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Exchanging US Dollars for Pounds

I am visiting Scotland in May my first solo trip. I have been watching the exchange rate. When I first started watching a couple months ago it was $1.03 US for the pound. I see this morning it is up to $1.25. Should I try to purchase pounds here in the US this far in advance? I will be in Scotland for 3 weeks staying in the recommended Rick Steve's B&B and most would like me to pay in cash. I was hoping to take two thousand pounds with me. Should I go to my local bank or wait and purchase when I arrive. My very first B&B in Edinburgh requires cash payment.

Any suggestions?

Thank you,
Kathleen

Posted by
12965 posts

Are you certain you weren't looking at euros? I do not think the pound has been below $1.20 recently. It was at that level briefly in mid-January, but $1.25 is more usual these days---and still a good rate to those of us who have traveled in the U.K. when it was much higher.

Actually, according to this table, apart from a couple of days mid-month, the pound has not been lower than $1.22 in the last six month.

http://www.exchangerates.org.uk/GBP-USD-exchange-rate-history.html

Posted by
5394 posts

You are not making investments for your retirement. You're paying for a vacation, and absolutely unable to know the future price of the currency. So give up on predicting something that can't be predicted.

Work on minimizing your transaction costs, which could exceed daily currency fluctuations.

Our host has some guidelines:
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

Posted by
5780 posts

I agree that maybe you were confusing the euro rate with the Pound rate, the current rate of just over $1.20 is better than it ever has been, save for a brief dip to $1.07 in 1985. For most trips we planned on paying $1.50 for the Pound.

As for money, read the link that the previous poster included. Getting Pounds here will cost you 5-7% from the best sources, if you have an ATM card with no fees, then that is usually the best to withdraw money there, but having a couple hundred Pounds on hand before you leave is not a bad idea.

Posted by
1798 posts

OMG, use your ATM card. Make sure you have one that has no foreign transaction fees, and let the bank know that you are traveling.
Don't waste money getting Pounds here, you'll pay way too much..

Two thousand pounds? That's a LOT of money to be carrying around...too much money to carry around!

The pound is $1.23-1.25, I check every day since we are going in March.

Use your ATM card and get as much as you can at the airport ATM, and then withdraw as needed. There are daily limits to the amount you can withdraw - again, check with your bank..

last thing is, you dont' need to come home with a bunch of foreign money at the end of your trip. To exchange it back to US dollars will cost you - AGAIN. Try to figure out what you need for cash by the day/week, and by all means use your credit card as much as possible. (again, let the company know you are traveling before you leave the country) And always a good idea to have 2 credit cards, just in case one should get compromised mid trip....

Posted by
702 posts

The pound tumbled with the Brexit vote in June, but has made a little recovery. I travel back and forth to the UK a lot and the pound rate for American tourist is great right now. Usually it is up around the 1.55 mark. I have seen it even higher than this back in the 90's. (almost 1.90). Your money is certainly going to go a lot further this year in England/Scotland than in past years. A lot of banks won't even get you a few thousand pounds before you go, especially if you are not in a large city. Just get your money at an ATM when you arrive. You are on vacation. I agree with the other posts at 1.03 you must have been looking at the Euro which is not used in the UK. Just take out a little money as you travel. You don't want to be walking around with a couple of thousands pounds on you. Just make sure your bank is aware of your travel dates and take a back up ATM card if you can. Most B&B will want cash.

Posted by
6449 posts

Some people just feel more comfortable having some cash when they arrive, in case they can't find an ATM or they have unexpected problems with their card. If that's you, then just get enough £ to have cash for arrival (taxi, metro, etc) and your first b&b. After that just use your ATM card to withdraw cash as you need it. It no longer makes sense to take lots of cash that will cost you to exchange now and again if you need to bring any of it back (if you overestimated your need).

Posted by
10996 posts

How much do you need for your first B&B?

I agree that ATM's are the best place to get local currency however many accounts have a maximum you can withdraw daily. If you need more than you can get your first day, then you could be in trouble.

Take what you need to get started and after that withdraw as needed. If you know you will need more than your daily limit, ask your bank to raise it. And make sure they know where you are going otherwise they might freeze your card.

You might also ask your lodgings if they will accept a money transfer through something like PayPal.

Posted by
103 posts

Thank you ALL for the quick and incredibly helpful responses. I must have been looking at Euro. I like the idea of only taking enough for the initial B&B and transportation. I do have a credit/debit card with no transaction fees and I will notify my bank of my trip. I like the suggestion of taking more then one card. The one thing I really appreciate about this forum is feeling like one can ask any question without feeling stupid.

Thank you again for all your helpful suggestions.

Kathleen

Posted by
400 posts

The most accurate and 100% guaranteed method of exchanging money is to monitor my buying habits. As soon as I buy, you know the rate is the worst it will ever be.

Warren

Posted by
6449 posts

That's funny Warren, I feel the same way - not so much when changing money but definitely when buying airline tickets. As soon as I buy, the price goes down. It never fails.

Posted by
5668 posts

I am following this for business reasons which as a traveler very odd. But because I work for a UK publisher we have to watch our US vs UK price and strive for parity. It's actually resulted in a bit of bonus for US students. Fun times in the Brexit world.

Posted by
214 posts

Oh please dear God do not take that much money with you from here... :0!

The pound (as other have stated) is currently around the same rate as it was for the last five months 1.25-1.20 with mild fluctuations. I would wait until I was in Edinburgh and find a branch bank to withdraw that amount...but do check with your banks here if it is ok. Personally I'd ask the BB place if they would be willing to take payments per day or something..that is a large amount of money to be just walking around town with.. 0_o.

Posted by
10996 posts

I forgot to mention......wear a moneybelt of some kind. It is safer than just carrying cash as you would at home.

Posted by
458 posts

I read on one of the forums to open a Charles Schwab Corp. account and then use your Schwab ATM to obtain cash directly from your checking account. I opened an account and it worked like a charm. We went to Scotland and out to Skye in 2014 and Cinque Terre in Italy in 2015. You open the account on online and with a May date of your trip you have time. You will have to open a brokerage and checking account but there is no requirement to use the brokerage account and the checking account has no fees. There are no foreign transaction or exchange fees and the debit card was good at every ATM we tried. I hit the ATM in the Edinburgh airport and then had scoped out a bank location in a small town along the route we were going that first morning and I hit the machine a second time in the tiny unbusy little village, parked right next to the ATM. In Scotland we found most spots took our credit cards (found no fee card for that as well, most offer no fee at this time) with no hassle. The last B&B we stayed took credit credit cards but allowed me to pay partially with my credit card and partially with the cash I had left, be sure to ask if your location accepts cc, save enuff cash for the taxi!

Posted by
4897 posts

Another vote for the Charles schwab debit card. It has worked great on three continents . Never an ATM fee or foreign transaction fee. An added benefit for me is that having a dedicated travel account allows me to manage my travel budget more efficiently.

Posted by
292 posts

Lots of good advice above. I'll just add that I usually aim to bring 20-25 pounds (or euros, depending on where I am) back with me from a trip. That's my "till I find an ATM" seed money for my next trip.

Enjoy your trip, Kathleen! I'm a solo traveler and thoroughly enjoy it.