Banking and Money in Ireland
The local currency in Ireland is the Euro. Your dollar (USD) currently buys a bit less than one Euro (EUR). Check the exchange rate so you can get a sense for your anticipated cost of living as you look into various on-site expenses at xe.com – USD to EUR.
We recommend contacting your bank to make sure they know you are going abroad. You should tell them the dates you will be abroad as well as which country or countries you will be traveling to. This will be important because they may mark your transactions as fraudulent and cut off your access to your bank.
Cash Is Still in Use in Ireland
Euros (symbolized by € or EUR) are issued in €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, and €5 notes, and the coins are issued in €2, €1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, and 1c denominations. The Euro is also used throughout most of Europe, so you can easily travel from country-to-country with at least enough to get around upon arriving. And, while cards are commonly used at larger establishments, cash is still king at local businesses, so you’ll almost always need some on hand. You typically cannot use debit or credit cards to purchase coffee or a snack, so we always recommend that you carry around about 20 euros.
So you can hit the ground running, you might consider ordering Euros ahead of time from your bank. About 150-200 Euros can get you started when you land and in case of emergencies. Then take out cash as you need it. We do not recommend bringing travelers checks or bringing a large sum of US dollars to exchange to Euros while you are there.
Tip: If you want to get cash at the best possible rate, why not pay for something like a group dinner on your card and have everyone give you their part in cash? Assuming you can’t always get away with that strategy before someone else catches on, here are some more insights into withdrawing and using cash in Ireland.
ATMs in Ireland
Due to commissions and less-than-favorable exchange rates, exchanging dollars for Euros in Ireland doesn’t usually provide the best overall rate. Instead, we recommend ATMs. While you will almost inevitably incur fees for every ATM withdrawal, it’s probably the least of the evils of foreign transaction fees.
Here are several things to keep in mind:
- Most US banks charge transaction fees for international ATM withdrawals. Normally, transaction fees are around 2-3% of the amount withdrawn and there may also be set fees of several Euros for using ATMs not affiliated with your bank.
- Take note of any withdrawal limits associated with your card. Most US banks set limits on the amount of cash you are able to withdraw in any given day (i.e. 300 Euros per day limit). If you have trouble accessing the funds in your account, it may be that you’ve exceeded your withdrawal limit.
- The ATM card you use in Ireland must be associated with a checking or money market account. Cards linked to a savings account may not work.
- Verify that your password is a four digit number. There may not be letters on ATM keypads in Ireland, so your password must be expressed in numbers, not letters. Students have had trouble using cards when the password contained more than four digits.
- Should you have trouble finding a machine that works with your card, check with your home financial institution, as they should be able to give you the location of a machine that functions on your network.
- You may be able to use a credit card (rather than an ATM card) to obtain cash advances from ATMs. Interest rates on cash advances, however, normally begin to accrue from the date on which the money is withdrawn. As such, credit card cash advances can be very expensive and should only be used as a last resort
- As in the United States, be cautious when using ATMs in Ireland. Try to use machines that are in well-lit, familiar locations. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when entering your PIN or withdrawing cash. Once you finish your transaction, put your money and your card in a safe place immediately. Remember to AVOID ATMs that are not attached to a bank!! If your ATM card gets stuck in one of these machines, you will not be able to walk into the bank and request your card back!
- Many ATMs in Ireland are owned by the major banks (eg: Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, Ulster Bank, etc) and only accept debit/credit cards that have the Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard, or American Express symbol on the back of the card.
- Also, don’t be too confused if you see a sign for a “BankLink” as that is another name for an ATM.
How to Wire Money in an Emergency
If your parents need to send you money in an emergency, the best option is an international wire transfer via Moneygram or Western Union. General information including FAQs on performing international wire transfers can be found at their websites.
Using Your Credit or Debit Card in Ireland
Many purchases in Ireland are easily made with cards. Most places you go — restaurants, cafés, tourist attractions — will accept cards. However, some small merchants and vendors take only cash.
BEWARE OF FEES!
Make sure to ask your bank about their international transaction fees as they may charge you anywhere from $5.00 to $7.00 or a certain percentage per transaction, and that adds up! Know before you go and start blindly swiping your card – you could spend as much in fees as certain small products or services themselves… You may want to look into credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees if you qualify and can justify any other annual expenses.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT USING YOUR CARD ABROAD
Check with your bank to make sure you can use your card overseas, and to inform them that you will be living in Ireland. Give them your dates, and all the countries you anticipate traveling to. If your bank is a large, nationwide chain, you can often submit this information through the bank’s website. It is not uncommon to be cut off from your bank account after using your card abroad, even after giving them forewarning. If this happens, don’t panic! Banks do this to protect their clients, and we should be grateful! If this happens to you, you just need to contact your bank to assure them that you are in possession of your card and that you need to have access to your account while you are abroad. If you have a shared account with a family member and their name is also on the account, sometimes it’s helpful to ask them to call the bank for you considering the time difference between countries.
It is a good idea to have both options available – an ATM card and a credit card – just in case of an emergency.
While tipping is not as common in Ireland and Europe as it is in the United States, it is still expected in some scenarios.
- Hotels and Lodging: If you are staying in a hotel and you have a porter, tip them €1 – €2 per bag, if it is brought to your room. Generally, you would not need to tip over €5. For housekeeping services, tip €1 – €2 per night.
- Restaurants: Generally, you should tip 10-15% of your bill, based on the quality of service, as you would in the United States; unless the “service charge” is already added to your bill.
- Bars: Tipping is generally not required in bars, and is not a common practice.
- Tour Guides: If you take a private tour, you should tip your tour guide about 10% of the tour cost. If you are in a group, and the tip is not already included, consider chipping in €1 – €2 individually.
- Taxis: Tipping is not required of taxi drivers, but it is common for people to round up to the nearest euro of their cab fee. However, if the driver is especially helpful or informative, a tip is always appreciated.
- Hairdressers: It is a standard practice to tip your hairdresser 10% of the final bill, depending on service.