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Old 06-07-2015, 08:03 PM
 
Location: Chicago
6,021 posts, read 13,542,402 times
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Hmm, I think I will join the fray versus creating a new thread...

So, I'm in a similar situation as the OP in that I will be spending about a week in London next month. I had a couple of money related questions:

-sorry, the back and forth discussion confused me for a bit but outside of using the ATM once in London, is it still a good idea to go to a bank/currency exchange beforehand? I'm in Chicago so I assume I would have access to places w/ the currency on hand, but I'm clueless about the rates. I'd rather keep a bit of cash on me just in case BofA gives me a hassle once I'm in London (hopefully they won't, but better safe than sorry).

-So my trip is school sponsored and therefore, nearly everything is provided for. The only thing I'm on the hook for is a single night at a hostel/hotel (coming in early to recover from jet lag), transportation to/from Heathrow, 2 dinners, and whatever booze I choose to drink. I'm not a huge spender and I will likely not have much time to even go shopping with all of the activities my school has planned (just want to bring home some small gift/trinkets/candy/etc). I know London is a pricey city and I'm trying to estimate how much money to budget for these things, any advice much appreciated. Keep in mind, I'm a poor, starving grad student!
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Old 06-07-2015, 08:55 PM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD
1,300 posts, read 1,094,672 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eevee View Post
Hmm, I think I will join the fray versus creating a new thread...

So, I'm in a similar situation as the OP in that I will be spending about a week in London next month. I had a couple of money related questions:

-sorry, the back and forth discussion confused me for a bit but outside of using the ATM once in London, is it still a good idea to go to a bank/currency exchange beforehand? I'm in Chicago so I assume I would have access to places w/ the currency on hand, but I'm clueless about the rates. I'd rather keep a bit of cash on me just in case BofA gives me a hassle once I'm in London (hopefully they won't, but better safe than sorry).
First determine how much cash you think you will need. If it's going to be less that 1,000 USD then keep in mind that BoA will charge you a $7.50 delivery fee regardless of if you have the currency shipped to your home or you go to a banking center. So you will need to factor that into the overall cost of getting cash from an ATM in London.

BoA has a partnership with Barclays bank which means that you will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee but other fees like non-BoA ATM usage fee and the fee that the other ATM charges for not being their customer

Let's assume you want 300 Pounds for your trip about $457 USD
If you withdraw it from Barclays when you arrive it will cost you $470
If you order it from BoA before you arrive it will cost you about $490

It's up to you to decide if $20 is worth it to you to have cash before you arrive.

Also check online to see if Barclays will be easy for you to find, I believe they may be popular but I'm not sure. I was in Italy recently and didn't have trouble finding BoA's partner bank there so hopefully it is the same for all of their partner banks.

You may also want to do some research about currency conversions shops in Chicago to see if any of them can beat ordering from BoA or hitting the ATM upon arrival.

I assume that you use BoA online banking. If you do, you can go online and put a travel alert on your card. It's a little hard to find on their site but if you go to Help & Support home then Travel information then Travel notice You can tell them when and where you will be traveling and also give them your general plans so they can still flag something suspicious, for example if you say that you will only be in England they will flag a charge in France.

Finally, if you don't already have am ATM card with a smart chip you may want to order one since sometimes you can have problems using a card that doesn't have the chip

Last edited by shellymdnv; 06-07-2015 at 08:56 PM.. Reason: fix syntax
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Old 06-07-2015, 09:23 PM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
7,680 posts, read 16,098,271 times
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The Tube to/from Heathrow is a longish trip (figure hour +) but relatively straightforward and far cheaper than a cab, especially if you don't have someone to split cab fare with. Don't get talked into the 'Heathrow Express' train because it's closer to cab price than tube price, and unless you're staying very close to where it stops in the city, you don't save a ton of time with it.

If you charge something instead of paying cash, don't let the business run the card as 'dynamic currency conversion' because they will give you a worse exchange rate about 98% of the time.

The ATMs at grocery stores like Tesco and Sainsbury's didn't have fees on their end, so we'd just pay our 'out of primary network' fee on withdrawls from them.

Beer- often cheaper than or the same price as soda at a neighborhood pub kind of place. (I'm not a nightclub person so can't comment on that.)
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Old 06-08-2015, 10:09 AM
 
26,590 posts, read 54,583,712 times
Reputation: 13019
Quote:
Originally Posted by shellymdnv View Post
First determine how much cash you think you will need. If it's going to be less that 1,000 USD then keep in mind that BoA will charge you a $7.50 delivery fee regardless of if you have the currency shipped to your home or you go to a banking center. So you will need to factor that into the overall cost of getting cash from an ATM in London.

