Currency in London and Cotswolds

Old May 20th, 2010, 05:23 PM
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Currency in London and Cotswolds

We are almost ready to leave for our trip to the Cotswolds and London. My thanks to those of you who offered advice. Now, I need to know if credit cards and traveler's cheques are widely accepted in the Cotswolds? Obviously I will take some cash but want to carry as little as possible. Of course I will convert my cash into pounds before I leave the U.S. We are staying in a cottage so we will be visiting the markets for staples and will have cash for those purchases. What about local attractions, grocery chains and restaurants? Will my U.S. debit card even work in the ATM machines?? I know we aren't traveling to Mars but having traveled to some very quaint destinations in Europe, I appreciate the fact that many places are cash only. I don't want to be sorry I didn't bring enough cash but also don't want the worry of having too much on my person. Thanks to you all, in advance!

I also posted this on the U.S. forum and have been told that traveler's cheques are dinosaurs.....okay I am over 40 and a bit antiquated (last European trip was 8 years ago) and of course, if I can use my debit card I will only withdraw from my checking account, which I do in the States as well. I have been told that credit cards are accepted everywhere...not convinced of this. Especially since I am a huge fan of American Express and the merchants in the States hate the card. Looking forward to your responses.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 05:34 PM
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Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. But American Express might not be as accepted as Mastercard and Visa, so I would make sure to have at least one of those. And it is true, travelers checks are dinosaurs, it is hard to find anywhere to cash them.

The easiest way to get cash is to go to the ATM. Your US debit card should work if it is one of the major networks (such as Plus or Cirrus). I always bring two, from two different accounts, just in case one doesn't work.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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American Express is not as widely accepted as Visa or MC - because they charge merchants a higher percentage. I would not take AC only but also have an MC or Visa. (We always travel with 2 different cards each - in case anything happens - never has, but you don't know so we always have 2 cards to choose from.) A few restaurants don;t take credit cards (usually very upscale) but most places will for anything more than a few pounds.

(Also note Diner's Club is VERY rarely accepted and Discover is not supported at all outside of the US. Our corporate card is Diner's Club - for reasons I don;t understand - but it also has an MC logo - since so many places won't take it - even in the US.)

Just pull cash for walking around money every 2 or 3 days and you're never be carrying too much.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 05:43 PM
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You will have no problems using most credit cards in the Cotwolds or elsewhere in the UK, although I am not sure about American Express. ATMs are plentiful and we had no problems with our Visa debit card. Be sure that you notify your debit and credit card card carrier where and when you will be traveling to avoid the fraud department from blocking your card. You may want to adjust your daily withdrawal limit as well. Be sure that you change your Pin number to one of four digits - no letters. The credit card issued by Capitol One does not have foreign transaction fees except when used at an ATM, and then the fees are quite steep. American Express fees are pretty steep as well. Debit cards are best for your ATM withdrawals.

There is no need to change dollars to pounds before leaving the US-you will pay about 20 cents more per pound if you do. If that makes you nervous, just change a minimal amount at the airport. Travelex, the company that runs most US airport money exchange booths has an online coupon that will save you fees.

Travelers Checks are antiquated and a waste of time and money. Many merchants will not accept them.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 06:28 PM
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Such great advice. I can't thank you all enough. I was on my way to the bank tomorrow and thought....maybe I should run this by the forum. We are so looking forward to this trip and because of your feedback, our trip will be even better. Happy traveling to everyone and thank you for your kind, prompt responses!
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Old May 20th, 2010, 06:52 PM
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In recent years, London and much of the rest of the UK has become much more like the USA in the acceptance of credit cards and use of debit cards in ATM's. I can spend a week in London, not necessarily go to any really upscale venues, and not once reach into my wallet for anything other than my credit card (Charles Schwab Bank visa with no foreign currency charge and 2% rebate on all purchases)..all fast food joints take credit cards, Pret a manger, my usual lunch stop takes credit cards, the grocery chains (Tesco, Sainsbury among others) take credit cards, theatres take credit cards, those tourist attractions that charge entrance fees (not all do) take credit cards, department stores take credit cards, topping up my mobile phone (you should really look into getting one if you're going to be in Britain for a while, they are very very cheap) at convenience stores take credit cards, topping up my oyster cvard takes credit cards...I can hardly think of any place where they don't take credit cards...oh yeah if I go into a pub and order a pint, I might have to reach in for a few coins but if I order food as well, usually they take credit cards. Some few places do enforce minimums of 5 or 10 quid but most don't.......probably throughout most of England you will find the same things to be true. As far as TC's, everybody is quite correct...they are most assuredly dinosaurs of a bygone era. You don't have to pick up any British currency before leaving...upon arrival at Heathrow or Gatwick or whatever, you will find tons of ATM's and you will find ATM's all over the place, especially in London. So the modern 21st century way to travel...

1. Use credit cards everywhere they are taken (and in England that's almost everywhere). As noted, MC and Visa are much more popular than Amex.

2. Fill in with ATM withdrawals for those very few occasions when somebody doesn't take a credit card but as noted those places are fewer and fewer.

Have fun.
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Old May 21st, 2010, 02:42 AM
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Skip your bank for cash before leaving unless having 50 pounds for arrival expenses will help your comfort level.

Do find out which ATMs will be free with your debit card: Bank of America uses Barclays in the UK and BNP Paribas in France. They do charge a currency translation fee, however.

Because most British and European credit card terminals have migrated to chip and pin (we haven't) your credit card may require special handling, but it will work. In small country pubs and shops, there may only be one person who can make it happen, but it can happen.

Have fun, don't worry.
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