Dan answers your financial questions
WITH Christmas coming up and money tight I am wondering if it makes sense for me to do some of my shopping in the North. I have read so much about the bargains available in Newry and other northern towns. Are these bargains for real or is it a case of the grass always being greener, no pun intended, on the other side?
Market research figures published last week estimated that 250,000 shoppers from the Republic are now crossing the border, up 50,000 on a year ago.
Enticing Southern shoppers to go north is the VAT differential between the two sides of the border, 15pc in Northern Ireland as against 21.5pc in the Republic, much lower prices for many goods, particularly alcohol, and the strength of the euro against sterling.
As anyone who has travelled North recently can testify, that's a very attractive package.
On a recent trip to Newry I noticed cars from as far away as Cork, but does a shopping trip to Newry stack up financially?
For anyone living within 15 or even 20 miles of the border the answer is definitely yes.
Spirits and wine prices are at least a third cheaper in Northern Ireland than they are in the Republic. Also much cheaper are items such as toiletries, detergents, CDs and DVDs.
For big ticket items such as TVs and laptops the 6.5pc VAT differential combined with the strength of the euro can also yield large savings.
However, it would be a good idea to check the price of the item you plan to buy in the Republic before you leave so that you know exactly how much you are saving.
While the case in favour of anyone living near the border doing at least some of their shopping in the North is compelling, the arguments for those living further south are much weaker.
Anyone travelling from Dublin to Newry, a round trip of up to 150 miles, has to factor in the cost of a third of a tank of petrol or diesel and tolls. Expect to spend at least €15-€20 on fuel.
By the time you add in the €3.80 M1 toll (€1.90 each way) and, for those travelling from the south or south-west of Dublin, the €6 Westlink toll €3 each way) you're after spending 30 quid before you even hit the shops.
That's a lot of savings you have to clock up before you recoup the cost of your trip. Throw in the cost of a bite to eat and, unless you're buying enough wine and spirits for a wedding, you are unlikely to save enough money to justify the cost of your trip to the North.
I AM a Bank of Ireland customer. Last week I read that Bank of Ireland Laser Card customers had been double-charged for transactions.
As I have a Laser Card myself I am naturally concerned that I might fall victim to such an error.
How do minimise the chances of this happening and what do I do if it does happen?
Last week an undisclosed number of Bank of Ireland Laser Card customers were double-charged for transactions. This comes on top of a similar blunder in September, when 120,000 Bank of Ireland Laser Card customers were double-charged.
If he hasn't done so already, Sean should sign up with Bank of Ireland's online banking service, Banking 365. This will allow him to monitor all of the transactions on his account within hours of them occurring.
This means that if there is a problem he can contact Bank of Ireland very quickly rather than waiting until he receives his bank statement at the end of the month.