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USD needed for any reason when visiting UK?

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May 30th, 2011, 06:59 AM
  #1
plr
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USD needed for any reason when visiting UK?

Apologies if this question has been asked a million times, but I don't search this forum very well. Is there any reason I should take USD with me (anything from $20-several hundred $)? I'll of course have my Debit Card as well as Visa & Mastercard with me.

Probably another subject, but I'm Really uneasy from threads I've read here about the magnetic strip on all my cards possibly not being accepted in the UK. YIKE! I'd appreciate any reassurance here at nearly the 11th hour before my trip.
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May 30th, 2011, 07:03 AM
  #2
 
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Emergency money to exchange for GBP

"but I'm Really uneasy from threads I've read here about the magnetic strip on all my cards possibly not being accepted in the UK. "

And if you read every one of those threads you will also be told not to worry and that UK ATMs accept US cards.
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May 30th, 2011, 07:12 AM
  #3
ira
 
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Ditto AR

Enjoy your visit
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May 30th, 2011, 07:26 AM
  #4
plr
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Thanks for the reassurance about the credit cards. I did read the threads completely, and am afraid I got lost in the debate.
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May 30th, 2011, 07:31 AM
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Ditto. I've never had a problem with my card. You may have to give it to a store clerk to swipe rather than doing it yourself (as is the norm with the UK chip and PIN cards), but I've never had an issue in stores or at ATMs.

And I've never needed US dollars either.
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May 30th, 2011, 07:42 AM
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I always have a little cash on me whenever I travel, not necessarily for use in a foreign country but to/from the airport at home. What if some emergency happens and you need to take a cab, for example (which doesn't take credit cards), if your car breaks down or who knows what. Also, it could just be for an emergency stash to exchange, mine does double duty as I don't want to leave it in my car. I always have at least $100 on me when traveling.
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May 30th, 2011, 08:49 AM
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I have noticed that Americans often like to tip in dollars, even if it is not the currency of the country they are in. This is especially so when there are boxes for donations at places where admission is free.

I noticed this recently at the abbey in Melk, Austria, but I have also often seen it in the U.K.

Can anyone explain why this practice exists? It is not only Americans, since you sometimes see other currencies, but dollars are by far the most common.

I am sure that the recipients have easy ways of changing the money into something they can actually use, but they must lose a percentage in the transaction.

Is it an imperialist gesture (my home currency is the only one that is "real" money), or is it more like signing a visitor's book?
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May 30th, 2011, 09:01 AM
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I always chuckle when I see those plexi collection/donation boxes in churches and museums -- wondering to myself >>WHY are all these people carrying US$1 bills in London/Paris/wherever???<<

(I do usually have $100 or so stuck in the back of my wallet no matter where I'm traveling -- emergency stash or to use drive home from the airport or whatever. But I definitely don't have small $ mixed in w/ my £/€)
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May 30th, 2011, 09:40 AM
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I rather assumed it might be a case of a psychological disposition to think of one's home currency as closer to disposable change, and the local currency as something to be kept safe for more immediate needs.
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May 30th, 2011, 11:03 AM
  #10
 
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I always carry at least $200-300 cash with me in emergency money when I travel. Have rarely had to use it, but since I have had mishaps with ATM cards and credit cards while traveling, I never rely on just one type of currency (or one type of way to obtain it).
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May 30th, 2011, 11:37 AM
  #11
 
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There is no NEED for US $ anyplace in europe - although I do carry $200 in twenties wherever I go (just in case - a strike by the guys that fill the ATM machines, a power outage or ???). But then I really like being prepared.

You will have no problem using your CC or debit card in the UK or elsewhere in europe.
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May 30th, 2011, 12:40 PM
  #12
 
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Funny thing here in Nantucket this morning. I stopped to pick up some cash and all the cash machines were empty in the aftermath of the holiday and the Figawi yacht race over the weekend.

But GBP or euros wouldn't have done anyone any good!

