It's all about the money, honey!
February 19, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out the best way to convert dollars to pounds in Europe.

So I've somehow managed to get my hands on 450USD, and I'd like to convert it to GBP to use during my upcoming trip to London. Except I'm not quite sure of the logistics.

1) Should I convert the dollars before I go or after? I'm in London for five days, so I do have time. FWIW, I'm in a not-very-big city in France.

2) Where's the best place to convert them? Back home all this stuff was taken care of by family, so I'm kind of lost now. A bank, a forex place?
posted by Tamanna to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it's physical cash, you may want to put feelers out on whatever the local version of craigslist is. Chances are that somebody in your locality may need dollars soon, and has pounds. I did this a couple times to change USD for PLN and vice-versa. Keeping the banks and retail forex guys out of it means that you'll be able to get a much better rate, because no one is taking a cut.
posted by LiteOpera at 8:12 AM on February 19, 2012

Do you have a bank account with a debit card? Just deposit your cash here and use the card in London to buy something. You'll get more-or-less the optimal exchange rate with minimal transaction fees, and you don't have to worry about leftover GBP.
posted by mkultra at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2012

@mkultra, I should explain that I live in France and I doubt my bank will accept deposits in dollars. It's something to check into, though, so thanks!
posted by Tamanna at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2012

If there's no way to do a person-to-person swap, it's probably best to wait until you get to London, then just go to any decent-sized bank branch or somewhere like an Amex travel office, or, I suppose, Travelex -- not the little no-name "no commission" bureaux de change on Oxford Street and thereabouts, because they'll stiff you on the actual rates.
posted by holgate at 9:05 AM on February 19, 2012

The UK post office is also reasonable for $/£ exchange these days. Rate tends to be good after commission is paid. Worth a look, anyway. I would suggest checking this out before looking at one of the high street chains, which tend to offer wide spreads and higher commissions.
posted by sagwalla at 9:38 AM on February 19, 2012

If you have $450 in cash, it's probably best to convert them to traveler's checks first, either Amex or Thomas Cook, then cash them when you get to London at their respective branches, where you won't be charged a commission. Amex TCs are also converted commission-free at Lloyd's banks.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2012

According to MoneySavingExpert, for converting US$450 into GBP in the UK at the moment the best offer is £281.53 from 'Best Foreign Exchange' (but note they only have four offices, all in London, so call ahead and read the small print) They're not registered with the UK Financial Services Authority, but that shouldn't matter if you're making the transfer in person.

There are four other similar companies listed by MSE as having rates within a couple of pounds of Best Foreign Exchange, so perhaps it would be easiest to choose whichever one of them has an office closest to where you're staying in London.

If you'd rather not use one of these small companies, MSE says Natwest has the best rate for a big bank; they will give you £262.96. Like sagwalla, I've heard the Post Office is pretty competitive these days too.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

To change cash sums of that kind of amount I use the places on Edgware road, towards the Marble Arch end, east side. Go into two or three and see who offers the best deal. You can haggle with them a little bit. For sure you'll get a better deal than in any bank or in the post office. I don't know about Best Foreign Exchange mentioned above. In the banks and post office beware the commission levied in addition to the not very good exchange rate.
posted by londongeezer at 1:46 PM on February 19, 2012

« Older Am I lactose intolerant?   |   Online mathematics Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.