Card or Cash – What is the Cheapest Option Outside The Eurozone ?

Outside the Eurozone – Is it cheaper to spend on your debit card or credit card or to get cash from an ATM,  or buy the foreign currency before you leave Ireland ?

When you use your Irish debit card or credit card for purchases in non Euro currencies – you will be charged extra fees  by your bank on top of any “normal” transaction charges . The banks also make extra charges for non Euro cash withdrawals at ATMs – but which option works out the cheapest?

We did a  quick comparison of the spending options abroad and the charges incurred when using a Debit Card , a Credit Card or using cash from an ATM or bringing cash with you that you exchanged here in Ireland

You can read more about ATM charges abroad in our article  about ATM charges for Non Euro Cash

Using a non euro purchase worth the equivalent of €200 as an example we have compared the bank charges incurred when using a debit card , a credit card or a cash ATM withdrawal of Sterling.

Paying By Credit Card  :

Avant Card  2.65%
BOI Mastercard 2.25%
Ulster Mastercard  2%
KBC Mastercard 2%
AIB Visa 1.75%
PTSB Visa 1.75%

So the credit card fee on a €200 equivalent spend would range from  €5.30 with Avant , €4.50 at BOI , €4 with Ulster and KBC down to  €3.50.with PTSB / AIB

Paying By Debit Card

Ulster Bank charge
1% of transaction value (minimum €0.25, maximum €6.00) plus additional 1% currency conversion fee (minimum €0.25, maximum €6.00)
charge 2% (maximum €11.43)
charge 1.75% (minimum €0.45, maximum €11.00)
charge 1.75% (Minimum €0.46, maximum €11.43

So – a purchase outside the Eurozone of the equivalent of €200 with a debit card would incur charges as follows:
€4.00 at BOI and Ulster Bank
€3.50 with PTSB, KBC or AIB

Using an ATM  to withdraw cash would cost you more than using a card to purchase outsise the Eurozone. An ATM withdrawal of the local currency equivalent to €200 would incur charges of:
€9 with AIB
€7 with BOI  Ulster and PTSB.
(NB  Ulster customers using a RBS or NAtWest ATM in the UK are not charged.)

Verdict – using cards for purchases works out cheaper than using cash from a ATM (unless you are an Ulster Bank customer and use an RBS ATM in the UK)

Exchanging Money before You Travel

If you plan ahead – you can order travel currency before you leave Ireland. In a recent currency exchange rate comparison we found the best Euro to Sterling exchange rate was from No1 Currency .
Ordering £750 cash  in Sterling here in Ireland would cost  €899.38  with them. (Figure on 6th April 2017) (You order and pay for it online and get it delivered to your door for free.)

For comparison – we worked out what it would cost to use a UK  ATM to withdraw £750 Sterling in three  lots of £250 .

  • Based on the Visa exchange rates offered on 6th April 2017 , using a BOI, PTSB or KBC Visa dedit card it would cost €905.40 . (Made up of €879.15  plus ATM card charges of €26.25 ).
  •  Using an AIB card would cost  €903.90

So getting the sterling cash in advance from the cheapest provider would work out slightly better in both of these this examples. (But carrying that amount of cash might not be the safest option.)

Larger Purchases

There is no cap on credit card charges for puchases made outside the Eurozone – but debit card charges are capped at all Irish banks. (Ulster bank cap is €12 , BOI and PTSB are €11.43 , AIB is €11.

Example :  – for  a non euro purchase costing the equivalent of €1000  you would be charged:

  •   €11.43 by Bank of Ireland when using a debit card but the charge would be €22.50 with a credit card.
  • Ulster Bank would charge you €20 on your credit card but using their debit card would incur a lower charge of  €12.

So – if you have the money in your current account it will work out cheaper to use a debit card for larger purchases outside the Eurozone. This applies to online purchases too.

Many people assume that they are better protected when purchasing with a credit card if goods are faulty or don’t turn up. But under Irish law this is not the case (unlike the UK) . In Ireland Credit cards and Debit cards have the same level of protection . More about that here.

More information here about the cheapest method of exchanging larger amounts of currency

 Tips : Often when abroad  a shop or hotel may give you the option of having your debit or credit card payment converted to euro at the point of sale . Be aware that in most  (if not all) situations the final cost to you will usually be higher than if you paid in the foreign currency and let your card provider convert it to euro. So, when asked if you want to pay in Euros – say NO Thanks .

Ulster Bank debit cards can be used in the UK at ATMs in Nat West Bank or RBS and there will be no extra fees.

Note – Exchange rates used on credit cards. The main credit cards in use by Irish providers are either Visa or Mastercard . The exchange rates  are set on a daily basis by Visa and Mastercard . This means that when comparing a Visa card from AIB with a Visa card from Ulster Bank etc you shouldn’t need to take into account exchange rate differences because they should all use the same rate on a given day.

Figures checked  June 2017