Also every copy of the New York Times sold out yesterday before I got out of the early service at my church! We haven't quite adjusted to the summer season.
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May 31st, 2011, 04:38 PM
  #13
plr
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Thanks to each of you for your helpful responses! I usually do carry $100-200 with me whenever I travel internationally, but wasn't sure of any good reason to do so in the UK.

Just an aside thought in response to a couple of the posts above. Many countries where I've traveled welcome USD for tips, and I have used every one of the bulk of carrying $100-$200 in $1 bills. My guess is that folks contributing USD are hardly expressing an "imperialist gesture," (which is pretty pejorative)----and much more likely an expression of an assumption that USD are equally acceptable or welcomed in most countries.....And after all, they might have left nothing!?
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May 31st, 2011, 05:32 PM
  #14
Hez
 
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hmmm - I kind of think that making an assumption that USD are acceptable or welcomed the world over (which they aren't) could be construed as at very least arrogant. Perhaps "imperialist gesture" ascribes a bit too much intent to it but still...A bit like assuming everyone speaks English.
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May 31st, 2011, 05:47 PM
  #15
 
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I went to London the second week in May, so here are my thoughts.

I carried US$100 just for expenses while at the airport in the US. It was more comfort money than anything else, sort of a "just in case my cards don't work".

My ATM card worked everywhere in London. It was my credit cards that were the problem. None of the machines took my chipless cards, so I had to go to the window every time. From buying tickets for the tube to buying tickets to go to Brighton. I had no problems when the customer service person swiped my card, but what a pain in the posterior to have to wait in line.

As far as Americans dropping US dollars, I think some of it may be that they want to make a donation, but are not sure how much to drop in local currency. Some Americans aren't accustomed to grabbing a coin (British pound) rather than a paper dollar. The scenario may go: Oh, all I have is 5 pound note, so I'll just give a US dollar. Then later in the day when their pants are sagging because they have 30 coins worth one pound each, they remember that Brits don't carry 1 pound paper.
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May 31st, 2011, 06:22 PM
  #16
 
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US Dollars have in the past been appreciated in places like Zimbabwe, but most everywhere else you won't be able to use them except on US carriers you might find yourself flying.
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Jun 1st, 2011, 09:28 AM
  #17
 
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"Many countries where I've traveled welcome USD for tips" - really? Which ones? There are a few places where USD are the currency of choice - it's the official currency of Ecuador - but not "many". I agree that the idea of spreading dollar bills around for tips comes across very badly.
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Jun 1st, 2011, 10:54 AM
  #18
 
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I think they do in Mexico, Panama, and Cuba and some other Latin American countries, and they probably wouldn't be that upset with it in countries with a weak currency that wasn't worth anything abroad. I think when I was in Hungary, they weren't that keen on forints becuase no one else in the world wants them, but I could be wrong. I mean they would be happy to get USD.
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Jun 1st, 2011, 11:47 AM
  #19
 
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If it matters to you, Travelex does sell a chip-and-pin debit card (pre-loaded) that you can use in various vending machines to buy train tickets and other small purchases. You get a truly horrible exchange rate (losing about 12% when you load the card), but there's no fee to use it. If anyone is planning to do a lot of driving on motorways where gas stations may require a chip-and-pin card (though I think that is more true in France than the UK) or needs to buy train tickets from a machine, then this might be a nice convenience. But it's not a good deal.

But in central London and anyplace else there are foreign tourists, establishments should know how to process a regular credit card transaction rather than a chip-and-pin transaction. The chip-and-pin is irrelevant in ATMs because it's only used for purchases.

I do always carry a little U.S. currency in cash with me in an emergency. But ATMs are definitely the best way to go, and you'll get the best exchange rate from an ATM (even if you have to pay a foreign transaction fee).
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Jun 1st, 2011, 04:07 PM
  #20
plr
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thursdaysd quotes me with comment--"Many countries where I've traveled welcome USD for tips" - really? Which ones?"
Yes, Really, thursdaysd. Most all Central American countries, as already mentioned, Mexico, Egypt, Chile/Easter Island, for starters.

I really do appreciate everyone's input on my original question. Thanks!
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