Currency - From U.S. to UK

Aug 11th, 2003, 08:22 AM
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Currency - From U.S. to UK

For the first time, I am traveling outside the U.S. to Englad. I have no idea what I should do about currency. Fodor's 2003 London Guide is vague, at best. Should I:

(1) Just bring U.S. traveler's checks and U.S. currency

(2) Bring U.K. traveler's cheques and U.S. currency (for exchange at bank)

(3) Bring U.S. traveler's checks and British currency

or, and I hope this will not be the majority answer:

(4) Bring a little of both! (grin)

I will arrive in Gaitwick, stay in the Kensington area and the stay is for 2 weeks.

Appreciate the assiatance in advance,

Dietdoctor is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 08:28 AM
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None of the above! Just take your ATM card and credit card(s). I hit an ATM machine when I arrive to get cash, but some people feel more comfortable getting a small amount of British money at home to take with them. Do not exchange US money at a bank in Britain. The exchange rate will not be as good and they will charge you for the service. You get a better rate using ATMs and most British banks don't charge to use their machines. Your US bank probably will though.
Barbara is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 08:52 AM
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To Barbara: Thank you for the advice! WOW! I am totally impressed with this site for response time and insights. Now, consider this: I do not use an ATM card, even here in the States. Please excuse my ignorance (since I have also not done this at home) can you get a cash advance on credit cards (MC, Amex, VISA) through the British ATM? Again, sorry for the lack of experience, but I am taking my first overseas advernture.

P.S. As you can see, I am a cash-carrying at home as well. (grin)

Many thanks,

Dietdoctor is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 09:00 AM
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Ron, you should follow Barbara's advice. Not having an ATM should not prevent you from getting one - even if it's only for this trip, if you prefer not having it in the US.

For years I coped with the traveler check bit until I started using my ATM abroad. It's a piece of cake. Get one!
TuckH is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 09:05 AM
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To answer your question, yes, you could get a cash advance on your credit cards. You just don't want to. Cash advances have much higher interest rates. As Tuck suggested, even if you only use it for this trip, get an ATM card from your bank.
Barbara is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 09:15 AM
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Hi DD,

I agree that you should get an ATM card. Look for a bank with the lowest fee for transactions outside of their own machines.

I change about $100 at the airport before departure so that I don't have to use the ATM at the arrival airport.

You don't want a cash advance. It is a very high interest loan.

You might want to purchase some Dollar denoted traveler's checks for emergencies. If you don't exchange them, you can use them at home.

Don't buy pounds in the US or exchange dollars for pounds in England. The exchange rate is very poor.

Don't buy TC's in pounds because you will be charged to cash them.

Have a nice trip.
ira is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 09:52 AM
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Not only do cash advances on credit cards charge a higher interest rate, they don't have a grace period. That means the day the transaction occurs is the day that the interest starts being charged so you can't pay in full at the end of the month and avoid interest charges for cash advances.
indytravel is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 09:56 AM
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Cash advances on a credit card are, IMHO, one of the greatest rip offs of the modern world. They should be used ONLY in desperate circumstances. I'm going to be harsh, Ron, but it's for your own good: GET AN ATM! JOIN THE 21st CENTURY!
Marilyn is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 10:06 AM
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Here's a related question. I'll be in Germany before heading to the UK. Is there a significant difference in rates whether I exchange my leftover euros into pounds before leaving Germany or after my arrival in the UK? And where's the best place to exchange?
Patty is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 10:14 AM
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Dietdoctor, if you do not get an ATM card in spite of the advice, simply take TCs in US dollars. Of course you'll have some US cash on you, I suppose, but there's no advantage to taking US cash to Europe instead of US TCs. Do not take TCs in pounds, you'll pay to cash them and pay in the US a hefty rate different just to get them in pounds.

There's no need to take pounds with you as you'll being going into a major airport, I presume, where you will find either ATM or exchange bureau, for sure. Actually, there were no ATMs working at Heathrow when I went there last summer, so I had to cash TCs--at least not in the areas where you leave to go to transportation.

Exchange bureaux are all over central London, there are tons of them, where you can exchange the USD TCs to pounds. Rates aren't too terrible -- the ones inside the major dept. stores are pretty good (eg, Selfridges). Do not exchange a lot at the airport as their rates are very bad.
Christina is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 10:24 AM
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To: Christina, Barbara, TuckH, and all the other wonders of modern communication

I am truly overwhelmed with the information and sage advice. I have never (and, folks, I have been on the internet since I used a 300 baud, acoutic modem!) found such an informed, selfless, and gratious group of bon vivants <sic> and travel experts.

I am truly amazed and grateful for your kindness and generosity with your time and expertise. This is truly an amazing resource.

Dietdoctor is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 10:28 AM
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I just returned from the UK and will second (third, fourth?) the advice to use an ATM card. Ours worked almost everwhere. (The curious exception to this is the London Visitors Center near Piccadilly Circus!)

The ATM exchange rate and fee schedule is always better than what you'll pay with a credit card cash advance or by converting dollars at a change bureau.
JohnNewOrleans is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 10:54 AM
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Another suggestion for those looking to purchase foreign currency to have on hand when they arrive for vacation. I would suggest you call your local bank and ask about the costs of exchanging money and how long it will take for them or order those funds. I work for a regional bank, and I was surprised to learn that it can take several weeks for my local branch to order foreign currency. Every bank is different- most do not keep foreign currency on hand, and have not done so for several years.

Ron- to get at ATM card, just stop by the bank where you have your checking account. Take two pieces of ID (driver's license, supplemented by your ss card, birth cert., or passport- thanks to the Patriot Act). It should only take them 10 minutes to order you an ATM card. You should also consider getting a credit card, just in case an emergency comes up while abroad. Finally, do take $100 USD in traveller's checks and keep them somewhere safe, as an extra measure of security. Have fun!
Erin is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 11:20 AM
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And when you get and ATM card, make sure you choose a 4-digit (not letter) PIN. This is what you will need in order to use the card in Europe.

Make sure to tell your bank that you will be using it in England, and your dates of travel, so that they do not freeze your account as a result of what looks like unusual activity.

My mother is a non-ATM user here in the States, but I made her get a card to use during our trip to France. I took her on a "field trip" to the local bank at home so that she could give the ATM machine a trial run. She used it easily enough during our trip, but still will not do so at home.

Another way to pay for things is to use your credit cards wherever possible - by charging on them, not obtaining a cash advance. This provides you with a good exchange rate (though check with your issuing bank to find out if they tack on another 2% in foreign currency excahnge fees in addition to the 1% charged by Visa and MC.)
Lesli is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 12:07 PM
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Message: To: Christina, Barbara, TuckH, Erin, Leslie, and NewOrleans - and all the other wonders of modern communication.

I submitted my documentation for a ATM card at the bank at lunch. I feel all set to take on London (HA!!) - at least the financial side of things. Now, for those other pesky items - shorts, t-shirts, camera, etc.

You have all been wonderful.

All my best to you all,

Dietdoctor is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 12:26 PM
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As a token of your gratitude, you'll be required to post a Trip Report upon you return. We'll be watching for it!
TuckH is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 12:35 PM
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Lesli, are you a relative? Before Mom and I went to Europe, Dad gave her an ATM lesson. While in Europe I was there helping her with the ATM. Those were the only 2 times she has used the ATM.

Dietdoctor Ron,
Have fun on your trip. I agree with everyone about using the ATM and credit cards. Try to charge as much as possible esp. if you have a credit card that earns you frequent flyer miles!
ncgrrl is offline  
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