View Full Version : Least expensive way to get money in England
03-22-2010, 12:29 PM
We are off to England, on a trade of DVC points. Should I suck it up and use an ATM, with my US ATM card, for a 2% transaction fee., plus $6 ATM usage fee? Should I try to cash some US dollars in a UK bank? I know that credit cards charge 2-3% a transaction, but you usually get a good rate. I plan on using my credit cards, but I want some cash as well.
03-22-2010, 05:58 PM
Tbh, ATM will certainly be your easiest option, however, if you're planning to pick up a 'few supplies' like soda, snacks etc from a grocery store then it might be worth hitting somewhere like Tesco's and pay with your debit (not Credit) card as I believe they still offer a cashback service (gotta admit, I don't use it myself but they did last time I heard). I think that might have a £50 max on it per transaction however you would avoid the ATM usuage fee this way and could be ok for pocket money purposes.
You didn't say if you were staying in London or not, but if you are and it's central, there are a number of small exchange booths that offer pretty competitive rates commission free for cash exchanges but that would mean bringing cash $ over with you which kinda defeats the purpose.
There are also a number of places like the Post Office and a chain store called Marks and Spencer who offer 0% commission on Travelers Checks or debit cards but if their £ -> $ exchange rates are anything to go by, they're not very competitive so they just claw back their fees that way. However, they are as reputable and safe to use as any bank.
Just a heads up too. Most of our ATM's are free to use, certainly the obvious bank ones, however beware the smaller machines you might find in pubs or very small stores as they often also charge £1-2 fee for using the machine. It is however law that you're advised before you are charged so just make sure you're on the alert for it.
Hope that helps, enjoy your trip!
03-22-2010, 06:44 PM
How about exchanging some $$ here in the U.S. before your trip?
03-22-2010, 06:54 PM
You could always get Traveler's Cheques - that's what we did when we went to England in 2000. We purchased them at AAA (very small if any service fee) and got them in British Pounds (at the day's standard conversion rate). Once there, we actually found an AAA office that cashed them - but we also used a couple or cashed them at the hotel and never had problems doing so. Plus, if they're lost or stolen, they're covered.
Travelers Cheques are getting harder to get, almost impossible to get for free now, and harder to use. Often only resorts and banks will exchange them and often they will require a passport in hand. AAA no longer sells them. Travel cards are an option but they are fairly expensive to get and to reload. A year ago I used a CC once in Aruba and it was compromised. I actually used it at the ATM in the Marriott lobby and still didn't get money because I entered the PIN wrong the first time and it wouldn't work after that.
Here's what we did for MX and what we'll do for Aruba next year. I vowed to only use a CC at places I had no choice, essentially the resort and car rental. I got a separate free checking account at my CU with ATM cards. I just put enough money in it for out trip and made sure there were as few connections possible to my existing accounts including no overdraft protection. That way I could add to it online but if the card was stolen the most risk was what was in the account itself. So no fee to get it, no fee to load or unload online, the usage fees out of the country, no add on fees for out of the country and ONLY the fee that Mastercard themselves charge (I think it was 1.25%) I even depleted it online before we left MX. Before we go to Aruba I'll transfer money in, try it to make sure it works and I remember the PIN and I think we'll be all set.
My second best option was to buy Mastercard gift cards at my CU for $1 a hundred up to $750 per card, still cheaper overall than a AAA travel card.
03-24-2010, 01:32 PM
Thank you for the information. I think Dean is correct. Many years ago we went to England and brought travelers checks in pounds, and had a very hard time cashing them other than the banks. So travelers checks are not the way to go anymore.
With respect to cashing in dollars for pounds prior to leaving the states, in my experience, you get a lousy exchange rate. I may do that just to have a $100 worth of pounds in my pocket when we land in England, but beyond that, I don't think that is the way to go.
My husband works with someone from England and when they go back to visit they usually bring US dollars and change them in the banks there for little or no fees.
I will look into the CU option for an ATM card.
By the way, we are flying into London and renting a car for 4 nights to drive to York and possible the Lake District and then using our DVC points to trade for an apartment in London for a week and then we need to find a hotel for 2 more nights.
If anyone has any suggestions for sights or reasonably priced hotels in York or London, let me know. Please keep in mind that I am bringing a 9 year old and 5 1/2 year old, if you have any suggestions. We will be going in mid August, if that helps with suggestions.
Thanks for all your help. I knew I could count on disboards!
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