Cash Worldwide: Spending in the Republic of Ireland

The third edition of CMS Analytics’ Cash Worldwide finds Portfolio Analyst, Mike Caris, travelling through Ireland’s bustling capital, Dublin, before residing in rural County Carlow on a trip that necessitated cash.

Dublin. The land of ‘the black stuff’, Jameson’s and all things grand. Ireland’s capital has a diverse cultural landscape, often described as Europe’s technology hub with clusters of modern buildings concentrated around Dublin Port. The meandering River Liffey will lead you to the cobbled streets of the Temple Bar district where you will be greeted with more musicology than technology (and a dram of mixology), and echoes of The Pogues from every direction. While the heavy, yet reassuring accent is not for rookies, the means of payment are accommodating, offering both cash and alternatives.

Armed with a minimalist card holder and some residual change left over from my trip to Nice earlier in the year, I wandered a short distance into the ‘must-go’ Riverside neighbourhood, Temple Bar.  The rows of bustling taverns are extremely welcoming to a first-time tourist, each providing authentic live music and locally-produced stout. Upon entry, you are typically greeted by the staff, with a couple of nods from the friendly locals.

In true Irish spirit, I walked into the Temple Bar Inn and ordered a pint of ‘the black stuff’. Naturally, I presented my Revolut card, which had been topped up with enough sterling to last the trip. However, to my surprise, it took just as long for the bartender to find the card machine as it did to delicately pour the Guinness.

Everywhere I visited on my short 24-hour trip to Dublin told the same story – “we accept card, but give me a minute while the card machine becomes available”. I wrongly expected contactless card machines to be universally available. Indeed, I had read that 78% of the population managed their money or made payments using a smartphone, with many adapting to new technologies such as FitBit Pay.

As I left Dublin to visit relatives in Ireland’s second smallest county, Carlow, I naïvely held on to my pre-paid card. The region is surrounded by untouched farmland, country pubs and a handful of Western fast-food outlets. The second half of my trip, therefore, involved much-needed country air, more of ‘the black stuff’ and a realisation that rural Ireland wasn’t nearly as advanced as the capital.

After walking half a mile from my family’s small farm to the local pub, I was abruptly informed that they couldn’t obtain a phone signal, never mind take payment from my card, phone or smartwatch. Cash only.

Defeated, I walked back to the farm and got a lift into town to withdraw some cash. I quickly found an ATM and inserted my card. With a €200 free withdrawal limit through my pre-paid card provider, I anticipated favourable rates and no additional fees. With two days left of the trip, I thought €50 would suffice, assuming the machine to charge me no more than £46 with the current declining spot rate. Much to my surprise, the machine presented me with a total £54.95, including a €5 overseas withdrawal fee.

Relying solely on a cash alternative failed to satisfy my travel needs and had cost me a lot more than I had expected. This trip reminded me that cash is still relevant and remains a ‘travel essential’, even when travel adapters aren’t required.

Final Thoughts

Mainland Europe is not as cash-free as the media entails. Despite increasing accessibility of cash alternatives when travelling, such as Revolut, Monzo and even some UK current accounts, travelling without the local currency to hand is a risky move. While cards are widely received in tourist destinations, there is no guarantee you will be met with the same acceptance when you step off the beaten path. Failing to purchase foreign currency before you travel can prove to be a costly mistake, especially with increasing spot rate volatility due to ongoing Brexit negotiations. According to FairFX, travelling to Europe this Christmas may be up to 30% more expensive than 2017 – an excuse to lock in exchange rates and minimise the risk of fees if you ever needed one. Right now, consumers cannot solely rely on cash-free methods of payment and should remember the value of their paper predecessor.  I can comfortably say I won’t be making the same mistake again; cash will be taken away with me on my next trip.

Payment Scale

Republic of Ireland’s Preferred Payment Choice

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