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British money and currency

When visiting London, it's helpful to know a bit about UK currency and how it works. Take a look at this guide to the British pound, from where to buy it to how to spend it.
British £1 coins scattered on white surface.
British £1 coins. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

British currency: all about money in the UK

  • Get the essential information on coins and currency in the UK.
  • The UK currency is the pound sterling (£/GBP).
  • There are 100 pennies, or pence, to the pound.
There are 100 pence (p) to the pound (£). Notes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50. Coins come in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2.

Currency exchange in London

There are numerous bureaux de change in London – often located inside banks, travel agents or Post Offices, as well as at London's airports and major train stations.

Currency converter

It's worth shopping around to get the best deal – compare the exchange rates on offer and don't forget to ask about commission. A good tip is to ask how many pounds you will receive in total after all charges have been deducted.

Credit cards and contactless payments

Credit and debit (bank) cards – especially Visa and Mastercard  are widely accepted in London's restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. American Express and Diners Club cards are becoming more commonly accepted, although it is still advised to carry an alternative payment method with you.

Contactless cards are widely used in the UK and many businesses accept them as payment, up to a limit of £45 per transaction. Travellers can use a contactless card instead of an Oyster card when using public transport in London.

All contactless American Express cards, from any country, can be used for travel within London, however some non-UK Visa and Mastercards are not accepted, so you may need to check with your card issuer. Google Pay and Apple Pay on phones are also accepted.

Contactless payments may still incur an overseas transaction fee and these vary by card and by bank, so it is a good idea to check with your card issuer before tapping your contactless card.

Cash machines

There are plenty of cash machines (also known as cashpoints or ATMs) dotted around London. Most accept international cards with the Visa, Plus, Mastercard, Cirrus or Maestro symbols. Some other systems are also recognised, but it's a good idea to check with your bank or card company before you travel.

If you have a non-UK account, you will almost certainly have to pay a charge when you withdraw cash. Again, contact your bank before travelling to find out details.

You might see cash machines in some corner shops and small supermarkets. Check before using them as they are likely to charge a fee for every transaction. Many cash machines also provide the facility to top up your mobile phone credit.

Bank of England Museum

Discover the history of British money at the Bank of England Museum. Explore exhibitions that trace back to the bank's foundation in 1694, featuring old coins, banknotes and unexpected items such as muskets used to defend the bank. You can even handle a genuine gold bar.

Money talks: speak like a Londoner

You will usually hear British people say "pee" rather than pence, as in 50p (50 pee). More colloquially, £1 pound is known as a "quid", a £5 note is a "fiver" and a £10 note a "tenner".