Pay almost anywhere with a card — but make sure it has no foreign transaction fees.
Taking a trip to the United Kingdom? You’ll find that credit cards are widely accepted throughout the UK. American Express and Discover cards are less popular than Mastercard and Visa, but you shouldn’t have any problem using an ATM or paying with these credit cards in London — or any other large cities in the UK.
Prefer to carry cash? There are many ATMs across the island. Though, keep in mind credit cards often charge high fees for cash advances, so consider bringing along your debit card for cash.
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If you use your credit card often when traveling abroad, a travel card could help you save on foreign transaction fees. Many cards offer no foreign transaction fees and travel rewards, but often come with an annual fee. Consider how often you’ll use the travel rewards to make the annual fee worth it.
Potential credit card fees in the United Kingdom
When you use your card to pay for goods or services in the UK, you could incur two types of fees:
- Foreign transaction fees. These can be up to 3%, depending your card — which means you could pay up to $60 in fees when you spend $2,000 on your card.
- Currency conversion fees. There’s a payment option called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), which lets you pay in US dollars instead of the local currency. Although it’s convenient to know the price in US dollars, the DCC has poor exchange rate and higher fees.
Can I incur both fees on a single transaction?
Yes. But you can avoid this if you get a travel card without foreign transaction fees and decline DCC when it’s offered.
Which credit card issuers are accepted in the United Kingdom?
You’ll find American Express and Discover cards to be widely accepted throughout the UK, especially in the large cities. Mastercard and Visa are still more popular, and are accepted in villages and smaller vendors.
If you have an Amex card and want to make a cash withdrawal, you’ll find most ATMs accept Amex cards. For Discover cards, look for Cardtronics, Moneycorp, Travelex and Yourcash ATMs.
Should I use my credit card to get cash in the United Kingdom?
Paying with your card in most places in the UK shouldn’t be a problem. But if you want to have cash, you can make a withdrawal from an ATM, called cashpoints. But be careful — you could pay up to 5% for cash advances, and you’ll incur a higher cash advance APR.
One way to avoid these fees is by using a debit card for making cash withdrawals, since they usually don’t have a cash advance fee or APR. This can help you manage your money by limiting your credit card use, and accidentally overspending.
Do taxis in the United Kingdom accept credit cards?
You may find some taxis that accept credit cards, but most of them don’t. If you want to pay the cab with a card, consider downloading the Gett app that connects customers with transportation.
Chip and PIN credit cards
With the goal of combating credit card fraud, the United Kingdom was one of the first countries to implement Chip and PIN cards back in 2006. This original initiative is why this type of card is widely accepted throughout the UK today.
You’re not necessarily out of luck if you have a chip card that doesn’t have a PIN. Many merchants will still accept cards without them, so you shouldn’t have a problem paying with it.
Is it safe to use my credit card in the United Kingdom?
Yes, it’s safe to use your credit card in the United Kingdom. But just as when traveling to any other country, make sure you:
- Use an ATM inside a bank. This way, you’ll know that the ATM doesn’t have card-skimming devices attached to it. And if for some reason your card is stuck in the machine, you’ll can retrieve it quickly with the help of a bank employee.
- Take two credit cards. This is particularly useful if you lose your primary card or if it’s blocked. With a backup card you’ll avoid losing access to your money if you lose your card.
- Keep you card in sight. Whenever you pay with your card, make sure you keep an eye on it.
How to prepare before traveling to the United Kingdom
- Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. Paying up to 3% fee for every transaction quickly adds up. Consider getting a travel card without foreign transaction fees and save money on your travels.
- Mastercard and Visa are universally accepted. But in the UK, you’ll find that American Express is popular, while Discover cards are only accepted in the large cities and business chains, such as supermarkets.
- Get a backup card. And keep it in your hotel room safe. If something happens to your primary card, you won’t be left without money.
- Get some cash. In the UK, you can use your card just about anywhere. But if you want cash for taxis or incidentals, you can make a cash withdrawal from an ATM. Just be mindful of additional fees for cash advances when using your credit card.
- Inform your bank that you’ll travel to the United Kingdom. For transactions made abroad, your bank could block your card. Avoid this by informing your bank of your travel plans.
- Get your bank’s phone number. This can be handy if something happens to your card. You can likely resolve any issues with a phone call.
If you often travel to the UK, any of the following cards could save you money:
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- United℠ Explorer Card from Chase
You’ll avoid paying foreign transaction fees and you’ll earn miles you can redeem for flights between the US and the UK.
Keep in mind that American Airlines, Delta and United let you earn and redeem miles on partner airlines that often fly from the UK to the US and back.
When you travel to the United Kingdom, know that you can safely use your credit card for payments and cash withdrawals. The only thing to be wary off are the fees. To avoid foreign transaction fees, opt in for a travel card. And if offered to pay in US dollars, decline to avoid poor exchange rate and high fees.
If you need to make cash withdrawals, consider getting a debit card. They usually come with no cash advance fees and you won’t have to face a cash advance APR.