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The money exchange question (yet again)

I still haven't decided quite how I want to handle exchanging dollars for pounds for my trip.

I do have a Capital One account and credit card w/no transaction fees. My B&B doesn't accept credit cards, but they have an ATM right around the corner and say I can pay my £510 balance for my room when I get there. Otherwise they can accept pay pal but it will cost me a bit extra.

I'm just wondering about showing up on a Sunday with no English currency. I have about £10 in coins (pound coins) at home from my last trip. I do have the opportunity to exchange through AAA, or through my credit union. I don't want to do AAA for personal reasons and my credit union will charge me $20.

So I guess I'm asking: 1) Use Pay Pal for the room and swallow the difference (as it isn't much), and 2) Bring a couple hundred dollars along just in case s/thing goes wrong ATM-wise.


Posted by
4407 posts

Get a debit/bank card and use it to withdraw cash in the UK.

Posted by
491 posts

I have a debit card from Capital One. Sorry, I see that wasn't clear in my post. It does not have foreign transaction fees.

Posted by
5664 posts

exchange question (yet again)

Before you leave on your trip, confirm with your bank that your debit
card will work in Europe and alert them that you’ll be making
withdrawals while traveling — otherwise, they might freeze your card
if they detect unusual spending patterns.

Before you go, ask your bank how much you can withdraw per 24 hours,
and consider adjusting the amount. Some travelers prefer a high limit
that allows them to take out more cash at each ATM stop, while others
prefer to set a lower limit as a security measure, in case their card
is stolen. To avoid excess per-transaction fees, I usually go with a
higher maximum. Either way, it’s a good idea to monitor your account
while traveling to detect any unauthorized transactions.

If your bank's daily limit (in your domestic currency units) does not meet the 510 GBP needed, you may check to see if you can pay in multi-day installments.

Posted by
491 posts

Thanks, Edgar! Have done all the informing and all systems are go.
Am checking on the daily limit as well.

Posted by
3477 posts

I don't have much experience with Pay Pal. But if the extra amount is acceptable to you, it would reduce the stress of finding enough money quickly on arrival.

I would suggest the debit card route. Use an ATM at the airport when you arrive. Just be careful to choose one that is bank operated if possible (the one "right around the corner" of the B&B might not be bank operated) and do not allow it to charge you in dollars (known as DCC) because the rate will be terrible. Make sure your daily withdrawal limit is at least $1,000 so you can get the £510 plus some spending cash if you chose this option. Capital One 360 was more than happy to raise my debit card limit when I asked.

The thing to watch very carefully for is not only the fees your various options will charge you for getting foreign currency, but also what rate they use. My bank charges $25 for processing and delivery fees and charges at least 5 cents a Euro or Pound over the going exchange rate. You can get doubly hit going that route. For example, today my bank is selling EUR at USD 1.19 while Google quotes the rate at USD 1.13.

And no one outside the US wants US dollars. Really, they don't. Not even banks. After all, would you want someone to pay you in GBP or EUR? What are you going to do with it? Same with Traveler Checks these days. So don't bother packing either.

Posted by
16878 posts

I have only rarely paid for a B&B either upon arrival or further ahead. Payment has more often been at check out, giving me a couple of days to collect cash from ATMs. (Some larger hotels that take credit cards will swipe those on arrival but charge them later.) Is this an AirB&B place where you only expect to see your contact once and never again? Or is it staffed at least at common check-in and check-out times? If the latter, then you have more chances to communicate and to make payments.

Good idea to increase the daily cash withdrawal limit set by your bank. A local machine can have its own per-transaction limits, too, but you're still free to make multiple transactions or use multiple machines to reach your personal daily limit.

Posted by
16171 posts

And Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Posted by
491 posts

@Laura--it's a very small place. More like self-catering flats than a B&B. So far as I know there are no formal check-in or check-out times. They just asked what time my flight was arriving. It's run by a couple who pretty much stay out of the way. Not AirBnB.

Posted by
2316 posts

The "Don't exchange money" answer (yet again)

Do not exchange money, it is not an exchange, it is buying local currency at a premium using your own currency. Just withdraw your own money from an ATM, calculated in the local currency.

