask to talk to a manager. If your efforts fail, all is not lost, you should sign the slip “Local currency not accepted/offered and when you get home, contact your credit card company. They will adjust the charges.

The dynamic currency exchange is most commonly experienced in high tourist areas and the costs can be very high when applied to big ticket items or to accommodation and car rental costs.

The Washington Post recently had a very good article about the topic. Read it here

International Service Charge

Another credit card fee you might not know about is the International Service Charge instituted by many cards. Most cards are charging a fee between 1 and 3 percent on all purchases made in a foreign currency. This is in addition to the 1 percent fee that is standard with MasterCard, Visa and other cards. Credit card companies are quick to point out that you could easily save 1 to 5 percent on each purchase because of the better exchange rate offered by their card.

There are a few cards that have chosen not to institute the fee. Last time we checked, Capital One was not charging the fee, but you will need to look specifically at your cardholder agreement to be sure.

Our last note is very important. Be sure to notify your credit card company before you leave on any international trip. Your credit card company may identify your purchases in Ireland as “unusual activity” and may deactivate your card to prevent fraudulent charges. This feature is for your protection, but can be devastating if you are stuck overseas without the credit card you were relying on.

Value Added Tax

The Value Added Tax or VAT, which is applied to all purchases other than children’s clothing and books, adds 12-20% to your purchase. Fortunately, if you are a visiotr from a non-European Union country, you can get some of that tax back.

You won’t get it back for accommodations, food or petrol, but purchases such as clothing and gifts are available to you tax free. Here’s what you need to do:

Ask merchants for tax back forms as they are ringing you up. The merchant will fill out a portion of the form and you will fill out the rest. Before you depart Ireland, you will turn in your tax back forms at the airport. You will either be refunded in cash, or the VAT amount will be excluded from purchases made with a credit card.

If you are running late at the airport, you can ask a customs agent to stamp your tax back forms and you can mail it when you get home. Or you can have a notary public or police officer stamp the form at home, and you can mail it in. The stamp is required to make sure you took the goods out of the country. Anything left behind or consumed in Ireland is not eligible for tax back.

Stores that are set up for Tax Back usually display a sticker in their front window. Any store that has any amount of tourist traffic will have the forms available. However, stores in smaller towns or boutique shops may not. In this case, you can still get a tax refund. First, get a full receipt that displays the shop’s name, address and the amount of VAT paid. Before leaving Ireland, take your receipt to customs and have it stamped. Customs may require your items to be inspected to make sure they are leaving the country. Then send your stamped receipt back to the store where you made the purchase with a note that includes your name, address and request for a VAT refund. The store will send you a check for the VAT minus a small handling fee.

How Much Money Should You Take?

People often ask, how much money they should take. That’s a tough question.

If I were to make a general suggestion for a first time visitor, I’d probably suggest carrying a small amount of US dollars…just in case you need money at a US airport. It should be enough for food, a cab ride or any other things you might need if your flight is unexpectedly delayed.

Also carry a credit card or two that can handle the heavy lifting of your travels. Be sure you’ve checked on International Service Charges, know your credit limit, and have informed your credit card company that you will be using your card in Ireland.

I’d also include a debit card or traveler’s checks that will allow instant access to cash.

If you don’t have a debit card and plan to set one up, you’ll want to have it a month or two before your trip. This will allow you to get accustomed to using it before you are miles away from the customer service staff who can help you.

If you decide against a debit card, you’ll want to rely more heavily on traveler’s checks. I never recommend traveling with large amounts of cash, so traveler’s checks are a good alternative.

Standard Expenses

How much will things cost in Ireland? Again, that depends on your travel style, but here are some ranges.

  • Standard accommodations: $40 – $80 per person per night, but usually include breakfast.
  • Restaurant lunches: $10-15.
  • Dinners: $15-30.

That adds up to about $65-125 per person per day. If you simply can’t afford that, there are still hostels and grocery store meals, which, if you’re really tight, could cut those costs in half. If money isn’t a concern, Ireland also has a host of luxury options for travelers as well and costs could easily exceed $500 per person per day.

Other costs to consider:

  • Attractions: about $15 a day
  • Car rental: anywhere from $30 a day in low season to $65 a day in high season
  • Petrol (gasoline): about $15 a day
  • Any incidentals and souvenirs you purchase along the way

Some podcast music courtesy of

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