BoA has a partnership with Barclays bank which means that you will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee but other fees like non-BoA ATM usage fee and the fee that the other ATM charges for not being their customer

Let's assume you want 300 Pounds for your trip about $457 USD
If you withdraw it from Barclays when you arrive it will cost you $470
If you order it from BoA before you arrive it will cost you about $490

It's up to you to decide if $20 is worth it to you to have cash before you arrive.

Also check online to see if Barclays will be easy for you to find, I believe they may be popular but I'm not sure. I was in Italy recently and didn't have trouble finding BoA's partner bank there so hopefully it is the same for all of their partner banks.

You may also want to do some research about currency conversions shops in Chicago to see if any of them can beat ordering from BoA or hitting the ATM upon arrival.

I assume that you use BoA online banking. If you do, you can go online and put a travel alert on your card. It's a little hard to find on their site but if you go to Help & Support home then Travel information then Travel notice You can tell them when and where you will be traveling and also give them your general plans so they can still flag something suspicious, for example if you say that you will only be in England they will flag a charge in France.

Finally, if you don't already have am ATM card with a smart chip you may want to order one since sometimes you can have problems using a card that doesn't have the chip
This all assumes that there is no problem withdrawing from Barclays on arrival. I was unable to do so, and had to call BofA to get it straightened out, even though I had notified them before I left. So now tack on the cost on an international phone call, not to mention the aggravation. No matter what I would plan on arriving in London with enough cash for the first 24 hours--and more if you are arriving on a Saturday.

There are Barclays banks every 10 blocks in London, and they have a good presence in all major UK cities. Your US ATM card will work in any Barclays ATM (if it works) regardless of having a chip or not. I know this from recent personal experience.

On to the other items... It will cost about 6 pounds to get from LHR to Zone 1 on the Piccadilly Line. One option is to order your Oyster card in advance with some money on it, and have it delivered to your US address. It's over 50 pounds by taxi, Uber might save a bit, but you need to have the app on your phone and they might not pick up without a UK telephone number. With traffic congestion it's probably only going to save 15 minutes by car or cab. Second not taking the Express Train, rip off prices. The Tube is clean, safe, and comfortable enough.

If your flight home is earlier than 10:00 am, you will NOT be able to take the Tube back to LHR, it wouldn't stop in Zone 1 much before 5:30, arriving LHR at 6:30-6:45. Check in and security lines at LHR are notoriously long and slow, and you need a full four hours from the minute you walk in the door until your flight begins to load.
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Old 06-08-2015, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD
1,300 posts, read 1,094,672 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annerk View Post
This all assumes that there is no problem withdrawing from Barclays on arrival. I was unable to do so, and had to call BofA to get it straightened out, even though I had notified them before I left. So now tack on the cost on an international phone call, not to mention the aggravation. No matter what I would plan on arriving in London with enough cash for the first 24 hours--and more if you are arriving on a Saturday.

There are Barclays banks every 10 blocks in London, and they have a good presence in all major UK cities. Your US ATM card will work in any Barclays ATM (if it works) regardless of having a chip or not. I know this from recent personal experience.

On to the other items... It will cost about 6 pounds to get from LHR to Zone 1 on the Piccadilly Line. One option is to order your Oyster card in advance with some money on it, and have it delivered to your US address. It's over 50 pounds by taxi, Uber might save a bit, but you need to have the app on your phone and they might not pick up without a UK telephone number. With traffic congestion it's probably only going to save 15 minutes by car or cab. Second not taking the Express Train, rip off prices. The Tube is clean, safe, and comfortable enough.

If your flight home is earlier than 10:00 am, you will NOT be able to take the Tube back to LHR, it wouldn't stop in Zone 1 much before 5:30, arriving LHR at 6:30-6:45. Check in and security lines at LHR are notoriously long and slow, and you need a full four hours from the minute you walk in the door until your flight begins to load.
Just because you had problems doesn't mean that everyone will. While I also prefer to have cash on hand not everyone is the same. I've never had a problem when setting the travel alert online, I do it for both domestic and international trips and I have never had a problem with using my card.

It's relatively easy to avoid an international call, especially if you carrier offers wi-fi calling. I've found free wifi relatively easy to find you may just need to ask for a password. Some cities even offer wifi in certain areas and most hotels will at the very least offer free wifi in their lobby. As long as you're not in an emergency situation i

Uber has a flat rate to London from the airport, scroll down on uber's London site to see what the rate is to where you need to go. Also don't worry about needing to have a UK number in order to get picked up, I used my account in Paris with no problems and I depended on wifi calling for my US number
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Old 06-08-2015, 12:11 PM
 
26,590 posts, read 54,583,712 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shellymdnv View Post
Just because you had problems doesn't mean that everyone will. While I also prefer to have cash on hand not everyone is the same. I've never had a problem when setting the travel alert online, I do it for both domestic and international trips and I have never had a problem with using my card.

