and paying for things in Britain, cash withdrawals, and other tips
and pence - the British currency
Throughout the United Kingdom - though not in the Republic of Ireland -
the currency used is the Pound, or Pound Sterling. The bank reference
for this currency is GBP.
One pound is divided into 100 pennies, or pence.
To specify sums of money, pence is the
normal plural form
of the word penny.
2016, one pound is worth more
than one Euro
and more than
one US dollar.
the Brexit referendum result, the pound has fallen at least
world currencies, meaning that Britain has suddenly got quite a bit
cheaper for foreign visitors
Here are the conversion rates as of 12th
October 2016 (almost 4 months after the Brexit referendum)
currencies. The pound is expected to continue to fall until or unless
Brexit is called off.
conversion rates (12 October 2016) : One British
||1.21 US dollars
||1.62 Canadian dollars
|1.62 Australian dollars
||127 Japanese yen
||8.24 Chinese yuan
In other words, for example, an item costing £100
costs the equivalent of 129 €uros, 143 US dollars, 190
Canadian dollars, 930 Chinese yuan, etc.
Coins are used for units up to the value of
£2. Banknotes start at £5.
Sums are expressed in different ways by different
speakers. For example, the sum of £24.99 may be expressed as
"Twenty-four ninety-nine", or "Twenty-four pounds ninety-nine", or even
"Twenty-four pounds and ninety-nine pence".
Sums below one pound may be expressed, for
example, as "Forty-five pence" or "Forty-five pee", but never as
"forty-five pennies". The word "pennies" is not used in sums
or transactions; only in generic expressions such as "pounds and
The word "quid" is slang for "pound(s)", as in
"That'll be fifty quid please".
The word "a grand" is slang for a thousand pounds.
UK shops offer online sales, with (often free) delivery to Europe or even worldwide.
Some have prices in Euros or dollars, others in sterling. For a
selection of the best shops, see Online
By far the easiest way to pay for thigs in Britain - in shops,
restaurants and hotels, is by "plastic". International credit or debit
cards, notably Visa
can be used all over Britain. Many outlets and ATMs also accept
American Express and
other international cards.
Paying in cash
However, there are always places that do not
accept plastic cards - for instance small shops, small restaurants,
market stalls, parking meters, and so on, so visitors to Britain will
need to have some pounds and pennies available.
It is not usually possible to pay for things in cash in
Britain using dollars or euros. It is normally essential to have pounds
and pennies. However in London, some of the big department stores, such
as Marks and Spencer or Selfridges, accept payment in Euros and/or
dollars. But the exchange rate is liable to be unfavourable.
It would be far better to withdraw pounds from an ATM (cash
machine, cash distributor, cashpoint) and pay in sterling, rather than
to try and pay with a different currency.
getting your pounds
Credit or debit cards and ATMs
The easiest way to get your British pounds, and often the cheapest way,
is to use your Visa or Mastercard in a British ATM, just as you would
at home. But before you come to the UK, make sure that you
tell your bank at home that you are going to the UK, and ask them to
set your maximum withdrawal level as you will need it. Many banks have
security systems that will stop a card being used, abnormally, in an
unusual location; so if your card is suddenly used for withdrawing
money in the UK, your bank's computer system may imagine that this is a
fraud, and block your card. This can be extremely problematic
for visitors in a foreign country.
Exchange fees and commissions
Your bank will normally charge you a small fee for using your card
abroad, and a small foreign exchange fee. So it does not make a lot of
sense to use your card for a lot of small purchases or withdrawals, on
which you will pay a lot of exchange fees; far better normally to
withdraw a useful amount of cash (1 withdrawal = 1 fee), and pay for
small purchases in cash.
bank-operated ATMs in the UK will not normally charge you for using
their ATM; however, there are a lot of ATMs in non-bank locations
(garages, train stations, motorway service areas, etc.) which are not
bank ATMs, but are run by private finance companies. These can, and
usually do, charge an
extra fee for using their machine, in addition to those
that your own bank will charge.
means of obtaining your Pounds
you do not want to, or cannot, use a credit card or debit card while
visiting Britain, you must make other arrangements. The best method is
to get Sterling (GBP) from your bank before leaving home. You can
either get cash or sterling-denominated travellers cheques.
Your own bank may well offer you a better exchange rate than other
You can also buy British pounds in exchange
for foreign banknotes in almost any bank in the UK; however,
even if the UK is a relatively safe country, it is not advisable for
tourists to go round with hundreds of pounds worth of cash in
banknotes, on their person.
not find yourself having to exchange money at a "bureau de
change" or foreign exchange kiosk in at an airport, ferry terminal, or
other location. Privately operated currency-exchange kiosks often take
considerable commissions, even when, as often, they announce "We take
Don't fall for that one. They may take no
"commission" in the sense that they don't take any further fee off the
sum in Sterling once they have converted it for you. On the other hand,
they may use a hugely unfavourable exchange rate, well below
that offered by reputable banks. So even with "no commission", they
don't give you a good rate for your exchange transaction.
can be cashed at most banks and used in some hotels, but they will not
be accepted for payment in many other places.
If Britain is just one leg on a tour of Europe, then there
is no particular recommendation as to what currency you get your
travellers cheques in. But if your trip only takes in the UK, then get
your travellers' cheques in Sterling; a £100 travellers
cheque will get you £100 - there should be no other
commission to pay..
is often possible to have money wired to you while in the UK, using the
services of companies such as Western Union or Moneygram - even Paypal.
Union has agents in most UK towns and cities, in a variety of types of
establishment including travel agencies, newsagents, grocery stores,
financial services agents, and other outlets, but not usually banks.
Moneygram tends to use more institutional agents, notably
Post offices and Thomas Cook travel agencies.
in Britain at the best rates