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I will be going to Ireland (Republic of Ireland + Nothern Ireland) in August. The entire duration of the trip is two weeks, with roughly 3 days (2 nights) spent in Northern Ireland.

I'm currently wondering how to pay for my expenses while in Northern Ireland - the hotels will be prepaid, but there's meals, souvenirs... Can I expect credit cards (Visa, Mastercard) to be accepted for small transactions and in small places, or should I try to get my hands on some cash? Bonus: If a place does not accept credit cards, how likely is it that they will accept Euros (I'm aware that the rate will probably be bad).

My card has a lower limit on the amount of cash I need to withdraw in one transaction, so getting just as much cash as I need when I need it is not an option. On the other hand, I always find it hard to estimate how much cash I will need, and want to avoid bringing lots of cash home with me that I have to exchange at a bad rate or spend them on unnecessary items just to get rid of the money.

(The Republic of Ireland is out of scope of this question; since I'm from Germany and both countries use Euros, I don't mind withdrawing the minimal or even a larger amount should I need any cash.)

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  • I cannot speak for Northern Ireland specifically, but in general most places in the mainland UK will accept a card for any transaction - including some of the more surprising places like roadside ice-cream vendors and bars. I think you need to be careful a little careful with cash in Northern Ireland. It is a regions of the UK with its own banknotes (issued by Northern Irish banks), and they are much less recognised/accepted outside of Northern Ireland (e.g. if you had 50 GBP left-over and wanted to use it on a future trip). Maybe there is a trick to getting Bank of England notes though. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 13:40
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    In England, some market traders and street vendors will only accept card payments now, and the few dinosaurs who refuse card payments for small items, may not stay in business long. I do carry cash, but very, very rarely do I need it. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 14:20
  • If you end up with pounds at the end of your trip, exchange it to euros before you go home. In Ireland it is even likely you will find locals who use both regularly.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 14:45
  • I used credit cards exclusively on my visit to Northern Ireland and Ireland five years ago. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 15:44
  • @NeilTarrant There seem to be ATMs that give out BoE notes, but the last time I brought home GBP notes to use on a future trip, I ended up selling them to a colleague four or five years later. After she came home, she told me that the notes were no legal tender any more - they were Series E notes, I had been to England just before the introduction of Series F and she was there just after shops stopped accepting Series E. How embarassing! Luckily, she visited a friend there who was able to get them exchanged for her, but since that day, I try to avoid bringing home any cash...
    – Sabine
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 16:55

2 Answers 2

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Outside of areas very close to the border I would not rely on retailers accepting euro in Northern Ireland.

In my recent experience I had no problem paying electronically for taxis and restaurants. Very small places, particularly market stalls, might only accept cash but it's quite possible they will also have card readers. Mobile versions are very common.

Note also that Visa is more popular that Mastercard in the Republic of Ireland and that may be true for the UK & NI as well. I have never, ever, seen a retailer take Mastercard but not Visa. The reverse is rare but I have experienced it.

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    In the UK (mainly England and Wales) I can't recall a single case of a shop accepting one but not both of Visa and Mastercard. It must be very rare indeed. Amex acceptance, OTOH, is not to be relied on. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 14:32
  • As a brit, my impression is that Debit cards here are usually Visa while credit cards are usually Mastercard. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 2:43
  • @PeterGreen that seems to be true with some banks (e.g. Halifax), but considering all my cards, it's less the case. I think it's more that Visa debit is more common than Mastercard debit, while for credit cards they're pretty close Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 8:20
  • Sorry for the late acceptance, had decided to wait until after my trip to see which of the two answers turned out to be true for me...
    – Sabine
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 14:26
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Visa and Mastercard are accepted almost everywhere in Northern Ireland, including most markets and stalls. Most pubs accept cards but might be worth checking before you settle in for a long afternoon ;)

That said, a bit of cash is useful for tips, ice creams and other really small purchases; think of it as petty cash. For three days, I would say £20 or £30 would probably be more than enough. The complication is not getting cash (there are cash machines almost everywhere) it is getting rid of it again. Northern Ireland has its own bank notes that almost nowhere else accepts.

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  • Thanks for your answer, although your second paragraph only makes it harder for me to decide: £20 to £30 is about half the minimum amount I have to withdraw, which makes spending the money even more of a challenge... or should I simply opt for "no ice cream"? (And I love ice cream!) Hm...
    – Sabine
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 15:12
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    Compromise. Pick up £30 Sterling before you travel. All of Northern Ireland accepts standard UK bank notes.
    – Paul Smith
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:32

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