Answering all your euro questions


1. When does the euro replace the punt?

Although the euro has existed in virtual form since January 1999, the notes and coins will only begin to circulate from tomorrow, January 1st.

There will be a dual circulation period until February 9th, during which both euro and punts will coexist. At midnight on that date the Irish pound will cease to be legal tender.

A month later, on March 9th, dual display of euro and punt prices will start to be phased out progressively and the euro will be established as our new currency.

2. How do I get hold of it?

Starter packs of euro coins have been available from post offices and banks for some days now.

But consumers will not be able to get hold of the notes until tomorrow when ATM machines will start to dispense them.

The banks are closing down the 1,200 ATMs across the State from 1.30 a.m. to empty them of Irish pounds and reload them with euro.

Some ATMs will reopen as early as 6 a.m. but others may not be back in business until later in the day or on Wednesday.

The busiest cash machines, such as those in key locations in the larger towns and cities, are likely to come back into use first.

But the banks hope to have 85 per cent of all ATMs up and running by close of business tomorrow.

Machines will initially dispense €10 and €20 notes, with €50 notes being made available from mid-January.

3. Can I get the new currency anywhere else?

Retailers have also been supplied with the new currency by the banks. Although many will be closed tomorrow, they will be giving change in euro when they reopen on Wednesday.

Pubs, 24-hour shops and petrol stations will also be distributing the new currency.

Dubliners who are keen to get their hands on the new notes as quickly as possible can also call to the Central Bank on Dame Street. It will be open from 10 a.m. tomorrow and will change up to £500 into euro for each individual.

4. Can I still use Irish pounds?

The Irish pound remains legal tender until February 9th. This means that it can be used to pay for goods and services, although change will be given in euro.

From that date, it can no longer be used to make payments, although the Central Bank will continue to exchange pounds for euro for a further period.

5. How much is the euro worth?

Each euro is worth roughly 79 pence while each Irish pound is equivalent to €1.27.

6. How do I convert from Irish pounds to euro?

The exact exchange rate between the Irish pound and the euro is 0.787564.

To convert from Irish pounds to euro divide by that figure.

So if you want to know what £5 is in euro, divide 5 by 0.787564 and you get €6.348. Rounded for convenience, you are left with a figure of €6.35.

To convert euro into Irish pounds, multiply the euro figure by 0.787564.

So to find out what €5 is, multiply by 0.787564 and you get £3.937. After rounding, you are left with £3.94.

7. Where can I use the euro?

The new currency is being adopted by 12 members of the European Union. Aside from the Republic, these are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Britain will not be adopting the euro next year, so sterling will continue to be used in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The other EU states that will remain outside the euro zone for now are Denmark and Sweden.

8. What will the notes and coins look like?

There will be seven euro bank-notes in circulation, each depicting an architectural design from Europe's cultural history.

The notes will be available in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.

All have advanced security features including a watermark and security thread.

There will be eight euro coins, in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and €1 and €2.

One side of the coins will be the same in all euro member-states.

The other side will show the 12 stars of the EU flag, the year and a national emblem.

In the Republic, the emblem will be the harp and the word "╔ire".

9. Will the euro make things more expensive?

Although the apparent cost of goods will rise when the price is converted to euro, most retailers have promised not to take advantage of the euro in order to sneak through price increases.

10. What do I do if I feel I'm being overcharged?

The Director of Consumer Affairs, Ms Carmel Foley, has introduced a logo to be displayed by all retailers who have signed a code committing them to fair play when converting from Irish pounds to euro.

However, customers are warned to remain vigilant to ensure they are not ripped off.

Those with complaints can call Ms Foley's office on (01) 4025555.