Quick Info

  • British money is on a decimal system in pounds sterling [£].
  • Scottish notes vary in design from English notes but are worth exactly the same.
  • To check today's dollar/sterling exchange rate, use an exchange rate currency calculator.
  • VAT (value added tax): VAT is 20% and is charged on most goods and services in the UK and usually already included in the price – sometimes it will be itemized separately and added to your bill.
  • Tipping in Britain is usually 10-15% for meals.

Banking

You will soon become an expert at international banking transactions…

Contact Your Bank

Before you leave the US contact your bank and/or credit card company to let them know that you will be studying abroad – where and for how long.

  • If your bank is not aware that you will be using your card(s) overseas, they may cancel your card(s) due to suspicious activity outside your normal spending patterns.
  • Also confirm with your bank that you will be able to use your card(s) overseas and what their fees are.
  • Ask your bank for a list of overseas outlets where your card is accepted.

Carrying Cash

  • It's a good idea to arrive with at least the equivalent of $200 in your wallet exchanged into local currency – you can do this at your local bank if you give them notice or at the airport for a hefty charge.
  • Your American ATM card should work at most banks overseas including your arrival airport. Local banks, building societies or a Bureau de change will also exchange currency but note their operating hours – many close by 5pm.

Cash Machines (ATMs)

If your ATM card is linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems, your card will work in thousands of cash machines throughout the country. The advantage to using your American ATM card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. That said, have other sources of money in case your ATM card does not work.

Credit Cards

You can use most credit cards in Europe but they must be in your name, as it appears on your passport. Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express and Discover cards are not accepted in Britain but AmEx Offices can assist you with cashing US checks. Credit card cash advances are considered loans, so interest is charged from the day the advance is made. Before you depart, check with your card company for more information on what services you’ll have where, what fees are involved and what to do if you lose your card.

Travelers Checks

Travelers checks can be helpful in case your wallet is lost or stolen, or for an initial monetary amount on opening a British bank account, but are not recommended for everyday use.

British Bank Accounts

Opening a bank account in Great Britain can be a lengthy and tedious process. Therefore, we recommend that students use their American account. Talk to us if you need more details.

In an Emergency

When the program is in session, our London office can make emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home. If you find yourself in dire financial straits while traveling, the State Department can help your family transfer money to you (provided you are a U.S. citizen).