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Bring lots of cash!

I read Rick's book about Ireland through and through before leaving on our trip.
Rick mentioned to bring cash and bring smaller bills rather $100.00 etc. Rick said that credit cards
and small bills would be fine. As we started to shop in Ireland, we were SO surprised how many businesses
did not want to take credit cards!! We went through our cash very fast! We used our card whenever we were given a chance. So, just beware that many small restaurants and businesses want to deal only in cash.

Posted by
9363 posts

Using up your cash isn't a problem if you take a debit card or two with you. You can always stop at an ATM if you run low.

Posted by
2788 posts

Your experience with places in Ireland not wanting to accept credit cards is quite common throughout Europe in the 13 trips we have taken there. Many small business, B&Bs, and restaurants do not take CCs. We prefer to pay cash, gotten at ATMs using a debit card tied to a checking account at a local credit union, whenever we can and save the CCs for major purchases, like a rug in Turkey, or when we end up in a hotel. You might want to read the article on "CCs, cash, etc." found along the right had border of RS home page.

Posted by
21243 posts

In all of our travels we use cash about 95% of the time. The exception will be the hotel. If we don't get a discount for cash then we do use the credit card. And the last day or two we will use the credit card a bit more as we manage our local cash so that we return with a least a 100 in local currency for the next trip.

Too bad, dsdelman, you didn't spend some time on this site prior to your trip. You would have read a lot about Cash is King in Europe and would have been better prepared for cash demands. And don't worry about bring a lot of cash. Just bring a debit card and the cash will flow.

Posted by
14 posts

This is a little off topic but the general public has no idea how much it cost to use their credit and debit cards. Both in Europe and the U.S. I own a small business and it cost the public billions and billions a year to pay for credit and debit card processing.

Posted by
11450 posts

We do mostly as Frank does.. we use our credit card mostly only for hotel ( unless a discount is offered for cash, which some hotels do ) and splurge meals or train tickets. We use cash 95% of the time. We actually prefer to use cash anyways.. I would feel silly trying to use a credit card for an ice cream cone myself.. or on a 5 euro souvenir.

We do not however BRING a lot of cash.. maybe 100 euros from home.. we withdraw cash from local ATMS as we go.

Posted by
2624 posts

Since my bank charges an ATM fee plus a 3% foreign exchange fee, I try to pay with a Visa CC with no FX fee whenever possible. Having my pocket picked once on a trip (only got $2 US + some plastic that was useless within 25 minutes) I try not to carry a lot of cash. It has been a rarity that I went to a resto that accepted no cards and I have never been discouraged from using one. I've never had a problem at hotels. Not being a shopper, I can't comment on making other purchases and bargaining for cash prices.

Posted by
14 posts

I was referring to the cost paid by the business to process your card. Of course the business must pass that cost on to you in the form of higher prices. Like I said, most people have no idea how much their CC cost them.

Posted by
21243 posts

phillips, that is a rant that makes no sense (cents?) There is a cost for doing business regardless of the payment method. There is no free lunch. In days before wide spread credit cards, it was paper checks. I can remember my parents writings checks all the time to pay for thing. There was a tremendous cost associated with processing paper checks and the risk to the vendor was enormous. There is even a cost associated with handling paper money and high risk. So what is your alternative to a credit card?

Posted by
12584 posts

It's not unusual for smaller hotels and B&Bs to only accept cash (we've stayed in one), and we've run into cafes that either didn't or claimed that their readers were out of order. Yep, cash is king and not difficult to manage as long as you have an ATM card.

Cash (or cards) won't be picked if kept where pick-y fingers can't get to it :O)

Posted by
14 posts

"phillips, that is a rant that makes no sense (cents?) There is a cost for doing business regardless of the payment method."

Sorry if it sounded like a rant. It cost the retailer about 5 percent more to accept a cc as payment vs cash or check. We don't know what you are going to pay with so we have to increase the price by 5 percent. In my business the cost of processing cc's is the biggest expense I have besides labor. It cost more than all my utilities, insurance, everything combined and I pass that cost on to you.

Posted by
1803 posts

Also keep in mind in many countries most of the economy is underground or "off the books," so they don't want to create pesky paper trails like credit card receipts. With cash you can make the numbers look however you like.

But most "name brand" places realize they must offer cards for the convenience of their guests. Taxis, not so much so beware.

Posted by
14 posts

This will be my last post on this subject because like I said it is off topic. If there is no added cost to accepting cc over other forms of payment why do businesses (including Rick Steves Tours) offer a discount to people who pay with cash/checks? I'm not saying people should not use cc, heck I use them every day, I'm just saying that using them come at a high price and most people have no idea how high that price is.

Posted by
21243 posts

Simple question then - if all of your cc receipts were checks, what would it cost to process those checks? Who eats the bad check? If all of the cc receipts were cash, how much would it cost to process the cash? And secure the cash? And counterfeit bills? The cost on CC is very clear but what is the cost if you don't? These is a cost to handling any financial payment.

Posted by
8954 posts

Cash ain't free. You have to hire and pay appropriately responsible people to handle it. It's subject to loss and theft. If the business is high-volume you have to hire an armored car company to collect, transport, count, and deposit the cash. When CCs are used a larger portion goes to the tax man benefiting society (in theory).

I don't doubt that CCs are a hardship to small businesses, but in the grand scheme of things they save larger retailers a lot of labor costs. Where I work, back in the 80s when cash and checks were king we had a whole team of about ten people who did nothing but process cash, and checks everyday. Now that debit and credit cards have taken over that's down to one single person. Do the math....

Posted by
2487 posts

»Cash is King in Europe«
Only using an - American - credit card gives a distorted view. Credit cards are, as has been pointed out above, expensive for the business. Bank cards (debet cards) are for that reason much more used. Those cost, at least here in the Netherlands, the retailer just a few cents per transaction.
And there are huge differences between countries. Germany is much more cash-oriented than, for example, the Netherlands. In Poland even at the smallest transaction you're asked »cash or card«?
Personally on travels I only use a credit card for the hotel bill. The rest is cash, for which the ATM was invented.

Posted by
18021 posts

I know most of the places I've stayed at in Germany have only taken cash, and I've saved hundreds of euro by staying in places that don't take cards.

Posted by
6570 posts

Kind'a makes you think they're doing some off book transactions--and are avoiding VAT taxes too.
Only reason the VAT exists is because citizens of many European countries are notorious for being tax frauds.

Posted by
3222 posts

But back to the OP, for most of Europe credit cards are widely excepted same as US, it's Germany, Austria, and apparent Ireland that are unique.

Posted by
18021 posts

"Kind'a makes you think they're doing some off book transactions"

David, you have an abysmal (and insulting) understanding of the German culture. They (or at least most of them) are not doing off-book transactions, they just don't want to give money (often 4% or more) to the credit card companies. Most Germans pay in cash - that's their culture - so small businesses aren't going to bother with the few outlyers that want to use credit cards. They aren't going to give up most of their profit to the credit card companies, just like they aren't going to give up a 15% commission to a booking website. Understanding the culture can save you a lot of money. It's more like the United States that I remember in the fifties.

Posted by
1970 posts

Back to the original point: you don't need to "bring lots of cash" -just enough to handle incidental expenses upon arrival, ie taxi, metro, meals, etc. Then hit an ATM the first day to stock up on Euros for daily "walking around money"...for all of the reasons previously cited. Use the CC's only for major expenses, and save yourself a ton of money by dealing mostly in cash...just like the locals do.
The system in Europe is neither better nor worse - just different. One of the reasons we travel in the first place, right?