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Money Matters for London Visitors

Updated: October 12, 2021
 By Margaret

From getting yourself familiar with a new currency, to accessing your money whilst you’re abroad, managing money in London can be a daunting prospect for holiday-makers. Here at Free Tours By Foot we know that money matters to our visitors, so here is our brief guide on how to get to grips with pounds and pence.

Before You Leave

Get in touch with your bank to let them know you are travelling to the UK. It may be that if you do not, your bank will ‘lock’ your account when charges from abroad begin appearing on your statement, which can cause stress, hassle, and sometimes extra fees!

Currency Run Down        

-        Despite being in the EU, the UK does not use the Euro.

-        The UK unit of currency is the Pound Sterling (£).

-        One pound sterling is made up of 100 pence.

-        Pound Notes come in £50, £20, £10, and £5. (Respectively they are red, purple, brown and blue.)

-        Pound Coins come in £2 and £1

-        Pence Coins come in £0.50, £0.20, £0.10, £0.05, £0.02, and £0.01

-        Both Scotland and Northern Ireland also use the pound, although their notes look slightly different. All Scottish and Northern Irish notes can be exchanged for free at any UK bank.

Exchanging Your Money

Before you exchange your money, take a look at current exchange rates online – is a good place to check. This way you will get an idea of what you can expect to receive in exchange for your home currency.

You will find bureaux de change all over London – but be aware! Some of them will charge higher commission rates than others. To make sure you get the fairest price, avoid changing your money in major train stations and airports. Instead, take your money to any UK Post Office ( or any large Marks & Spencer ( as both are regulated and nearly always provide the best rates, in addition to often not charging commission.

Tip: When exchanging money, try to ask for notes smaller than £50, as some retailers won’t have change for such a large note.

Accessing Your Money

Credit Cards – Visa and Mastercard are accepted at nearly every location in the UK. Cirrus, Maestro, and American Express are less widely accepted. Normally the exchange rate on your credit card will be better than one for your debit card.

Debit Cards – Nearly every merchant in the UK will require your debit card to have a chip & PIN. You may also find that, unless a Visa or Mastercard, your debit card will not work everywhere in the UK. Normally the exchange rate on your debit card will not be as good as a rate that you will get on your credit card.

ATMs, Cash Machines, Cash Points – You will find these scattered throughout all of London. Any cash point attached to a bank will not charge you any additional cost. Machines unattached to banks (found in shops, primarily) will add a charge – around £1.50 to £2.00 – to your transaction, but you will be notified in advance.

Tip: Nearly every bank will charge you for withdrawing money whilst you are abroad, and some for using your credit card abroad. Check with your bank prior to your trip to find out the fees you may be subject to.

Money Slang – Colloquial Terms

  • General  Terms for Money – “Dosh” “Wonga” “Stash” “Green” “Bunse”
  • £1 – “Quid” (as in, “That ticket cost fifteen quid.”).
  • £0.01 – “P” – pronounced like “pee” (as in, “That gum only costs 10 p.”)
  • £1.00 – “Knicker”
  • £5 – “Fiver” or “Lady Godiva”
  • £10 – “Tenner”
  • £20 – “Score”
  • £25 – “Pony”
  • £500 – “Monkey”
  • £1,000 – “Grand”

About The Author


An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries. Read More...
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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