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Where is best place to exchange $$ for UK pounds?

So I'm aware of the terrible exchange rate for the US dollar right now. Anyone have advice as to where is the best place to exchange $$? Once I'm over there I'll be paid in pounds but I'll need some money to start me off. Should I wait till I'm at the airport in London? Banks in the US? AMEX?

Also on a different note.--If I want to send money back to the US (per diem/extra cash I don't want to carry). Do you recommend wiring money from a bank there? Someone told me western union but that's really pricey isn't it? Thanks as usual everyone!!

Posted by
505 posts

You are best to wait until you arrive and get money via an ATM. If you want to get some ££ before leaving the US, do it at a bank. AMEX rates are terrible - stick with ATMs and banks.

I can vouch that it can take up to 4-6 weeks to open an account here if you are not a UK citizen. You also will need proof of a UK address - i.e. a credit card, bank or utility statement in your name to open account.

If you are working in the UK, I assume you would probably have a bank account as most paychecks are paid straight into bank accounts. With a bank account, it's worth leaving $ here to earn interest. Otherwise transfer to the US from bank to bank. Remember also that you must report earnings to Inland Revenue and pay taxes - you can deduct these from your US taxes, but must report here.

Chances are you won't have much extra, given the cost of living here, but you without a bank account you probably would just have to withdraw it in the form of a bank draft or cash and carry it that way.

Posted by
3580 posts

Wait until you get to London for the best rates. If you feel that you must have cash on hand before you arrive at the airport, have your bank get you some pounds before you go. As to sending money back home, how about opening a bank account in Britain, getting an ATM card, then sending the card with PIN to a trusted person who could withdraw cash and deposit it into a US account? You probably should discuss this with your bank.

Posted by
3 posts

Please note that it is not that easy to open an accout in England. It takes about 4 weeks (sometimes a bit longer) from application to actually having an account. I know that from own experience and my daughter's.
Remember also that living in England is much more expensive than in the States, so you might not have much left over to send home. ... Crista

Posted by
1455 posts

If you can wait until you get to London, exchange at the ATM there.

As for wiring back to the US, have you considered using PayPal? I get money all the time from non US people using Paypal.

Posted by
9363 posts

Paypal has to be linked to a bank account, and that could be a problem to set up in the UK, as the above poster noted.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for your replies so far everyone. Yeah paypal won't work as I will have cash in the UK that I want to get over to my bank in the US. I will have cash I will want to transfer over so I'm wondering now if I will indeed have to use western union since a bank account takes so long to open up (not really worth the trouble).

Thanks for the exchanging advice too folks! I'm going to wait till I get to the airport in London

Posted by
349 posts

Believe it or not the bank in the basement of Harrods has one of the best rates i was told you can charge rich people a fortune for a pork pie but they wont pay one extra pence in exchange rate.

Posted by
3 posts

how about the best place to change pounds to euros, in scotland or paris?

Posted by
50 posts

Get a little English cash at your home airport before you get on your flight. Enough to get you through. In London there are a BILLION places in the city and at Victoria Station, I believe, where you can easily exchange money. Good luck!

Posted by
8700 posts


Exchange pounds to euros in Paris. You'll get the best rate in the country where the money you want is used.

Posted by
4 posts

my local bank will exchange w/o fees at certain branches since i have an account with may want to check yours

Posted by
5317 posts

If you are employed in the UK with a UK work visa, you can ask your company to write you a letter of reference to open a bank account. With this, you will be able to open an account soon after you start work.

When I worked in London, I had an account with Citibank UK. You can open both an an account in pounds sterling and a U.S. dollar account checking account with them. The U.S. dollar account is very handy if you want to mail some money back to the States.