It seems that for the Irish, cash is king – with each of us withdrawing an average of €6,000 from ATMs every year, more than double the European Union’s average. However, banks believe that plastic is fantastic and want us to revert to using our cards more often – stating it’s less expensive to process and safer for us to use.
So is it time to put down your cash and pick up a card?
Pick a card, any card
Before deciding to use a card, it’s important to know what options are available and how each of them works. Debit cards are linked to your bank account and are best-suited for use in shops and at ATMs; while credit cards are arguably the better choice for online spending (assuming you pay them off each month) because they offer section 75 protection – meaning that if a company you buy from goes bust then both the company and your card issuer are obliged to cover your losses. Credit cards however, are not well suited to ATM withdrawals as charges can be sizeable.
Then there is the humble prepaid card, which works in a similar way to a prepaid phone. If you know there is a risk you might overspend from time to time then a prepaid card is one way to avoid that risk as you load exactly how much you want to spend on to the card. Then there is Laser, which is basically the same as a debit card, but some people think it is different simply because we’re so used to the brand name. Bear in mind that Laser is expected to be withdrawn over the next 18months.
Advantages and disadvantages
There are many pros to using cards – but each of them comes with a warning too.
For example, using cards gives you access to the global market. You can buy goods online – where they are often cheaper, particularly if you take advantage of voucher codes – and you can use them abroad without having to deal with awkward exchange rates and currency conversions when you change your cash. Be aware however, that some card use, particularly overseas, will carry fees – for example you may be charged a set fee for every withdrawal or overseas transaction you make.
Another major advantage of both credit and debit cards are chargeback facilities – these mean that if you have a problem with a purchase your bank should be able to issue a refund. However, bear in mind that if you request a chargeback there is likely to be a timeframe in place and different procedures may apply.
Overall, cards are a convenient way to shop and they open up a whole new world of possibilities – so much so that it’s hard to imagine life without them. However, just make sure you proceed with caution and play your cards right.