Travel money guide for UK - Compare travel money cards | finder.com

Travel money guide: UK

If you’re traveling to the UK, learn the best way to carry and spend your money overseas.

The United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — is a popular destinations for Americans. US citizens get an automatic visa for six months to drive over London Bridge, explore Stonehenge and sip tea by the Thames. But how do you pay for your adventures? Can you use US dollars, or should you exchange your money for the British pound? We’ll help you get the most out of your US dollar without spending too much on international transaction fees using credit cards, debit cards and cash.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Compare travel cards for UK

Rates last updated February 23rd, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
0% of transaction value
$0
$10 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
2%
of transaction value
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
0% of transaction value
$0
Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    How much British pounds do I need for a trip to the UK?

    The UK is one of the most expensive places in Europe to travel. From transportation to hotels and food, you’ll find you’ll spend a lot more on the basics than in many other countries. If you’re looking to travel on a backpacker’s budget, plan for $60 or so per day, about $150 for midrange budget and $400 for you’re looking to live it up.

    LondonBudgetMidrangeExpensive
    sleep

    Dorm bed

    $30 per night

    Double room

    $80 per night

    Boutique hotel room

    $200 per night

    foodMarket-stall lunch
    $3
    Supermarket sandwich
    $3.50 – $4.50
    Two-course dinner
    w/ glass of wine
    $60
    Three-course dinner
    in top restaurant w/ wine
    $150
    theatreMany museums
    Free
    Theatre ticket
    $30
    Top theatre ticket
    $80

    *Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

    How the USD compares to the GBP

    Since the housing crisis of 2007, the USD lost value against the GBP. But ever since the Brexit vote for the UK to leave the European Union in June 2016, the sterling pound has lost purchasing power. The rates are better than ever for US travelers, so lock in your rates with a travel money card or traveler’s checks.

    US dollar to the pound sterling for the last 10 years

    Feb 2008 Feb 2009 Feb 2010 Feb 2011 Feb 2012 Feb 2013 Feb 2014 Feb 2015 Feb 2016 Feb 2017
    1 USD = 0.5081 Inverse: 1.9680 0.6880 Inverse: 1.4536 0.6480 Inverse: 1.5431 0.6165 Inverse: 1.6221 0.6361 Inverse: 1.5721 0.6583 Inverse: 1.5190 0.6017 Inverse: 1.6619 0.6498 Inverse: 1.5390 0.7065 Inverse: 1.4154 0.8008 Inverse: 1.2487

    US dollar to the pound sterling for the last 10 months

    Apr 2017 May 2017 Jun 2017 Jul 2017 Aug 2017 Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017 Dec 2017 Jan 2018
    1 USD = 0.7783 Inverse: 1.2848 0.7809 Inverse: 1.2806 0.7846 Inverse: 1.2745 0.7677 Inverse: 1.3026 0.7812 Inverse: 1.2800 0.7411 Inverse: 1.3493 0.7574 Inverse: 1.3203 0.7510 Inverse: 1.3315 0.7486 Inverse: 1.3359 0.7199 Inverse: 1.3890

    What’s the best way to take your travel money to the UK?

    Like the US, you can pay for most your your travel with a credit card. You’ll find that most major credit cards are accepted everywhere. Make the most of your money on your travels and find a card that offers travel rewards or a card that’ll waive foreign transaction fees.

    It’s good to carry some cash for smaller purchases or to use for tips. You’ll easily find ATMs at banks, stores and gas stations — but try to only use your debit card. You’ll pay steep fees getting a cash advance from your credit cards.

    Travel money options for UK at a glance

    Travel money optionProsCons
    Debit cards
    • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
    • International ATM and currency conversion fees
    • No access to cash advances
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Lock in exchange rate when you convert USD to GBP
    • Can hold multiple currencies.
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
    • Reloadable online
    • Come with lots of fees for loading and reloading, inactivity and ATM withdrawals.
    • Your name isn’t printed on the front
    • Businesses won’t accept prepaid cards
    Credit cards
    • Major credit cards widely accepted
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
    • Some cards offer travel benefits
    • Emergency card replacement
    • Fees and interest for cash withdrawal
    • Many cards charge 3% currency conversion fees
    Traveler’s checks
    • Security
    • Cash at any bank
    • Fees for purchasing and cashing checks
    • Not accepted by many merchants
    • Currency exchange rate varies over time
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How to send money to UK

    How travel money works in the UK

    Using prepaid travel cards

    The biggest benefit of travel cards is that you can load up to three currencies at once and lock in a favorable exchange rate. If you need more than one currency on your travels, you can save money on the 3% currency conversion fee you’ll pay with other credit and debit cards.

