Changing money, England, U.K. (2024)

Changing money, England, U.K. (1)

Changing money

How to exchange your dollars for pounds at the best rates (and lowest fees) possible

First things first:How much is a British pound worth?

Currently (mid-2017),US$1 equals 77p; or£1 equals US$1.25.

The daily rate fluctuates, obviously, generally ranging between 75 and 80p to the dollar, and $1.19 to $1.28 to the pound. (Brexit negotiations will likely make the pound less stable and more prone to fluctuations for the foreseeable future.)

OK, now on to how to get your hands on some pounds.

How to change money in the U.K.

Always exchange money at a bank, and always use yourATM cardto withdrawal pounds from your home bank account. This is how you will get the best rates and pay the lowest fees or commissions.

If you're in a pinch and need to exchangedollarsortraveler's checksfrom your emergency stash, again: do it at a bank, and read the information below to ensure you get the best deal.

Businesses emblazoned with "Exchange! Cambio! Wechsel! Change!" areexchange booths,and all of them—from venerable Thomas Cooke offices all the way down to the shady guy who hangs around the bus station—offer a worse rate and/or higher commission than banks and should only be used in emergencies.

That's really all you need to know. If you want to knowwhythis is the best advice, dust of your math hat and continue to read on for some dry, but important, technical stuff about exchange rates and commissions. (For more onrates—which is even more boring than the commissions stuff we're about to discuss—scroll down.)

Shopping for the best deal: Rates, commissions, & fees

Let's say, for whatever reason, you aren't using your home bankcard to get money out of a localbank'sATM(I reiterate: that is the fastest, cheapest way to get money abroad), and instead you need to exchangecashortraveler's checksfor pounds. Now you need to find the best deal out there.

Most banks display a chart of the currentexchange ratesthey're offering, either in the street window (these days digital and constantly updated) or on a sheet of paper taped up at the international teller's window inside. Make sure you're looking at the rate the bank isbuying, not selling, U.S. dollars or whatever your home currency is (if, as usual, there are two columns of numbers next to each currency, the "buy" column is the lower amount).

When comparing rates bank to bank, what you want is the bank whose chart shows the highest number in the "buying dollars" column. This will be thebest rate. However, unless you’re using theATM,you must also factor in thecommission fee. Sometimes this is a flat rate equal to a few dollars; sometimes it's a percentage (anywhere from 1% to 10%) of the amount being exchanged.

Occasionally, a slightly less attractive exchange rate coupled with low or flat fee commission can cost you less in the long run than a great-looking rate that's hiding a whopping commission in the fine print. Of course that depends on how much you change. Yes, this is going to involve doing math on a foreign street corner in two currencies.

Warning:On the rare occasion that someone approaches you on the street with a rate too good to be true, it is. That shyster's gotblack marketcurrency, and if his bills aren't counterfeit, his sleight-of-hand method of counting them out certainly is. Also, you can get arrested.

Demystifying Exchange Rates

The current exchange rate(in mid-2017) is 1.25. That meansit costs US$1.25 to buy £1 (conversely, US$1 is worth 77p). The lower this number, the better the exchange rate for you, since it means it costs you less to buy each British pound.

The pound has historically been quite a bit more valuable than that (over the past few decades, on the order of 1.7 to 1.9), but the Brexit vote in summer 2016 severely dented the nation's currency rating.

Now all those numbers represent theofficial interbank rate, which is what most newspapersprint in their business sections. However, this only represents how much it costs banks to exchange money with each other—and it's a rather better rate than you'll ever get.

Other papers, especially in travel sections, print the rate (2% to 4% below the interbank rate) you're likely to receive when exchanging money. When you exchangecashor a traveler's check, you generally get a rate that is 4% "worse" than the interbank rate. This is known as "+4%." It is also known as a "rip-off." If you exchange at any agency besides a bank, you'll probably do even worse.

On top of this, any place will charge you acommission—either a flat fee (in which case changing a lot of money at once is cheaper) or a percentage of the total changed (in which case you're bleeding needlessly no matter how much or little you change).

Luckily, in the past few years computerized banking has ridden in on its white overcharger to save the day—or at least a few bucks for you. If you bypass the outdated and outmodedtraveler's checksand steer clear of dealing with actual people, you can shave a few percentage points off.It’s called anATM, and it works just like it does at home.If you take money out of acash machine—either using your own bankcard linked to your personal checking account, or with a cash advance on a credit card—you will get that favorable interbank rate.»more

Or at least, you should. In reality, you often don't. You get about 1% to 2% below that prime rate—still better than exchangingcashortraveler's checks, but not the best possible. Luckily, for now, most European banks do not charge that "ATMusage" fee that almost all U.S. banks have jumped on to nickel and dime us to death a bit more.

Butif your home bank charges you for withdrawals from ATMsthat are "out of network"(and yes, the U.K. is waaay out of network)—and its usually a steep $1 to $4 fee each time—you're still paying a commission of sorts.»more

I actually shopped around for a bank that doesn't do this (the online bank Ally, which also refunds any fees charged by the ATM itself), so they are out there.Credit unionsare also usually a good bet. »more

Even with all that,using anATMlinked to your checking account is, for now, the cheapest way to get money,and payingcashis the cheapest way to travel (outside of using credit cards).

