Please sign in to post.

Great Britain and Money

We will be leaving in a couple of weeks for a 2 1/2 week trip to England/Scotland. I have read the forums and Rick's Travel Tips, but am still unsure of what to do with money. We will be paying cash for most of our b & bs so will need a good deal of cash. I looked into changing money here in the states - our bank will convert without any fees, however, their rate on Friday was 1.4338 while the tours I have charged oversees have given me 1.34. One train did use 1.5 which is hard to take. With ATM fees oversees, not sure which is better. Maybe take enough for the first few days from here and then use ATMs? Also concerned that I won't easily find ATMs associated with Star or Plus or Interlink which is associated with my debit card. Our two big cities will be York and Edinburgh. Will also be in Oban, a little smaller.
Your insights for our trip have been very helpful. Thanks to everyone who reads and responds.

Posted by
1260 posts

You should be ok with ATMs - I have a credit union debit card also, and have never had any trouble finding an ATM that it works with.

Posted by
3537 posts

There are atms everywhere that take your requirements.
Had no prob on my july 2017 trip.
For your next trip u could ck into fee free cc like Capital one.
Or a First Republic Bank debit card again fee free.

Posted by
15577 posts

That is why you get your cash from ATM's in the U.K. Your bank is doing you a favor by quoting you such an outrageous rate. You already know it is about 1.35 (checking at this instant it is trading at 1.3589). In all fairness, it is tough for your bank to round up British Pounds here in the States, where they are rare because they have no value here. They only have value when they have been transported to the U.K. But think of this, every ATM in the U.K., and there are a LOT of ATM's there, Is packed with thousands and thousands of them. All you have to do is put your card in the machine and your 4 digit PIN and you can get them. The only cost is if your bank charges you with a 3% foreign transaction fee and a per-transaction "somebody else's ATM" fee.

So see if you can take out 300 at a time and pay the B&B's off everyday or so to keep your account current. Plus, you don't want to be wandering around with thousands of cash in your pocket all the time.

Posted by
2331 posts

I assume you are paying in cash as that is what is required. Pull the amount you need when you need it from the ATM, which as others have noted are plentiful. Otherwise on our recent trip to the UK we used a zero transaction fee credit card for nearly all purchases.

Posted by
5704 posts

Get Pounds from an ATM at the airport. Easy. Better rate.

Posted by
3439 posts

There isn't a flat rate for converting US$ to pounds (or anything else). The published exchange rate functions something like a wholesale quote. At the bank counter, or ATM, you will pay a higher amount to get your pounds. If you sell the pounds back for dollars you will get a lower amount. In between: Profit margin for the moneychangers. Then come the fees for handling foreign currency and these can vary, set by your bank/credit union and also applied to some but not all credit cards. Some ATM companies set a limit per withdrawal and so can your bank. If it is the machine, just move on to another brand to top up your cache. Your own bank can raise the limit before you leave home. In any case you will be more secure holding plastic for two different banks, which should never be in the same wallet together.

Posted by
5498 posts

Be aware of what your bank really charges when you withdraw foreign cash from a foreign ATM. (As be aware of the real cost or conversion rate if you exchange money at home).

Some large banks charge a foreign/out of system ATM usage fee plus a FX conversion fee. My Wells Fargo bank charges $5 plus a 3% conversion mark up. In contrast my credit union does not charge a ATM usage flat fee but does pass on a 1% FX conversion fee.

In concept, getting cash at home is the most expensive FX route. Physically handling foreign currency cost more than a bookkeeping transaction.

Posted by
3282 posts

Yes, your bank is charging you a fee -- it is buried in the inflated exchange rate they use.

If your debit card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, it will work in almost any ATM anywhere in the world. If you have one of the ATM only cards, even those work most everywhere for now. And ATMs are everywhere, including Oban. Your bank can tell you if your card will work in the UK. You could also ask to have your daily limit raised so you can get enough to cover your expenses without having to stock up in advance. Make sure to give your bank your travel notification before leaving so they don't cut you off for suspected fraud.

I always wait and get money from an ATM once I get where I am going and only get enough for each day as needed. But I have a card that charges zero fees from Capital One 360, so it doesn't matter how many transactions I do.

