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exchanging money in England

I realize this topic has already been broached but I would still like a little more info. I am going to england soon. If I take American travelers checks are they easy to convert to Pounds? Are any ATM cards good to use or should I open an account with a specific bank before I go? How about credit cards? I do have a Capital One card. Are ATM's generally easy to come by? I would hate to exchange money, then come back to the US and have the rate of exchange get even worse.

Nevada City, CA

Posted by
1455 posts

I was there last March, and going back in 2 months.

There's ATMS everywhere. At the airport find the ATMS marked with a well known bank, like Barclays for example. Make sure your ATM PIN is 4 digits, and the back has a medley of symbols.

Capital One is ok since its either a Visa or Mastercard. They are accepted everywhere.

You can take T.C's and can cash them at any bank or merchant. Just know that not everyone provides the best possible rate, and some may even charge an extra fee for cashing. You can keep those as "emergency" only and bring them back home to use. The T.C's never expire

You can open an account with a Credit Union. I separate my vacation money away from my real money. If I lose my card, its not linked to my personal money. Also, Credit Unions have better fees than banks. B of A is the worse!

Have fuN!!

Posted by
1455 posts

Kris, If you feel more comfortable having a few pounds in your pocket before leaving the US, go to an AMEX office and convert some money.

YOu don't have to, but you sound sort of worried.

When I go to London, I try to come home with some pounds to use for my next trip. I have in my wallet 40 pounds, left over from last time.

Same goes with Euros. I have 80 euros left over in case I head back.

And, if you have family or friends heading to Europe, you can always lend it to them, so they don't freak out about not finding an ATM.

Posted by
484 posts

kris, If it will make you more comfortable check with your local bank if they can provide you with pounds sterling to take with you into the UK. Most banks can provide this service at a minimal charge. It is far easier to find ATM's,they are everywhere, than to try and cash travelers checks. TC's have gone the way of the tape cassette,plus when you do cash them you get a terrible exchange rate.

Does anyone know the location of some of the ATM's in Heathrow airport?

Posted by
8700 posts

Travelers checks are NOT easy to convert to pounds. Most merchants won't accept them and banks will charge you a hefty fee for doing so. Take some for emergencies if you wish, but plan to bring them all home with you.

Rick Steves has a good article on changing money in Europe, including what you need to do BEFORE leaving home to be sure your credit cards and ATM cards will work in Europe. Here is the URL:

Posted by
9363 posts

There are ATMs all over Heathrow -- you won't have a problem finding one. Make sure you use one with a bank name on it (ie Barclays) -- you don't have to have an account with that certain bank or anything. And I'd advise against travelers checks. They aren't accepted in some places, and some exchanges won't take them. Capital One is a great credit card to use because they don't charge the 1-3% service fee for use of your card in another currency.

Posted by
1455 posts

Clarification on Capital One, not all Capital One cards are fee free. Only the hassel free one.

Still, if you have a Visa/Mastercard and you gotta use it, it beats having nothing at all.

Posted by
9363 posts

Michelle, you are mistaken about the Capital One card. I have a plain old regular Capital One card -- not no hassle, no special program of any kind -- and I have used it fee-free in three different countries.

Posted by
98 posts

Actually, BofA has a good program for using ATM's in foreign countries. They are part of a worlwide program linking banks from many countries. If you use your BofA ATM card at any Barclay's ATM location they waive the $5 per withdrawal fee. You are only charged the 1% transaction fee that everyone pays on top of any fees the bank charges themselves. I have used my card successfully all over England.

I never bring any TC's or foreign currency with me. I just stop at the ATM at Gatwick or Heathrow and get what I need for the first few days.

No matter where you bank there is no shortage of ATM's in London.

Posted by
2779 posts

If you go to your local AAA office and purchase traveler checks in British Pounds you will be fine. You will not have any trouble using them, they will be accepted anywhere. Just make sure you get British Pound traveler checks.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for all of your replies. I am feeling much more comfortable with the whole money issue. Too bad the dollar isn't worth more!!!

Posted by
32225 posts

Kris, to add to some of the other comments, I wouldn't bother with Traveller's Cheques at all. Even if you buy cheques in UK Pounds, you will probably find these are difficult to cash in many locations, or perhaps will require a trip to an AMEX office or wherever. As Rick has stated "I've cashed my last Traveller's Cheque!"

My advice would be to take TWO ATM cards on different accounts, in case one malfunctions or whatever, as well as at least one credit card. Regarding the ATM cards, you will need to have your travel funds in a CHEQUING account with a four number PIN. Most European ATM's are not able to access Savings accounts.

My strategy is to obtain £100 or so to travel with and then stop at an ATM as soon as I get settled in my first lodging. You should also verify the daily withdrawal limit with your Bank, as the exchange is included in this (I usually get my daily limit increased for the duration of the trip).

Hope this helps. Good luck!!!

Posted by
2779 posts

I'm sorry but I'm going to have to disagree with you Ken. There is no problem using traveler checks that are in British Pounds. Of course, only take 100Pounds as a back up. Once you know that your ATM card is working just use the traveler checks to make small purchases and get the change. So simple, easy and hassle free.

Posted by
505 posts

As someone who lives in the UK, I would suggest avoiding traveler's checks. They are not easy to cash and you get a terrible exchange rate. Also steer clear of AMEX because their rates are horrible, as are rates at the exchange bureaus you find in touristy areas and airports

Your best best is to use ATMs and credit cards, and if you need to exchange money, do it at a bank. If you want some ££ before you leave the US, exchange money at your local bank.


Posted by
970 posts

Kris, if it makes you feel better, get a small amount of travelers checks in pounds before you leave. Understand, though, that many people, especially outside the touristry areas, may ask you what they are.

You could always find a bank that will sell you an equivalent amount of real pounds. No problems there.

I live pretty much cashless, relying on debit and credit cards. When I travel, I grab some cash at an airport ATM, in the States or the UK. I've never had a problem. The advice to take an alternaitve card with access to the same amount of money is sound, as is the advice that European ATMs can't access savings accounts.

Call your bank and credit card companies a few weeks before you go to tell them you will be traveling, to avoid having their computer refuse the transaction because it thinks you are an identity theft. Carry the telephone numbers of these people in case something doesn't work. It's not unheard of for an ATM to reject you even if you notified them.