Did you know that the UK is not on the Euro?

I do. Apparently the folks at my bank do not. After a twenty minute discussion about preparing our finances for our three weeks abroad, my banking associate learned the following:

  • The UK still uses British Pound Sterling
  • Each county within the UK does not use a local form of currency
  • Credit and Debit cards use micro-chips, not magnetized strips
  • Small businesses prefer cash to credit and many operate with a cash only policy

I, on the other hand, am still left confused about how to proceed.

Although I lack the mathematical literary to complete complex derivatives and I have never taken a calculus course, I do have a strong grasp of personal financial literacy. It frightens the sh*t out of me when I know more than anyone who is even tangentially associated with my money. Particularly because my knowledge of financial literacy is, to paraphrase Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, thanks to a few extra dollars in late fees to the public library; I am a self-trained Suze Orman.

For anyone reading who would like to offer advice, here are the questions I need to explore.

  1. How do businesses along the Coast to Coast path react to Travellers Cheques?
  2. Where do you think one could acquire the best exchange rate, in the States, for money conversion?
  3. How much cash does one typically carry on his or her person from day to day (this is a different question from how much one would spend in  a day).

Feel free to leave a comment for a private message on Twitter @30WaysofWalking

Thanks in advance for your candor!

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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20 Responses to Did you know that the UK is not on the Euro?

  1. sgyoung says:

    Pounds are worth more than dollars but prices are higher there.

    I would carry a couple hundred pounds but in US I also would carry a couple hundred dollars, so it’s comparable. I know people who do not ever carrying cash, but I would not feel comfortable with no cash in travel situations. Especially on foot you’ll want some cash with you.

    You can use ATM machines. All British places will take Traveler checks but not all
    will take US $ ones. Definitely use MasterCard or Visa card for accommodations and restaurant meals. I would have enough cash for a pint at a pub and enough to subsist circa day or two without access to z bank. The ordinary bank branch will change dollars for you. You don’t need a special exchange place.

  2. pictfamily says:

    I’d suggest you carry £150 – £200 – but that should last you quite a while. A large number of the businesses you encounter will take credit cards, not all, but you will be able to use your card to withdraw cash at just about any bank, and you’ll also find machines in shops like co-ops. I’d not recommend travellers cheques (I don’t know what it’s like trying to spend them in the UK because I live here) but I don’t think they’re generally used. I certainly don’t buy them to go to other European countries, just get some Euros and use my card for the rest.

    • You share my sentiments about travellers cheques, but the folks at my bank are apparently still living in a 1988 world. Thanks for reading and following along!

      • pictfamily says:

        also, if you have a debit card (rather than, or in addition to a credit card) then many shops will give you cashback when you pay there, so that’s another way of getting cash if you’re running short although as rspill says you are often charged a fee per transaction so it makes sense to get out reasonably large amounts of cash at a time. Have fun, and I’ll look forward to reading about it 8o)

      • I hadn’t thought about cash back. Great idea!

  3. Fidophiles says:

    Hello,

    Don’t rely on an American Express card – only the largest shops take it. Your average debit/credit card should see you fine, although some campsites and bed & breakfast places might be cash only. Worth an email enquiry before you set out.

    Travellers cheques are a bit old fashioned and I’m not sure many places are that happy about redeeming them to be honest. My experience and advice is much the same as the pictfamily blogger.

    When are you planning to do your walk?

    • Yes, I agree about Amex. I recently told a friend, who is headed to the UK on a separate trip, that Amex uses a different kind of swipe machine from Visa / Mastercard. Therefore only larger businesses will invest in both kinds of machines. Thanks for highlighting that. We’re headed over this summer. Still so much to prepare!

  4. I agree that you should check with your booked accommodation about payment methods and use a credit/debit card to withdraw cash.
    However, if you are in a small village there may not be an ATM. There may be a post office but the opening times vary. Two days a week are half days, usually Wednesday or Thursday midweek and always Saturday. Also closed Sundays.

  5. rspill says:

    I also rely a lot on ATM and credit card, but be aware that each entity uses its own exchange rate and will typically add an exchange fee. The exchange rate is typically close to the official exchange rate, but American Express did have to settle a class action suit many years ago when it strayed too far from the official rate. In the end, I found that cash withdrawal of large amounts (e.g., over $100) was both convenient and reduces the impact of the exchange fee (same fee for each exchange).

  6. seclectic says:

    Most comments agree with my perception that travellers cheques are only accepted in Britain by larger organisations hotels, large shops etc. I cannot warrant this because I live here and never use them in the UK. You can cash them at Post Offices and so it may be a good way to carry emergency money safely. I would recommend you carry about £100 per person, less if you have already paid your overnight accommodation and meals in the places you are stopping. You will be able to use your credit card in banks and Post Offices and some places will accept them even though you have no chip and PIN.
    Good Luck and I hope you enjoy the walk hugely. I look forward to reading your blog account of it.

    • Thank you for all of thoughtful correspondence.We’ve pre-paid our accomodation, so we’re focusing on meals, drinks and emergency money. We’re headed over in the summer, so it will be a bit more time before the posts of the walk occur. Thanks again!

  7. Monica says:

    I’m a little late to the party but generally agree that traveller’s checks are getting harder to cash. About 150-200 in Euros or British Pounds is a good starting point. Not sure if it was mentioned earlier but if you have a six digit PIN, best change it to a four digit PIN before you leave because most European banks don’t use six digit PINS. Also, if you have a bank card of a bank that is overseas already, like HSBC, you can use your own ATM’s and not have to pay the ATM fee, just the conversion fee. Another reason to check ahead, Europe is moving towards RFID chips in their credit cards and some machines may not accept US ATM cards. Hope this helps. Ciao!

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  9. Annie Nunan says:

    And chill……people are very friendly on the C2C. Yes to having something circa £150 in case of hotel issue but you will never be too far from a pub and a pub will always take a card (take note of pin and chip advice earlier). Looking forward to reading your account and mightily impressed about your preparation. I barely polished my boots.

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