Id like to have some cash with me when I arrive in London, where is the best place to exchange my US money to British pounds and how much does it cost?
If you absolutely NEED cash before you go, I suggest your bank. It will cost you, depending on your bank, 3-10%, depending on how they do it and how much they deal in foreign currency. When I've done it they gave me 3-5% above bank rate for currency. They also usually have a minimum you must get, for instance $100. I'm sure you've read here, there isn't an airport in London that doesn't have numerous ATMs in the airport. When one is down there are many more to back it.
To have cash upon arrival, I agree, you should be able to go to your bank. Yes there will be a fee for this. Chances are, you won't walk out of the bank the same day with British Pounds. Then again, Maine is quite a bit different than California :o) Still, you may want to check with your bank right away to see if they can combine your "order" with others, and therefore reducing the fee for your order (this amounts to splitting the cost among everyone that ordered foreign currency). If your bank is willing, to do this, you would need to place your order as far in advance as you can. My bank accommodated me in this way several years ago, in fact, they were the ones to suggest it if I wasn't in a rush to get it (2-3 weeks before you need it).
Good luck, and enjoy your trip.
I would suggest changing some money in your airport of departure. Unless your local bank does a lot of international business the fees for ordering foreign currency can be high, and it might be a better deal to change at the airport before you leave.
Not all banks provide currency exchange services in the US; especially ones in rural areas. In my case there is no bank/Credit Union within driving distance that will do it, even if you try calling ahead. Even Canadian currency is refused, and New York borders Canada! On those few occasion that I need currency ahead of time, I use Travelex.com and have it sent to me via UPS.
The exchange rate at Wells Fargo is normally about 5%. That's the best rate I have been able to find. Try your local branch. In Colorado, foreign currency is only available at main branches -Denver, Colo. Springs, and Boulder. If there is not a branch with foreign currency near you, they ship it for a nominal fee.
I would say your local bank as well. I just ordered some currency for my upcoming trip to Ireland. It was shipped FedEx and insured.
As the others have indicated, your Bank or other financial institution is likely the best source to obtain foreign cash.
I'm always a bit puzzled when I hear of people "ordering" cash and having this delivered by Courier. It seems like an awkward, expensive and cumbersome method. I generally just call my financial institution a few days ahead of time and tell them how much I want and specify the currency (they usually have US$, UK£ and €uros on hand, but not always). Then, a 5-minute trip to the Bank and I have cash in hand.
The cost will depend on the Exchange Rate at the time. You'll have to check with your Bank to determine if there are any additional "service charges" for this.
I'm assuming you'll be using ATM cards to obtain cash when travelling. Ensure that your funds are in a Chequing account, with a four-number PIN. I usually travel with more than one ATM card, just in case there's a "problem" with one of them.
I would not even bother getting money ahead of time. I did it one time at an AMEX travel office, if you are a cardholder there is no fee. You can still get money from them even if you are not a cardholder. If you are flying to London, especially into Heathrow or Gatwick there are ATM's everywhere. It may just save you the hassle and get the money when you get there. Enjoy your trip -Kim
I agree with Kim's last post. Assuming you're arriving at Heathrow, there are many ATMs available. I'm pretty certain any fees and/or shipping costs you are charged for getting cash before you leave the US will likely be greater than simply going to an ATM when you arrive.
There plenty of ATMs at Heathrow/Gatwick, but if your flight arrives on a Monday morning or very late at night, there is a good chance that all machines will have run out of money. Its happened to me on several occasions. In London this isn't a big deal as you can use your credit card to take the train into the city use the ATM's there. But if your arriving late at night at a small airport, like Krakow Poland for example, and you have to use a taxi go get to the city center I feel more comfortable having some local currency. If that means I pay higher fees by ordering money in advance, it's a price I will happily- pay for peace of mind.