Is cash becoming a thing of the past? I rarely carry much more than €20 with me these days, so used am I to plying the plastic.  So I was taken aback yesterday when I was asked for hard currency , at the dentist’s of all places. They had no card machine! I expressed astonishment (difficult with a frozen face) and was told that this dentist chose not to pay what he considered exorbitant fees, -a Merchant Service Charge on every transaction. I knew I had to pay something for my side of the payment, but I had no idea how much , or when I paid it. I rarely look at the slip I am given after a payment, and now that bank statements no longer come in the post, I rarely see those either.

I decided, as I walked the high street , in search of cash, that I would find out how much  I was paying  to use my own  money.  An online search  later on brought some facts and figures, and plenty of terms and conditions. The going rate was about €0.20 to €0.40 for most transactions. Banks vary in which transactions they charge for ,. Some banks will allow contactless card payments free  (usually only for small sums, less than€20.00)  while charging for ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases, or vice cersa. Each bank has separate types of accounts with ranges of fee-exempt services, such as current accounts for full-time students, or special offers such as free banking  services if you keep your current account in credit to the tune of €2,500 every day.
A quick check of the 4 main banks in town revealed  ATM charges ranging from €0.12 to €0.39. It seems the 12c charge is a mandatory  government levy  and unavoidable. An over-the –counter manual transaction would cost between €0.40 and €0.60 in all 4 banks,  and an internet transaction would be variously free,€0.10, or €0.20, if I had dared to ask the dentist’s receptionist for the account details, BIC and IBAN numbers which I would need  to do that on my smartphone.
A cheque, if I had it , would cost me either €0.39, €0.50,€0.60 or nothing , along with another mandatory government levy of €0.50 per cheque, but this is usually taken in advance when a new book of 10 cheques is issued. Of course, my account would need to be in credit to cover the funds, and this is  not always the case especially  if the dentist takes a long time to lodge the cheque. A bounced cheque would cost me €10.00 or €12.70, along with a red face and some apologies.
Payment by  bank draft would be another possibility, if I didn’t fancy carrying cash up the street, or if for some reason I needed to post the money. I could purchase a draft for either€2.50 or €3.00. I might end up paying €80 along with that however, if my car got clamped while I was waiting,- it takes a while at the bank counter to get a draft raised and signed. Furthermore , most banks will not issue a draft for a sum less than €500.00.
I think my lesson is learned, I will carry cash next time I go for a filling. Yes , cards are convenient but ultimately cash is king.

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