Banks, ATM's and Currency Exchange
Before you head off, learn about:
- Changing money in the UK
- Using credit and debit cards in the UK
- ATMs in the UK
- Banks in the UK
- Travellers cheques (and why you shouldn't use them)
Changing Money in the United Kingdom
Changing money when you get to the UK is definitely an option, because lot of Australians travel there every year. This means you won't have any issues exchanging AUD to GBP. You can do this by going to a money exchange outlet. To find the best place to buy GBP, you can read our guide here.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind if you are changing money in the UK:
- You must declare the amount of cash you're bringing into the UK if it exceeds €10,000, or another currency's equivalent.
- Make yourself aware of what the exchange rate is before you make a currency exchange. This will help you get a fair exchange and make you aware of the fees the currency exchange service is charging you.
- You should be able to make the exchange at money exchange centres, banks, hotels and airports. However, the airport is almost always the worst place to exchange, because of their rates and fees.
- Use our currency converter to find out what the current rate is between the AUD and GBP.
Using credit and debit cards in the UK
Like we have said, cards are widely accepted in the UK. Almost all major brands of cards will be accepted. You can read more about the best travel cards to use in the UK here. But here are some general things to keep in mind:
- Usually you'll find that MasterCard, Visa and American Express credit cards are accepted and you can use any MasterCard or Visa branded debit card.
- Keep an extra card on you if you want to pay with AMEX, just in case it isn't accepted where you are.
- Contactless terminals are common in retailers and food outlets.
- Be careful of overseas ATM fees and currency conversion fees when you're making purchases and withdrawals.
- Bankwest Platinum Card and 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard are examples of credit cards that waive the fee for currency conversion
- Citibank Plus Everyday Account has a debit card that doesn't charge international ATM or transaction fees, and gives you the interbank rate for the exchange.
A couple of important things:
- If you're using your Australian card in the UK, make sure you're opting to be charged in GBP when you check out. You will generally be offered a very poor exchange rate if you opt to pay in AUD, so it's better to let your financial institution do the conversion.
- To find out the best travel cards to use in UK, read our article here.
ATMs in Britain
You will easily find ATMs in the UK which means that if you need to withdraw cash, you shouldn't have any issues. All British ATMs belong to the LINK network. You can find the closest one by typing in your city or postcode on LINK’s online ATM locator.
Just keep in mind that most banks will charge a foreign transaction fee if you're using your Australian debit card. And you might find there is an ATM access fee (this is usually between £1.50 to £2.00).
This means that if you are withdrawing cash from ATMs, plan ahead if you can. Instead of making multiple withdrawals, try and withdraw everything you need and minimise the times you do it.
There are some banks in Australia that let you withdraw money from ATMs free of charge when you're overseas. Citibank and ING do this. If you travel frequently, it could be worth looking into opening an account with these banks.
ATM tip: always choose to withdraw in Pounds (GBP) to get the 'mid-market rate' which is the best exchange rate you can possibly get.
Banks in Bali
Let's have a look at banking in the UK. It's quite similar to banking in Australia. They have a number of major banks and branches of some foreign banks.
You will generally find UK banks open within normal business hours, like in Australia. Before you leave Australia it's worth asking your local bank if they have a partnership with a bank in the UK. You may find you can use their ATMs free of charge and avoid having to pay transaction fees!
The main banks in Britain are:
Thinking of using travellers cheques in the UK? Don't.
Travellers cheques are pretty outdated now, and it is rare to find places that will cash them. Having said that, if you already have some or are thinking of getting some for your trip to the UK, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- They're expensive, and it's rare that the rates offered are competitive.
- They're inconvenient, because they are not accepted in most places, and it's hard to find a bank that will cash them.
- The main advantage of traveller’s cheques is they can be replaced if they’re lost or stolen, and only you can cash them. But all travel cards will generally have provisions for this as well if you don't want to carry cash.
- We would suggest only using them if you really, really have to.