British money explained!

If you are coming to the UK to study, one of the many things to remember is exchanging your money into British currency.  Many students have said that they have found British money confusing so it might help you to know what to expect before you travel.

Money in the UK is referred to as pound sterling or GBP. It is available in £50, £20, £10 and £5 notes and the £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p coins. You will soon come to recognise the value of each one due to their different colours, sizes and shapes. The most useful ones to travellers are the £20, £10 and £5 notes. One of the main issues our students have faced are trying to use £50 notes in shops. Many smaller UK shops don’t accept these notes which can be very confusing! We advise, when exchanging your money, to choose smaller notes to avoid this situation.

As you start to spend your notes you will see they eventually break down into the different coins. UK coins have three groups, gold (£2 and £1), silver (50p, 20p, 10p, 5p) and copper (2p and 1p). When you get coins back as change, it’s a good idea to use it for small purchases. Another idea would be to save your coins in a pot in at home and use this when you go to the supermarket, the self-service machine will count your change for you! Your coins won’t go to waste and you can save your notes for buying more expensive items.

Cards in the UK

In this modern age many students just use debit or credit cards when they come to the UK to study. Whilst this is a great way to keep your finances in order and is often safer than cash, it does have its own drawbacks. A few places in the UK still only accept cash so it is always good to have a little of this available to you. Other places have a minimum spend on card so if you are making small, inexpensive purchases, this is where it’s good to use that spare change!

Many students mention charges on their cards. Unfortunately this is often unavoidable if using a non UK bank or credit card, so you may end up spending more than originally intended. These charges may be small but they can build up if students are not careful! If you are planning to stay in the UK for a long period of time, it would be wise to look into opening a bank account in the UK as soon as possible to avoid building up bank charges. This is something we have helped many of our long term students do once they have arrived.

I hope this helps you with your money matters! If you have any questions or would like to know more, please feel free to send us a message.


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