English/Scotish Countryside: Cash or Plastic

Im seeing quite a few places requiring cash or cheque for payment. Traveling from the US, that can become problematic for a number of reasons. Are credit cards not accepted or not preferred/welcome? ATMs and fees, and risks of lots of cash are a concern. Any insights appreciated.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1260 posts

We've been there many times and never had any problem using our credit cards at hotels, gas pumps, pubs, most shops, or sit-down restaurants. We usually paid in cash for groceries. Some B and Bs will offer you a small ($10 or so) discount for cash or charge an extra 2% for using plastic.....In Scotland, there seem to be two major banks which control most of the ATM's (they call them cash points). If your ATM card doesn't work at one, use the other bank chain or a different card...... I don't think anyone will take USA checks........We have never had any problem with fraud, but be sure you have a way to contact your credit card company while you are traveling. Sometimes the credit card issuer gets confused by foreign transactions (even though you have told them you are traveling) and will put a hold on your account until you contact them. (especially Capital One)

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
237 posts

Hotels and large commercial entities don't generally have a problem with cards. BnBs and smaller mom and pop places usually prefer cash and some only take cash. Whether it's the additional credit card fees or eluding the tax man there are solid reasons for this with small businesses. The real warning is that many cards have foreign transaction fees and this will add a cost to every purchase. Obviously if you have a card without these fees use only, but if you don't then only use credit for large purchases and prefer cash. European ATM cards have a "chip and pin" system in which a chip is embedded in the card rather than just a magnetic strip. I've never had it happen to me but I have heard of some systems - usually smaller paypoints in stores - only work on chip and pin ATM cards. Also ATMs in Europe don't usually have letters on the keypads so know the numbers in your PIN if it's a word. I never had trouble with any ATMs or credit cards in England or Ireland last year. I'm going to Scotland for the first time this year so we'll see. =Tod

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4732 posts

Yes, in many countries (not just England/Scotland), cash is preferred or required at some establishments. Get a moneybelt (there are different styles - find one you like). Take out the maximum allowed amount of cash each day and stash it in your moneybelt, so you build up enough to pay the bill when it is due. If your bank has high ATM fees for foreign transactions, get an account at one with lower fees (even if you just use it for travel).

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

FTFs are inconsequential, just something to carry on about. You'll lose one percent on an ATM withdrawal. The FTF runs about two percent. Thus, using a credit card will stiff you an extra ten bucks per thousand charged. I spend roughly nine months a year subject to FTFs and charge about half of my expenses. I've only once busted three hundred dollars in the FTF department.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4211 posts

What you're probably running into are small businesses that don't want to pay credit card fees. I stayed at a guest house in Tobermory on Mull and he insisted on cash. I've found that if I plan ahead I can deal. When I had a large expense my bank in Wisconsin could do a check/money order in the currency for a specific sum. Yes, it cost me some extra money, but it worked out for me and the business that I was working with. Pam

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
687 posts

If you have reservations, find out the cost of your stay. We always get coin of the realm to cover our B&B's prior to our travels to rural areas. If you just drift along and stop where you fancy, don't rely on credit cards, especially Capital One, like someone else posted. Both of us use a money belt and I have a dead drop wallet with those cardboard credit cards and a little cash to hand over should the need arise, especially in some of the less safe countries. I'm a little disappointed that the pickpockets haven't made a try for either...... but then the talent level of most occupations has been in decline......... :-)

Posted by Beth
Berkeley, CA, USA
32 posts

I have been to Scotland several times in the last three years. Outside the major cities cash is sometimes required. For example, hotels and restaurants in Orkney or along the northern coast take only cash. When you make your lodging reservations you will usually be told whether or not credit cards are accepted.

Posted by Gerard
Temora, NSW, Australia
222 posts

Hi, I just think that you should plan that some of your transactions will be in cash, no matter where you are travelling. While electronic methods work for both the US and here, in our past we all relied on cash. Much of the world are still cash societies. While we want to enjoy zero risk of being Mugged, the small business doesn't want to deal with merchant fees, when the smaller you are the higher the % fees. He/she will deal with his/her suppliers also in cash.
Gee some of you oldies, like me will remember even being paid in "cash" , it was no big deal. Nor should it be how, it's just something our banks have conditioned us to rely on them rather than ourselves. So plan at least two days in advance ,where,when and how much . Regards