The Penny and the Pound: Exchanging Currency in the UK

If you are visiting the UK and want to exchange some currency into pounds sterling, there are numerous options available to you.

One particular aspect about foreign currency exchange rates is that they can vary quite considerably and if you don’t shop around or work out what the best deal is, it could end up costing you money that you could have been spending during your trip.

Check before you buy

The most basic advice to give anyone visiting the UK is to not just go to the first kiosk, ATM or travel agency outlet that you find and just take whatever exchange rate is offered to you. Everyone who is offering to sell you foreign exchange has to make a profit by adding a small margin to the price or charging you a fee, but some places definitely offer far better value and buying power for your money than others.

If you need cash for grabbing a cup of coffee or incidental purchases then you could take a small amount out of an ATM or cashpoint as they are often referred to in the UK, but for larger sums and to get a better rate all round you should plan ahead and consider using an online FX broker who can often offer you great rates because they don’t have the overheads that a high street bank has.

Ordering your money

As already stated, your best plan of action in order to get the best rate of exchange for your money is to order in advance of your trip rather than try and find somewhere like a kiosk when you arrive, as they will know you won’t be shopping around and can probably charge you a bit more as a result.

Once you have decided how much pounds sterling you will need for your trip to the UK, you will need to choose an appropriate method of payment. You can order currency online from an FX broker using your bank credit or debit card, after you have decided that the rate being offered is good value.

You may be required to provide some identification or open an account with the broker as part of the currency exchange process, so allow yourself a few days before you need the money so that you can take the time to compare rates and get your money ordered.

Know your new currency

A classic mistake made by too many foreign visitors is to not understand the value or be able to identify the currency they are using accurately enough, which leads to mistakes being made.

Sadly not everyone in the world is honest and if you hand over a much larger value note thinking it is the right one to use, you might quickly end up spending more than you bargained for.

Take a look at what each bank note looks like and also the coins. This will help you to feel more comfortable using the money and less likely to overpay for something in error.

Knowing your pennies and pounds and buying them at the best possible rate, will help you to have an enjoyable trip whilst in the UK.

Edward Gill is a retired bank worker with relatives from all over the world. An avid blogger, he likes to make his visitors feel welcome by arming them with the knowledge they need to relax. Look for his informative and entertaining articles on a number of blogs and sites on the web.