You have a CapOne Debit card. Problem solved. We have yet to have ever had a problem with it at ATMs, and that is now something like 14 countries and 9 currencies. Moreover, the network fee has always been somewhere between .3 and .8 of one percent, or in other words, if $100 = 100 euro on that day's international trade rates, our $100 euro withdrawal would have shown a debit from our account of round $100.80 or less.

I cannot imagine that there would be no proper ATM at your point of arrival in the UK.

Is this Captain Bligh by any chance?

Posted by
491 posts

Larry, yes, it is Captain Bligh. Have you stayed there? If so, how did it work out for you? PM me if you'd like.
Thanks for the reassurance. I did a lot of research about Cap One and so far am very happy with their services. I used to have an account with them back when they were ING.

Posted by
1146 posts

It all comes down to convenience vs cost. We had to pay cash for our apartment in Rome the day we arrived. I wanted to have the cash on me because I knew we were on an overnight flight and might be fatigued, adjusting to the time difference, maybe hungry (I get major hangry) with luggage in a strange place and I just wanted us to get off the plane, meet the driver (had to have cash for him also) and get to our apartment. In hindsight, I was not that tired (more excited), our luggage was carry on only and we passed a few ATMs on the way to meet the driver, so I could have saved myself some money by just using the ATM in Rome. Having the cash on me did give me peace of mind from the unknown, a plan and it all worked out great, but now that I know the lay of the land and how I felt after traveling for so long and far, I would not get cash beforehand. Live and learn!

Posted by
2788 posts

Have you read RS topic on Cash & Currency that is located on the right hand side of many of his web pages? I have gone to Europe every summer for 13 of the last 14 years (#14 coming up June 3/4 to London) I have always used a debit card tied to a checking account at a local credit union to get cash from an ATM at my arrival airport and have never had a problem finding an ATM that is associated with a bank or in my card's network rather than using any of the ATMs owned by some of those exchange companies that charge terrible exchange rates. In those last 13 years, I have never had a problem in waiting until I land in Europe to get local currency. When trying to make a reservation in a B&B that wants $$ upon arrival I tell them up front that I will have to pay them in installments with as large a down payment as I can when I arrive and then pay the rest as soon as I get more $$ from local ATMs.
The only time when this option was rejected, I crossed that B&B of my list and made reservations elsewhere. See you in London.

Posted by
6584 posts

Please note that there are bank ATM's--and there are private company ATM's (non banks.) Be sure to use the bank ATM and get the funds in the local currency. Sometimes you'll have the option of getting the transaction in U.S. Dollars which is not necessarily the better option.
When we travel, we may have $10 equivalent in local currency from our last trip--for tips. Otherwise, we go with no cash and we return with very, very little cash.

Posted by
5465 posts

Several things;

Assuming your Cap One Account has a high enough limit, that is obviously the best option.

I understand being wary about arriving with only coins, of your options in the US, I think Wells Fargo offers the best deal, about a cost of 5%, maybe a bit more. so you can get 200 pounds for just over $300.

As for the Bank ATM/Travelex/ Non bank ATM really does not make any difference. If you want Pounds at London Heathrow, you will be using an ATM operated by Travelex. Simply opt to do the transaction in local currency or Pounds and you will not pay anything additional. You will also run into DCC potentially at ATMs in London, including "Bank" ATMs. If an ATM charges a Fee, you will be told that as well, simply decline and go elsewhere.

Another thought to balance your choices, if the B&B does not accept CC, then you likely are getting a decent deal on the room, better than a place that does accept CC, so you are still money ahead, consider it a cost of the bargain.

Posted by
491 posts

There's a NatWest ATM right near my B&B, across from the tube station, so I should be fine. Also found out there's one in my network (Allpoint) in the nearby grocery store. So all should be well.

Thanks, everyone, for your input and help! I am probably doing waaaayyyy too much worrying beforehand. Typical of me!!

Posted by
2316 posts

Your CapOne will be fine at any machine that has the Cirrus logo, among others. Nat West -that's the name of the bank, could not remember.

Posted by
157 posts

I personally would have the payment in hand,plus some additional money. However, that is because I am risk adverse and insiring that I do not have to find an atm after an international flight. You will pay a premium, of course, if you do this, but I accept the cost for convenience. You may feel different.

We tend to use a credit card and accept it as a cost of traveling. We also accept the cost of withdrawing cash at an atm.

Travel is expensive and fees are part of the cost. We try and minimize these cost, but they are inevitable.

Enjoy your trip.