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Should be convert dollars to pounds even before we leave the USA?

My husband and I are wondering if it's better to be safe to order some money from our bank in GBP before we leave just in case our ATM didn't work there when we first get there. It would cost a lot to have it done here, and I'm wondering if it's worth the fee and trouble. We are flying into Heathrow in May and already booked e-tickets from the internet to get to our B&B? What have others done?

Posted by
18 posts

Jackie, we are a group of 5 traveling to Europe in May and the fluctuating Euro made each of us a little nervous. We pooled together and purchased the GBP and Euros here. There was a fee, but we shared the cost. In prior trips we just waited till we arrived there. Everyone has a different view on when and where to purchasing money. We did it for our "piece of mind" it was making us nuts watching the value of the dollar steadily sink. You should not have a problem with your ATM card as long as you notify your bank. We took the chance and pre-paid for as much as possible and got our money early. The sinking dollar is squeezing our holiday...:-)...but..not stopping us. Whatever you decide have a great time!

Posted by
88 posts

Hi Jackie,

There are atms at Heathrow. Bring traveler's checks and an extra atm card in case of problems. Not worth the cost of getting money changed in the States. Have fun!

Posted by
6 posts


I would wait till you get there. Again check with you bank as some such as Bank of America has some relationship with Barclays. All though it seemed hard to find one when you needed it. The best bet is Heathrow.

Posted by
22975 posts

It is the degree of comfort or risk that you want to assume. We always take about $100 or so in local currency -- just in case. Normally it is currency left over from the previous trip but if we don't have it we will buy a little locally and pay the price. We tend to avoid stand alone ATMs unless absolutely necessary so that precludes most of the airport ATMs. I like ATMs attached to the side of banks. And it is one less thing to worry about when you land.

Posted by
38 posts

I always land with at least $100 worth of local currency on me. Maybe more, for this summer I will take about $200 in GBPs and $500 in Euros. Then it is ATMs and credit cards from that point on!

Posted by
1497 posts

I always just get money out of an ATM. Heathrow has tons of them at least in Term 3 right after you exit the customs hall. As long as your ATM card has the PLUS and Star networks I would think that you would do fine. Carry a few travelers check as a backup.

I travel frequently and rely on my Fidelity debit card which does not tack on any currency conversion fees and no ATM fees either. I also carry a Wells Fargo atm card as a back up.

Posted by
1455 posts


Don't get caught up in the "what if" frenzy. The US banks nickels and dimes us with fees, and you really can just wait tiil you get to London.

London is a big city, with plenty of ATM's. When you get out of the baggage claim/customs area, there's 8 to 10 ATMs along the right wall. You truly cannot miss the ATMs... and if there's a line at one, you go to another.

Pick the big name bank one and you can't go wrong.

Posted by
26 posts

Jackie, I am a student who studied in Great Britain last summer. I called the bank that I use in the US, and asked them your same question. I would suggest that you see if your bank here has an affiliate in Great Britain. Mine did.

I then checked to see if any of the partner banks were near where I was staying.

I waited to exchange at the partner bank in England; it saved money. Good luck!

Posted by
31 posts

We just got back on Monday, and we only used the atm's twice. I just didn't want the "hassel" of finding one - they really are all over, or getting a bad rate ( wasn't too bad really). So it's really your choice. Like one other poster, we chickened out and pre purchased most of our funds here, but that was because we live in an area that does have ready access to foriegn currency. I think to do over, I'd still pre purchase as the dollar won't pick up much steam any time soon.

Posted by
1170 posts

We decided to buy 200 pounds for the first part of our trip (England), and 200 euros for when we get to Rome so we won't have to look for an ATM right off.

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Jackie, I guess everyone has their own ideas about this. If you have a good relationship with your bank, buy here. I bought $2000. in Euros when the exchange was 1.47. It is now over 1.60. Don't expect it to go down any until after elections, if then. The bank will exchange my balance back to USD at the same 1.47, if I wish. I paid a negligible fee of $10. total. In my opinion the convenience is worth the effort. However, listen to what the frequent reavelers on the forum have to say. Chuck

Posted by
643 posts

The long range forcast for the Pound shows it falling against the dollar over the summer into fall. I certainly hope this is the case! We're going to bring a few hundred in dollars with us as an emergency backup, and a couple ATM cards (and credit cards too). I don't want to buy Pounds and pay a huge fee to a bank here, and I've been successful pulling cash from my account from Japan with an ATM frequently in the past.