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Changing money, England, U.K. (2024)


Changing money, England, U.K.? ›

You can visit a bank, a Post Office, a bureau de change, or a travel agent to purchase traveller's checks. One drawback of using traveller's checks is that there are a limited number of places that will exchange them for cash. Therefore, you will have to do some searching if you want to exchange them.

Where to exchange money in England? ›

You can visit a bank, a Post Office, a bureau de change, or a travel agent to purchase traveller's checks. One drawback of using traveller's checks is that there are a limited number of places that will exchange them for cash. Therefore, you will have to do some searching if you want to exchange them.

How long will Queen's money be valid? ›

The Bank of England has announced it will begin circulating bank notes with the image of King Charles III from June 5 this year, 2024. That means that, at some point, notes featuring the image of his mother Queen Elizabeth II will no longer be usable.

Can you still change paper money UK? ›

Pay them in at your high street bank or Post Office.

You can also exchange old paper banknotes for the same value in current polymer notes at 30 selected Post Office branches – you can view the full branch list on the Bank of England website. This includes the old paper £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes from the last series.

What is the best currency to use in England? ›

The UK currency is the pound sterling (£/GBP).

Is it better to exchange money in the UK or the US? ›

It could be more beneficial to buy your dollars in the UK rather than when when you arrive in the US. This is because the pound-to-dollar exchange rate in the UK is can be better than some of the rates offered by providers in America.

Should I exchange money before I go to England? ›

It's completely up to you whether you exchange money before you travel to Europe, or get your euros when you arrive.

How many pence are in a pound? ›

There are 100 pence (p) in 1 pound(£). You never write both symbols.

Can I deposit old 20 pound notes? ›

This note replaces our paper £20 note which was withdrawn from circulation after 30 September 2022. You may be able to deposit withdrawn notes at your own bank or with the Post Office. Alternatively, you can exchange withdrawn banknotes with selected Post Office branches or with the Bank of England.

Do the Queen's get their money back? ›

The Crown, and therefore the Queen, has an arrangement with Parliament to surrender the profits from the Crown Estate (the Queen's personally-owned lands) to Parliament in exchange for an annual salary (roughly 15% of the profits for the year that started two years before, or about £30–40 million).

Are old British Pound notes still valid? ›

Old paper £20 and £50 notes are no longer legal tender. We explain what to do with your old banknotes and where to exchange them. (Image credit: Photography taken by Mario Gutiérrez.) Old £20 and £50 paper notes stopped being legal tender in the UK on 30 September 2022.

Can I change Old English money? ›

Exchanging old notes at the Post Office

There are also 48 Post Office branches across the UK that will swap old banknotes, even if you do not have a bank account. See the Post Office website to exchange withdrawn banknotes Opens in a new window.

How do I exchange old notes at the Bank of England? ›

Exchange Bank of England banknotes (public via post)

To exchange your banknotes by post, please fill out this application form, print and send it to us with the banknotes along with copies of your photo ID and proof of address. Send to Department NEX, Bank of England, Langston Road, Loughton, Essex, IG10 3TN.

How much is $100 US in England? ›

US Dollars to British Pounds conversion rates
100 USD80.01 GBP
500 USD400.05 GBP
1,000 USD800.11 GBP
5,000 USD4,000.57 GBP
7 more rows

How much is $100 in England? ›

US Dollars to British Pounds: exchange rates today
100 USD79.90 GBP
250 USD199.75 GBP
300 USD239.70 GBP
500 USD399.51 GBP
8 more rows

Should I bring cash to London? ›

You may also find that some merchants won't take a card for a very low value purchase due to the fees they pay to process it. Carrying cash in the UK is a good idea, even if you don't need to use it frequently.

Where to change US dollars to pounds in London? ›

Best places to exchange currency when you're in London
Currency BureauLocations
TravelexTravelex has a branch at Selfridges on Oxford Street, as well as at all Heathrow Terminals¹
Eurochange/NM MoneyBranches across London, including Paddington Tube Station²
Currency Online GroupBranch at Waterloo, Central London³

Where do I exchange dollars for pounds in London? ›

Thomas Exchange City Office 48 Bishopsgate London EC2N 4AJ 020 7256 7457 mapThomas Exchange Oxford Circus Office 5 Market Place London W1W 8AE 020 7637 7336 map
Thomas Exchange Holborn Office 115 Kingsway London WC2B 6PP 020 3005 4840 mapThomas Exchange Kings Cross Office 25 Euston Rd London NW1 2SD 020 3911 3811 map

Is it cheaper to get euros in the US or in Europe? ›

In almost every case, euros you can get abroad from an ATM will be cheaper than those you can get back in the States. When buying in advance, get just enough to give you a comfortable cushion and get you through a day's worth of emergency expenses.

Can I use American dollars in England? ›

Us dollars are not generally accepted in the UK. Nor, in fact, are Euros. With the exception of places like airport stores, you'll need to use UK currency in cash or a payment card during your time in the UK.

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