    Where you save in the conversion rates you may pay in fees. You’ll pay fees each time you load the card, ATM withdrawals and sometimes even an inactivity fee.

    • Tip: Banks that provide travel cards make money by applying a higher margin to the exchange rate. You can get a better rate using a debit card or credit card.

    Using debit cards

    A travel debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to the UK. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. The Citibank Plus waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.

    • Tip: A debit card can be used for in-store purchases, online and for ATM withdrawals in the UK.

    Using credit cards

    You won’t have any problems using a travel credit card in the UK. Most major credit cards are accepted, but you’ll find it hard to use your Diners Club, American Express or Discover cards at small businesses. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees and offers travel rewards. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

    Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer the ease of cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.

    Back to top

    Interview with William Eve about UK travel money options

    We interviewed Will, a finder.com user, about his latest trip to the UK. He told us about his experience using credit and travel money cards.

    What credit cards, debit cards or travel money cards did you take with you?

    Why did you take these cards?

    Will traveled to France, Spain and the UK while on his trip, so he needed both euros and pounds. He brought his Cash Passport Mastercard so he could cary both currencies and lock in a strong exchange rate. For most of his other purchases he used his British Airways Visa Signature. He earns rewards for every dollar he spends — and there’s no foreign exchange fees.

    Were there any places where your cards weren’t accepted?

    Will found a few places where the Cash Passport travel card wasn’t accepted. Instead he used his British Airways card or he easily found an ATM to take out cash. There were a few small businesses that were cash only, but for the most part, he didn’t run into many problems using his credit card.

    How much cash would you take on a three-week holiday?

    Will says he was shocked at how expensive things were in the UK compared to other European countries. Will budgeted for $150 per day for a total of $3,000 over three weeks in the UK (including accommodation). Though he says he could have easily spent double this amount.

    What money tips do you have to anyone traveling to this country?

    Pay attention to how much you spend on food and alcohol. Will says eating out and drinking in London and other parts of the UK is extremely expensive. He gives this advice for keeping costs low: “Hunt out good pub meal bargains and shop at Tesco and Sainsbury’s for your other meals. Try to avoid drinking coffee out.”

    Will also recommends AirBnB, especially if you’re traveling as a group. Hostel dorm beds were upward of £35 a night.

    Back to top

    A guide to deciphering pound sterling banknotes

    The pound sterling is the official currency of the UK and is the fourth most traded currency in the world. One pound is subdivided into 100 pence and comes in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50 banknotes, issued by the Bank of England for over 300 years. All banknotes feature Queen Elizabeth II on the front.

    BanknoteFeatures

    £5

    £5-note

    The current £5 banknote features Elizabeth Fry, who made her name fighting for improved living conditions for women in European jails.
    Issued on May 21, 2002.

    £10

    10-pound-note

    The back of the £10 banknote is Charles Darwin, the Victorian naturalist who developed the theory of evolution.
    Issued on November 7, 2000.

    £20

    20-pound-note

    The £20 banknote features the Scottish economist, Adam Smith with an illustration of ‘The division of labour in pin manufacturing’.
    Issued on March 13, 2007.

    £50

    50-pound-note

    The new-style £50 banknote entered circulation on November 2, 2011.
    The note features two Britons on the back — Matthew Boulton and James Watt with steam engine and Boulton’s Soho factory.

    Finding travel insurance for your trip to the UK

    • Lost luggage
    • Travel interruption
    • Lost or stolen travel documents
    • Cancellation
    • Personal liability
    • Repatriation
    Details Features
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info
    Back to top
    Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

    Ask an Expert

    You are about to post a question on finder.com:

    • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
    • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
    • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
    • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

    Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
    Go to site