Posted by
20625 posts

ATMs probably are more plentiful than in the US. Remember the ATMs are there for the convenience of the locals and not tourists. The most common networks are Plus and Cirrus. Star is primarily North America and I think that is the same for Interlink. I have never seen Star or Interlink in Great Britain but I was not looking that hard for those networks either. PLUS will be on all bank owned ATMs.

Have no idea what you meant by "our train did use 1.5." If you used a credit card for the train it would have been charged within 1% of the Interbank rate. UNLESS you asked them to charge you in dollars - called Dynamic conversion - then you are at their mercy to determine the exchange rate. ALWAYS insist that all charges are in the local currency - in this case - pounds. Never, never accept charges in US dollars for any reason!!!

Our experience in Great Britain last summer was no charge to use the ATM. All subsequent charges will be determined by your card issuer. So understand clearly the fees that your bank/credit union charges you for using your ATM card. And take two ATM cards tied to two different account -- just in case one doesn't work for some odd reason.

Posted by
163 posts

I ran into this same conundrum before my trip last month. As many others have stated, you should have no trouble finding and using an ATM. Do take into account the fees charged by your bank though. I did the math and by the time I added in the foreign ATM fee, plus the exchange fee, it was very close to the same rate the bank was giving to get pounds here. For that reason I went ahead and got some money from the bank before I left, then used the ATM when I needed more. I think it just comes down to what you are comfortable with, and whether you have a no fee ATM card.

Posted by
15577 posts

WARNING, EDITORIAL COMMENT.
About 10 years ago, the banks, referred to by Clark Howard as "Monster Mega Banks", needed to make up for all the money they lost investing in mortgages to people who had no money. They discovered that they could dupe their loyal depositors by charging them 3% foreign currency transaction fees on credit card and ATM fees. They gave a totally BS story of "That is what it costs us". And people bought that line of BS. Credit unions and small local banks who did not have executives who needed to be compensated by huge stock options, continued to serve their loyal depositors with no added fees. So the mystery is, why people have hung around with the Monster Mega Banks? Doesn't Jamie Dimon already have enough money? If people would just vote with their wallets, that nonsense would come to a halt.

Posted by
3262 posts

What Mark said. I belong to 2 credit unions. Both provide Visa credit cards. One provides a MC debit card. The other, a Visa one. I have no idea what systems (?) are associated with them.

Neither has been rejected in the UK, or anywhere else. I tend to get cash from bank connected ATMs when the bank is open, in case there is a glitch. There's never been a glitch.

I'm one more voice saying, "Just say no to DCC!"

Posted by
4213 posts

Some of the fees banks charge for ATM use are flat amounts (like $3 or $5), rather than percentages. That's why you save money by withdrawing the maximum allowable amount when you go to an ATM. Ask your bank how much that is, and whether it can be increased. Then you can make fewer withdrawal transactions and save a few bucks on those fees.

Posted by
20625 posts

Sorry Sam - it is a nice rant but inaccurate. The the 3% currency conversion has been around for ages not just since the bank meltdown. In the past the 3% was buried in the exchange rate. Then a class action suit - maybe 20+ years ago - forced credit card companies and banks to id all fees added to the accounts beyond the exchange rate presented by the network companies. In fact some of us actually got refunds in the settlement. Only then did everyone suddenly became aware of credit card fees. There is a cost to providing the service so if I don't pay for it then someone else in the system has to pay a little more for their services. Nothing is free -- only the perception that it is free.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks to everyone for your responses.
I checked with my bank today and they charge $5 for every ATM withdrawal, but they said no other fees. We will do as advised and use the ATM in Manchester when we arrive. It makes more sense than taking so much money.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks again. Just got back and found it very easy to work with money in Great Britain. I took $100 from the states which was never needed. Used the ATM at the airport to have enough pounds to pay for a bus and found bank ATMs all around. Also found that my credit card gave a great exchange rate, so only had the $5 charge for debit card a couple of times. I wore a money belt when traveling for the day (bus, train, etc) and found it a great way to keep safe passport and extra money, keeping out enough for the day. Went to Manchester, York, Edinburgh, Oban, and Iona - never felt insecure. Had a great trip.