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Credit card vs cash

Will be going to Scotland in a few weeks. Was wondering if most restaurants/bars accept credit cards? Or is cash more acceptable?
What about attractions - such as the Edinburgh Castle or Place of Holyroodhouse?
Thanks for the help.

Posted by
1128 posts

The UK is basically cashless, although you can always run across the odd pub or small restaurant that doesn’t take cards, but they’re quite rare and they’ll have a sign. So, I’d mainly pay by card.

Keep in mind that Scotland has their own banknotes although English notes are accepted everywhere. Don’t leave Scotland with a bunch of Scottish notes since they can be inconvenient to spend the further south you go in England.

Posted by
1642 posts

Hey Linda,

Ooops, so sorry! I just realized your OP was for Scotland and Ireland. They came up in the new feed, and I thought they were duplicate! goes to clean reading glasses

Posted by
672 posts

Definitely both the castles you can use credit cards - both will let you buy tickets online as well.

In general yes for restaurants though like here in the US some small places might not. It's always good to have some local cash. An ATM is usually our first stop on any trip to cover smaller purchases.

Posted by
5188 posts

The UK in general is getting more and more cashless, I assume that it has made it's way to Scotland, certainly Edinburgh. Both of those sites you can tickets, or a pass ahead by card, so certainly the walk up window will take cards. Same with bars and restaurants, I suppose if you get way off the beaten path they may prefer cash, but not in the larger cities.

My strategy lately is to have 50 to 100 of the local currency on me, if they take a card I use that, if not, I am covered, but on just about any trip across the continent, I rarely have to dip into cash. (Except for German Restaurants)

Posted by
4680 posts

“The U.K. is basically cashless”. Sorry, I disagree. Lots of places take cash only, particularly coffee shops or news agents and many obviously take both cash and card.

I also disagree about Scottish banknotes, which are accepted everywhere in England, although retailers in England will prefer English notes. I have a Scottish friend who often spends her Scottish banknotes in London without any problems.

Tourist attractions will all take cards and cash.

Posted by
5544 posts

The time that I have needed cash most often is paying taxis. This is a UK comment and not Scotland specific. They tend to struggle with swipey cards. And no matter how many chips they put in our cards until it is chip and pin, it's not what they like. You will have no trouble with attractions. Bear in mind that if you tip at all--and a lot of times you won't--it's better to do it in cash. Unlike the US you cannot add a tip after the card has been run and approved.

And as a side note, I spent many Scottish notes in Cambridge this June without any odd glances at all.

Posted by
3131 posts

I’ve run across many establishments that only accept cash in the UK. Most recently (May) it was a Hotel in Aberystwyth and coffee shop in Porthmadog. While cards are accepted in most places, the UK is far from being cashless.

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks everyone for the good information.

Posted by
18728 posts

Just two hours ago I had a sandwich and Coke at a cafe in the extremely touristy English town of Whitby. A sign at the counter where one orders said the cafe was cash-only.

Posted by
92 posts

I have gotten cash out of ATMs during Scotland trips but had no reason to use cash. I don’t recall any instances, even in small remote villages, of seeing Cash Only. I’m sure those businesses exist, just like in USA or Canada. However, when we are in remote locales of Scotland, I do ask which option the store/restaurant prefers and have cash on hand just in case.

The one thing you should do before leaving home is make sure all cards, even credit cards, have chip and a PIN number. And ask banks about rates for using the card overseas. We’re headed back soon and were floored by the variation between bank rates (a big change since last visit). My international credit card doesn’t charge for use in EU any differently than USA but my husband’s American credit card was a staggering interest rate in EU & UK.

We generally have to use a PIN number for credit cards in UK or Europe.

Have a great time on your trip!

Added note: Just noticed in the Tips and Trips Reviews section, if you scroll down to Money Saving Tops, this same topic is discussed at length.

Good luck!

Posted by
5652 posts

I brought back some left over Scottish bank notes. Our next trip to the UK will be England. I hearing that the Scottish bank notes are likely to be rejected by English establishments.

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks again for the information. It is really appreciated!

Posted by
9608 posts

I spent most of May in Scotland. I got some Scottish banknotes out of the ATM. I had most of them when I entered England. No trouble spending them there.

Credit cards were accepted just about everywhere. I mostly used contactless. It's rare for a U.S. credit card to be chip and pin. Mostly chip and signature.

If your credit card issuer offers contactless cards, get one. It will make everything simpler.

Posted by
90 posts

A good tip above from Frank II, research obtaining a fee free contactless bank card, might be called tap pay/paywave in some countries.

Contactless use is extremely common in the uk for purchases under £30, very easy and convenient.

Full chip and pin is used for amounts over £30, no signature used, I believe American cards don't use this technology yet, so are used as chip and signature, keep a pen with you to sign as the retailer or check out person might not have one.