It's relatively easy to avoid an international call, especially if you carrier offers wi-fi calling. I've found free wifi relatively easy to find you may just need to ask for a password. Some cities even offer wifi in certain areas and most hotels will at the very least offer free wifi in their lobby. As long as you're not in an emergency situation i

Uber has a flat rate to London from the airport, scroll down on uber's London site to see what the rate is to where you need to go. Also don't worry about needing to have a UK number in order to get picked up, I used my account in Paris with no problems and I depended on wifi calling for my US number
I didn't say everyone would have problems. My point is that I set the alert online and then even called about something else and checked with them that it was done before I left. It happens, and you could be screwed if you got to LHR with no pounds, an ATM card that wouldn't work, and you don't have the ability to make an international call on your cell. That's not a situation I want to be in, and am willing to spend a few extra dollars to prevent.

Not all carriers offer WiFi calls, and it's something that needs to be set up in advance. There isn't always free WiFi everywhere, it's not free at LHR.

So you arrive at LHR after a long day of travel. Your ATM card doesn't work. You aren't able to make an international call on your phone (had that problem in Rome a few years ago when Verizon didn't turn on the International calling like they said they did and I had to buy a prepaid phone card with Euros to call Verizon from a pay phone and get that sorted). You have no pounds.

Not a good way to start a trip. As I said, I'd rather spend a few bucks to arrive with some pounds in hand.
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Old 06-08-2015, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD
1,300 posts, read 1,094,672 times
Reputation: 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by annerk View Post
I didn't say everyone would have problems. My point is that I set the alert online and then even called about something else and checked with them that it was done before I left. It happens, and you could be screwed if you got to LHR with no pounds, an ATM card that wouldn't work, and you don't have the ability to make an international call on your cell. That's not a situation I want to be in, and am willing to spend a few extra dollars to prevent.

Not all carriers offer WiFi calls, and it's something that needs to be set up in advance. There isn't always free WiFi everywhere, it's not free at LHR.

So you arrive at LHR after a long day of travel. Your ATM card doesn't work. You aren't able to make an international call on your phone (had that problem in Rome a few years ago when Verizon didn't turn on the International calling like they said they did and I had to buy a prepaid phone card with Euros to call Verizon from a pay phone and get that sorted). You have no pounds.

Not a good way to start a trip. As I said, I'd rather spend a few bucks to arrive with some pounds in hand.
Just to show that you don't know as much as you think you do, there is free wi-fi at Heathrow: Internet | Wi-Fi and internet cafes. I may not have been there but I can use google
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:07 PM
 
26,590 posts, read 54,583,712 times
Reputation: 13019
Quote:
Originally Posted by shellymdnv View Post
Just to show that you don't know as much as you think you do, there is free wi-fi at Heathrow: Internet | Wi-Fi and internet cafes. I may not have been there but I can use google
Ha! You are wrong. Let me clue you in. (This applies to the "free" WiFi at the British Library as well)

You need to register in advance. They send you an email with the registration key. If you can't access your email, you can't complete the registration. You can't get to your email without the WiFi unless you do the registration in advance from someplace where you have WiFi or radio signal and can access your email. Want to try again?
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:12 PM
 
2,143 posts, read 3,558,484 times
Reputation: 1320
Quote:
Originally Posted by shellymdnv View Post
Just because you had problems doesn't mean that everyone will. While I also prefer to have cash on hand not everyone is the same. I've never had a problem when setting the travel alert online, I do it for both domestic and international trips and I have never had a problem with using my card.

It's relatively easy to avoid an international call, especially if you carrier offers wi-fi calling. I've found free wifi relatively easy to find you may just need to ask for a password. Some cities even offer wifi in certain areas and most hotels will at the very least offer free wifi in their lobby. As long as you're not in an emergency situation i

Uber has a flat rate to London from the airport, scroll down on uber's London site to see what the rate is to where you need to go. Also don't worry about needing to have a UK number in order to get picked up, I used my account in Paris with no problems and I depended on wifi calling for my US number
WOW! If I knew Uber had a flat rate, I would have chosen them instead of paying $60 pounds for a cab. Lesson learned
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:51 PM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD
1,300 posts, read 1,094,672 times
Reputation: 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by annerk View Post
Ha! You are wrong. Let me clue you in. (This applies to the "free" WiFi at the British Library as well)

You need to register in advance. They send you an email with the registration key. If you can't access your email, you can't complete the registration. You can't get to your email without the WiFi unless you do the registration in advance from someplace where you have WiFi or radio signal and can access your email. Want to try again?
So just register for their reward program before you leave and problem solved
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