We’re just about 3 weeks away from our upcoming trip to the UK (read all about that here) and as we got closer, we realized that we were going to need some British currency before we left.
For several reasons:
- With juggling two young children at the airport we may not have a chance to hit the ATM first thing
- We always have problems using our bank cards in the UK (even when we tell them in advance) and usually when we land, banks are closed because it’s the middle of the night back home.
- I like British Money and holding it makes my trip feel closer. Lame I know.
As we will need cash right away, we thought it would be a good idea to buy sound pounds in advance. The problem is that this is a spectacular surefire way to overpay for British currency.
The cheapest way to get British pounds is in the UK, at an ATM where you get the current market interbank rate (and most ATM’s are free).
By far the most expensive way to get British currency in the USA is to try and buy it over the counter from a currency exchange which will charge onerous fees and give you a terrible exchange rate.
Knowing this still, we wanted to have some cash anyway, so we sought out to get the best deal possible.
If you live near an international airport, you can pop over to the international terminal and buy Pounds, but the exchange rate will probably be the worst, we’re talking like $1.90 to the £ plus fees.
In the past, we’ve bought currency from TravelEx.com, by far the biggest name in buying foreign currency. So, I checked there first and their rate was $1.79. When you add in their shipping cost it comes to almost $190 for just £100. This is pretty bad.
I did some further research and found the website for International Currency Express out of California and they offered the best exchange rate – which was $1.69. I searched around some more and this was by far the best rate I could find. Coupled with their shipping cost I paid $179 for £100.
I ordered it and it arrived within a week. The bills were crisp and in good condition. It’s so weird to hold that kind of cash before I get to the UK. It’s amazing to think that here it has no tangible value now, but after a 7 hour flight from Chicago, it’s suddenly worth quite a bit!
My only complaint with International Currency Express was that they charged $10 for shipping, which would have been fine had they not shipped our currency via First Class Mail, which would not have cost more than $1 or $2. So, I think their great exchange rate is being offset by shipping and handling.
I would order from them again though.
There are other places you can get British Currency as well, we asked people where they get theirs on our Facebook page and people suggested the following:
- American Express Travel Office – Your local American Express Travel office will often have foreign currency on hand that you can buy.
- AAA Travel Office – Your Local AAA office will also sell foreign currency packs but you need to be a member.
- Local Bank – If your local bank is a bigger chain, they will often sell you currency but most won’t have it on hand, but they’ll mail it to you or you can pick it up at the bank later.
Where do you get your British Pounds before your travel?
We also try to keep some leftover from our trips but more often than not – we spend every last penny since Pounds are worth so much these days.