Money and Money Exchange, London
On my current trip to Sri Lanka, I had to change money at Heathrow Airport as the Post Office, where I normally exchange, does not carry rupees. I hadn't even checked the rate as I was more or less compelled to do it. I didn't know what the situation was in Colombo airport about bureau de change facilities but I have since found out that the official bankrate stays fairly steady at about 214 to the £ and I can get 208 in a bank. The Moneycorp bureau in Heathrow gave me 163. That is a disgusting markup and totally unjustifiable. I really have had it with currency exchange at British airports. Yes, I know they are a private company and are not there to make a loss but this is just blatant profiteering.
I am sure the other competing Bureaux de Change would have been broadly the same as they sem to operate some sort of cartel with what is effectively a "captive audience". As a matter of principle I shall not use this outfit again.
Unique Suggestions: My suggestion is to get a very small amount to provide onward transportation to where you are going and perhaps some sundries and then either go to a money-changer or a bank. For Sri Lanka, I recommend Sampath Bank who I find to be excellent. Obviously, the other alternative is to use your ATM card on arrival although this attracts it's own rip-off charge from the banks. Don't you just love the financial sector?
I wanted to change my Euros to Pounds in London so I went to the Thomas Cook as you do. Of course there was a queue and I had to wait for a while. It appeared that Thomas Cook wanted 9% Commission for my transaction. A local geeza told me to go up the street to the Marks & Spencer department store where they have an In-Store Bureaux De Change. Sure enough no queue, no commission fee and a better exchange rate than Thomas Cook ! Happy Days
Unique Suggestions: Marks & Spencer is located at
Fun Alternatives: Go to the Marks & Spencer In-Store Bureaux De Change.
The Bureaux De Change just happens to be in the Lingerie department. :)
I had lived in London for a year so I shouldn't have been taken but...
When in London (Europe) use your cash card from home to withdrawal money rather than exchange places.
In Picadilly Square I went to a place that said 'no commission' and I changed $20 thinking that the rate may be bad but for $20 no big deal. The transaction actually had GBP3.25 commission (no commission was for 'buys only') and the guy wouldn't give me the $20 back. I only got GBP7.50!
My only excuse is that I was jetlagged.
Unique Suggestions: They might be better at the airport
ATM machines belonging to High Street banks here are free. Ones that charge now have to clearly tell you and are found mainly in pubs and inside corner shops. That said, you really need to find out what your bank will charge you. Many charge a fee and a percentage.
Unique Suggestions: If you really need the money at the Pub, get plenty. You get a single charge.
You can find more informaion here:
ATM LOCATIONS AND CHARGES
I happened to be walking past this bureau de change yesterday, and the exchange rates seemed very poor to me. It is the one directly opposite the ffront of Kings Cross Station.
Unique Suggestions: Only change a small amount if you have to and look round for better rates elsewhere.
Wealth Warning: Avoid using Chequepoint to change money in London or anywhere else for that matter.
Some of my British and American friends have told me horror stories of the rip-off rates charged by Chequepoint when changing currency. The company (click on the logo so you can steer clear of it) has outlets at many tourist sites. Other VT members in Hungary and Hong Kong have reported the same kind of fraud. My advice is not to use Chequepoint under any circumstances.
The following letter (paste link into browser window), published in the Herald Tribune reveals Chequepoint's shady practices:
Fun Alternatives: You will get much more competitive rates drawing local currency on your Visa or Visa Electron card (preferably use a cash dispenser in a bank during opening hours and check the card slot shows no evidence of being fiddled with (a favourite trick is to slip a thin additional reader in). Shield the keypad with your hand as you tap the numbers in (in another scam, a concealed webcam films your PIN number).
If you are planning to study in London, you should prepare all documents needed to open a bank account; a letter from your school, your ID, a financial statement from your country bank or so.
It may take up to 1 month just to open an account, depending how good the services a bank offers.
I recommend HSBC. It took me only one week to respond back to me and agree to open an account though it took me ever to collect needed documents. Apply for international students account where you can be supplied with a debit card and a check book so you can pay for tuition fees by a debit card or check. No minimum required.
You may also consider Barclays. It provides better services but with more difficult conditions. For example, you must open your account with minimum BP2000. Otherwise they would cut monthly rate from your account. However, you'd be provided with a debit and credit card, draft services.
For other banks,
- Nat West bank
- Abbey Bank
- Halifax Bank
Unique Suggestions: Have all documents needed as listed above.
Fun Alternatives: Have extra cash and a credit card from your homecountry in case opening an account takes forever
Avoid the post office, M&S, travelex, and banks..
To get the best rate for your currency you should go to to Thomas Exchange, their rates are much better than the Post Office, M&S, Travelex, Moneycorp, banks and other bureaus de change. For example today I exchanged €1000 to Sterling and received £793.27, the Post Office would have given £714 (so I would have got £79 less if I did the transaction at the post office)!
Thomas Exchange have 4 branches in Central London at Oxford Circus, Baker Street, Regent St and Bishopsgate you can visit their website at www.tefx.co.uk
To get the best rates for your money exchange I have found is to transfer to either your own bank account in another country or to a trusted family member or friends bank account.
I have done this several times with a company called Transferwise and the exchange rates are great compared to tourist rates.
Really easy to do, no complicated account to set up.
You can pay with your debit card, money credited to our account abroad the same day on one occasion.
Your first transfer is commission FREE with the following link:- (copy and paste into your browser)
People using foreign exchange bureaus in London believing they are getting a good rate.
Fun Alternatives: Before coming to London you should order your Pounds online. The rate you get will be much better than from your own bank, travel agent or foreign excange bureau.
Also if you do run short of cash in London. Instead of going to foreign exchange bureaus get cash out by using ATM's. The rate you get will be better than from foreign exchange bureaus even when you take into account any fees your bank charges.
I know we have all been told not to use local Bureau De Change companies but after much research online I found a place in Covent Garden that beat out every other compnay I looked at. I rodered the currency online and they delivered it to my hotel free of charge with no commission or hidden fees. After losing so much exchanigin at the bank the last time I was in town I vowed to search for the best solution.
Unique Suggestions: always ask if you can get a better rate.
I used this service and received only part of the currency through the post. Almost impossible to talk to anyone. I had paid the full amount but had only three quarters of the money due. No apology. Out of pocket, still waiting for cash and very disappointed.
with the english pound being so strong overseas travelers need to be aware how expensive london can be so if you want to do tours ect it will cost heaps by the end of the day.Dont leave bags lying around due to I.R.A attacks over the years you are noe allowed to leave bags unattended as it is a security risk.they will be taken away and destroyed so keep them nearby.
The Post Office offers in-branch travel money. It boasts about its 0% commission and it's allegedly "great rates". This may be true of its online service, but never exchange money in a Post Office branch. The branch exchange rates are terrible, mine was 0.5% lower than any other provider. I lost £50 because of the Post Office scamming me out of it.
Don't be fooled by the adverts. Post Office travel money is not worth it and although they charge 0% commission their exchange rate is so bad that they took a £50 cut on a £600 transaction. Criminal.
Unique Suggestions: Never ever exchange money in a Post Office branch.
Fun Alternatives: Use anywhere else. Even airport exchange bureaus are better. If you can, get online and compare a number of providers.