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Travel money guide: UK

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

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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.

Our picks for traveling to UK

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Wise Multi-currency logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

Wise Multi-currency

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.5/5
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

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.

These are your options for spending money in UK

Using a credit card

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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Fees and interest for cash withdrawal
  • Many cards charge 3% currency conversion fees

Using a debit card

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.

For example, a Wise account offers free ATM withdrawals a month up to $250, automatically converts your currencies, has low conversion fees and no transaction fees. Betterment Checking is another account to consider as it also has no international transaction fee and it has a free daily ATM withdrawal limit of $500, which is higher than Wise.

  • Tip: A debit card can be used for in-store purchases, online and for ATM withdrawals in the UK.
Pros
  • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
Cons
  • International ATM and currency conversion fees
  • No access to cash advances

Using a prepaid travel card

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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

Using traveler’s checks

Pros
  • Security
  • Cash at any bank
Cons
  • Fees for purchasing and cashing checks
  • Not accepted by many merchants
  • Currency exchange rate varies over time

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95

Up to $1,250 signup bonus

Earn a massive signup bonus of 100,000 points with this popular travel card. That's worth up to $1,250!
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points), 3x points on directly-booked flights and 1x points on all other purchases
$250

Rose Gold is Back

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 based on our valuation with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Platinum Card® from American Express
100,000 points after spending $6,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
$695

New Platinum Exclusive Offer

One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $7,000 based on Finder's valuation, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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UK currency

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.

The main banks in UK are:

  • HSBC Holdings
  • Barclay’s PLC
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Standard Chartered PLC
  • Santander UK
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • Schroders
  • Close Brothers
  • Coventry Building Society

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.

Live Rate

= £ 0.7205

Refreshing in: 60s | Wed, Jul 28, 12:02PM GMT

Find ATMs in UK

Cash pickup services in UK

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 74.01 INR 73,715 WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups. Go to site Show details
$10 Within an hour USD 1.99 72.894 INR 72,749 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 72.708 INR 72,127 MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide. Go to site Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 72.522 INR 71,072 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

How much should I budget to travel in 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. All prices are in US dollars.

BudgetMidrangeExpensive
AccommodationDorm bed
$30 per night
Double room
$80 per night
Boutique hotel room
$200 per night
MealsMarket-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
ActivitiesMany museums
Free
Theatre ticket
$30
Top theatre ticket
$80

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Case study: William's experience

William Eve profile photo
William Eve

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 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.

Case study: Roslyn’s experience

profile pic

Roslyn McKenna
Publisher

I visited the UK with friends in October 2018. I used my Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card just about everywhere because it has no foreign transaction fees and gives a flat cashback rate on everything. I also brought a few hundred dollars for small transaction amounts and exchanged it in the London Heathrow airport at a fair rate.

The only issue I encountered was the new scanning credit card machines. I’d made sure I had the newer chip-and-PIN card when I traveled to Japan, but I didn’t know the UK had already switched over to newer scanning chips. My card was declined at several places, like at Tesco supermarkets because it was a foreign card that could only be inserted or swiped.

If you’re going abroad, it’s helpful to get a solid cashback card with free foreign transactions that uses the most up-to-date payment style.

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Our latest travel deals to UK

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10% off Big Bus London: Hop-on, hop-off tour

Expires 31 Dec 2025
T&Cs apply
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Access 80+ locations with a discounted London Pass

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Special offers on London hotels

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