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Foreign Exchange Questions?

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Marietta, Georgia
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163 posts
14 reviews
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Foreign Exchange Questions?

Is it better for me to bring cash dollars and exchange later?

Or, traveler's checks in U.S. Dollars?

Or, charge everything via American Express/Visa?

Which do I get more for my money?

UK
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49,561 posts
92 reviews
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1. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

This has been covered a million times, if you want to see the previous discussions/vicious arguments :-) search for the terms you used, but I think the GENERAL* consensus is;

Use Credit cards where possible and ATMs via your debit/checking account to get cash out. Therefore no need for TC's. If you do bring them you'll have to find somewhere to change them, they aren't accepted as cash here, unlike in the US.

Note that American Express is less widely used, bring another card as well. MC & Visa are all over.

*some people still want the 'security' they feel TC's give them, but its a lot more hassle and cost, IMHO you can get the same by bringing a couple of different debit cards and credit cards (in case of loss)...others may disagree :-)

Dunfermline, United...
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13,130 posts
38 reviews
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2. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

T/C's are not welcomed at shops and restaurants in the same way as they are in the US. As Joe says, you will have hassle changing them.

Generally, it is best to bring a VISA or MasterCard (not AmEx as again, many retailers won't accept it due to their high charges) and inform your bank/issuer that you will be abroad so they don't block it.

You will also need a 4 digit PIN number for use at ATM's.

For your arrival, you could bring enough USD to change into GBP upon landing, it won't be a great rate but it will get you started, or change up enough USD into GBP before you go.

As a rule, I think the exchange rate used by credit cards tends to be slightly better than cash or T/C's.

Hope that helps

Andy

Edinburgh, United...
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21,776 posts
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3. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

I would agree with Joe.

Atm's are the way to go.

travellers Checks are a complete waste of time in Britain and Europe.the number of places accepting them are few and far between . the only people to gain from travellers cheques are the issuing agents .

bring some dollars and they can be easily changed at banks ,but best rates are through the ATM's.

Ipswich, United...
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for Ipswich
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7,463 posts
29 reviews
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4. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

If you do want to bring cash, change your dollars when you get to the UK at the small outlets near major railway stations and in touristy areas. Their rates are always clearly shown and you will get a better rate than you would in any major UK or US bank.

Don't do this, though, in Paris, Amsterdam and some other European cities. The (less regulated) exchange booths there are a rip off, often charging 10% commission. So if you're in London and plan to go to the Continent, get your euros in the UK before you go.

Stanley, Falkland...
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32,730 posts
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5. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

Are you sure about that, Wansteader? How can a little one-man exchange booth compete with a bank or M&S?

And how is it better to carry dollars in cash, when you can keep them tucked up safely in your bank account shoe box back home, and then draw them out in local currency from a hole in the wall when needed?

Ipswich, United...
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6. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

I would recommend ATMs too, but I was trying to be helpful to those who wanted to take at least a small quantity of cash.

I don't know how the small booths do better than Marks and Spencer but they do. Probably the number of people using them in proportion to their size. Both I and my colleagues who work near Victoria know this to be the case, and we're a tight-fisted bunch!

Marietta, Georgia
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163 posts
14 reviews
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7. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

I guess the concensus is it's better to use my ATM card w/PIN#.

American Express is not widely used because of high transaction fees.

Thank you everyone for your input.

Lake Forest...
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205 posts
24 reviews
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8. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

If you have time, before travelling abroad take out a credit card from CapitalOne. They are the only large bank that I have found that will not charge a 1-2% "foreign transaction" fee AND they "eat" the 1% fee imposed by Mastercard. Use it to charge anything overseas, including when you are booking hotels or rental cars from the U, and you are basically saving 3%. These fees used to drive me crazy on my Bank of America cards

Ames, Iowa
11 posts
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9. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

We just returned from Glasgow a few weeks ago, and I agree that ATMs are more favorable than credit cards these days.

Our Bank in the states did not charge us any withdrawal fee, and none of the banks in Glasgow charged us a fee to use the ATMs either.

Please back me up here, UK citizens, but I think my friends in Glasgow said that banks in the UK as a whole do not charge ATM fees anymore. Or was that just Glasgow or Scotland?

In any case, our credit cards both charged that annoying 3% fee. Its worth noting that the situation seems reversed from the last time I was in London 3 years ago. At that time I remembered paying ATM fees but one of my ccs didn't charge a fee.

Its good to have CASH AND A CREDIT CARD for the convenience nonetheless. We did have one situation on a tour bus where this older canadian couple apparently had no cash, and/or no way of getting any. The bus driver needed cash for the tourist excursion we went on. He went out of his way to try to call in and charge it with a credit card, numerous times, but was unable to get the charge through. All I could figure was that the couple had no ATM card and didn't have a credit card pin for a cash advance, or their card was maxxed out. Again, I'm guessing they where relying on Traveler's checks....

Cumbernauld
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for Glasgow
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6 reviews
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10. Re: Foreign Exchange Questions?

One gotcha we faced was that card providers may put a block on the amount of transactions (sensible, but it's easy to surpass the limit if you use it for every transaction while abroad) you can make on a given business day so it's worthwhile finding out from them if they do this and perhaps getting it increased.

Pretty much all the banks' own ATMs will be free, however convenience ATMs you may find in shops and stations may make a charge, they will however inform you about the charge before you make the withdrawal so you can back out.

If you pre-order your cash at the airport for collection e.g. travelex you will get a much better rate than just turning up.