I believe American issued Amex/Capital One Venture/Wells Fargo issue contactless credit cards.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Linda,

I may as well throw in my tuppence. Although credit cards are widely accepted throughout Scotland, I prefer to carry enough cash with me for purchases in small retailers and restaurants, and also to pay the hosts of B&Bs. Visa/MC charges the retailer or B&B owner about 3% of the charges as a service fee, and I've found that most B&B owners, in particular, really appreciate being paid in cash. I've stayed at a few B&Bs where they actually add that 2 1/2 to 3 percent in to the total if you use a card.

If you use a credit card in Scotland (or any foreign country, for that matter), and you don't have a credit card which does not waive foreign transaction fees, you will end up paying about 3% over the charge for each transaction. This can really add up over a long holiday.

Also, if your home bank does not waive foreign ATM fees, you are going to pay a percentage or flat fee each time you use an ATM. If that's the case, and it's a flat fee, you'd want to take out as much as you feel comfortable carrying each time you withdraw money. Some banks waive the foreign ATM fee, but give you a limit on how many transactions you can make before they start charging. Best to check with your home bank before you head OS. Scottish banks do not charge for an ATM transaction, so your only charge would be from your home bank.

With the pound currently trading at $1.22, this is the perfect time to be heading to Scotland.

Best wishes for your holiday.

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1822 posts

My wife and I are planning our first trip to Scotland for next year and so I've been reading the Scotland page with interest. I can't offer advice but I was on the Rabbies Tours website yesterday regarding their overnight tour to the isle of Mull. It mentioned to expect to pay for B and B's and some hotels with cash. Not sure if this is just a Mull thing or something in Scotland as a whole as you get further from population bases.

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks for the added information. I have not heard of countless. We do have a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. We are also taking pounds and euros with us and try not to use the ATM very often!
Linda

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, Linda,

Unless you're travelling on to Ireland or Continental Europe after (or before) Scotland, you won't need those euros. Check the cost of those pounds that you're bringing with you. It may be more cost effective to get them from an ATM once you arrive in Scotland.

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks for the info. Yes, after Scotland we will be traveling to Ireland.

Posted by
1722 posts

I was on the Rabbies Tours website yesterday regarding their overnight tour to the isle of Mull. It mentioned to expect to pay for B and B's and some hotels with cash. Not sure if this is just a Mull thing or something in Scotland as a whole as you get further from population bases.

If I'm staying at a family run B&B, I prefer to pay in cash if possible. ;-)

If you are planning to visit Mull, I recommend going to the much less touristy northern end of the island. We stayed in a wonderful B&B just outside Dervaig. There was nothing further north, we walked the woods an entire evening without seeing anyone else.

Our hosts had a standing order with one of the local fisherman. We got home one evening to find two boxes of crabs on their stoop. We spent a fun evening helping them make crab salad, working around their AGA and sipping single malt.

We also visited the lovely little town of Tobermory, including the teeny Tobermory distillery. Between Tobermory and Dervaig is a site of standing stones. There's a small clearing in the woods where you come across them. It was a "thin place" where both my wife and I felt a special connection to those who were there before us. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Posted by
1822 posts

We got home one evening to find two boxes of craps on their stoop

Please tell me you meant crabs, I'd like to think that the Scots are friendlier than that ;).

My primary purpose of going to Mull is to visit Calgary Beach which is what my hometown of Calgary was named for. A bucket list item. Since I've started researching I've discovered there is more to Mull than I expected and we may stay overnight in Tobermory. Been emailing a cab driver who quoted me 240 pounds to drive us around for the day. Now trying to decide if I should do that or bring my rental car across on the ferry. I kind of like the sense of adventure of driving on the single track roads, but if I drive then I'll miss some of the scenery as I white knuckle some of the roads.

Posted by
1722 posts

Please tell me you meant crabs, I'd like to think that the Scots are friendlier than that ;).

Oh darn. Thanks for catching that, I've updated my post. I'm reminded of a Facebook meme that states: "Think of autocorrect as a tiny elf that lives in your computer. Unfortunately, he's always really drunk."

Posted by
31 posts

Just back from a week, I think we only saw one place that was a cash only - a coffee/sandwich shop. We only did one cab ride outside of Edinburgh and paid cash, the fare was low so it just made sense. In Edinburgh there's an app for cabs we used.

We set our CC up with a pin before the trip, which worked great in France but in the UK every single place had us sign instead of entering the pin.

Posted by
396 posts

You may find that on some buses (e.g. Citylink bus Oban to Glasgow) you will need to pay in cash or with a 'contactless' (or 'tap & go') card, not a standard credit card.

Posted by
506 posts

If you are staying in B&Bs it is worth checking payment preferences in advance. Most smaller B&Bs (ours included!) do not have credit card machines.

Regards
Skyegirl (Jacqui)