Dan answers your financial questions
IN a fortnight’s time I will be going on holiday to Spain. Like most people I will be bringing my mobile phone with me as I need to be able to stay in touch. On previous occasions when I have brought my mobile phone with me when travelling abroad it has cost me an absolute fortune. I was even charged for the privilege of receiving calls on my mobile when abroad. Is there any way I can reduce the cost of using my mobile when travelling overseas?
The good news for Ciara is that last week roaming charges for using your mobile phone while in other EU countries fell again. It now costs a maximum of 39 cent a minute to make a call from a mobile in another EU country, down four cent, while the cost of receiving a call has also been cut by four cent to 15 cent per minute.
These prices are net of VAT meaning that the maximum cost, including VAT, for making a call on your mobile will now be just over 47 cent per minute and 18 cent per minute for receiving a call.
Data charges have also been cut, with the maximum charge for a customer who uses his or her mobile phone to connect to the internet while abroad now being capped at €50 (€60.50 including VAT). Customers will also have to receive a warning when their data bill reaches 80pc of the limit, i.e. €48.40, including VAT.
This means that so-called roaming charges within the EU have now been cut by almost three-quarters over the past five years. The latest cuts almost didn't happen. All of the major European mobile phone companies including Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange took the European Commission to the European Court of Justice in an attempt to block the cuts in roaming charges.
The mobile phone companies claimed that the commission had exceeded its powers in capping roaming charges.
Thankfully, the European Court was having none of it, ruling that the commission was right "to protect consumers against excessive prices, even if it might have negative economic consequences for certain operators".
So while Ciara will still be stung for roaming charges if she uses her mobile phone while abroad, she can at least console herself with the knowledge that they are much, much lower than they were a few years back.
I have some savings with my local credit union. Recently I have been reading about financial problems at some credit unions. How safe are my credit union savings or should I move them to a bank that is covered by the Government’s deposit guarantee?
While the credit unions aren't covered by the government's unconditional guarantee of deposits with Irish-owned banks they are covered by the €100,000 guarantee that covers deposits with all banks operating in Ireland, both Irish and foreign-owned.
This means that unless Brendan has more than €100,000 deposited with the credit union, which seems unlikely, his money is perfectly safe.
Even before the €100,000 deposit guarantee was extended to the credit unions almost two years ago they had their own savings protection scheme, which is administered by the Irish League of Credit Unions, and most credit unions belong to it.
This has ensured that, in the more than 50 years they have been in business, no credit union has ever left its depositors in the lurch.
Last month the Financial Regulator published a consultation document outlining possible options for dealing with credit unions that get into financial difficulties.
This is likely to result in the existing savings protection scheme being put on a statutory basis with membership being made compulsory for all credit unions.