Foreign Exchange Guide to the United Kingdom
In this guide we review :
- British pound sterling info - general info about the British pound sterling
- British pound sterling in the markets - recent GBP moves and predictions from the FX markets
- Travelling in the United Kingdom - currency & money saving tips
- Buying British pound sterling cash online - travel money for the United Kingdom
- Sending money to the United Kingdom - save on British pound sterling bank transfers to the United Kingdom
- British pound sterling exchange rates - latest info & charts.
British pound sterling (GBP) general currency information
The three letter currency code for the British pound sterling is GBP and the symbol is £. It is the domestic currency in United Kingdom, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey and South Georgia And South Sandwich Islands.
The British pound (ISO: GBP) is one base unit of sterling – that being the name of Britain's currency – and is subdivided into 100 pence.
Contributing to around 13% of all foreign exchange deals, the pound, or sterling, is the world’s fourth most traded currency.
Reputedly, sterling is 1200 years old. It is said that Anglo-Saxon traders used silver pennies in the eighth century called ‘sterlings’, 240 of which would equal one pound in weight.
Due to its membership of the European Union, Britain could have adopted the euro as its currency upon its introduction in 1999, however the British government opted against this because it wanted to retain monetary policy independence and because it perceived euro adoption as offering only small economic benefits.
In recent years, the most significant event to affect sterling’s valuation was the UK’s vote to leave the European Union on June 24th 2016 – a day on which the exchange rate for GBP/USD fell by as much as 11%.
In the past two decades, the pound’s highest valuation against the dollar occurred in November 2007 when GBP/USD reached 2.1161. Its lowest value came in October 2016, three-and-a-half months after the historic ‘Brexit’ vote, when GBP/USD reached 1.1905.
British pound sterling (GBP) in the markets
Between mid-September and mid-October, sterling fell 3.5% against the dollar to $1.319, taking “cable” back to levels experienced in the three-month period following 2016’s EU referendum.
Against the euro, within the same period, sterling fell by 1.3% to €1.121 but it remains within the middle third of its 2017 range.
In mid-October, opinions on the British currency were mixed. Although Bank of England hawkishness meant that 75% of economists were predicting a November interest rate hike, which would normally be sterling-supportive, a “no deal” Brexit was looking increasingly possible and that prompted some pretty gloomy predictions.
In a “no deal” scenario, both ING and J.P. Morgan predicted that the pound would lose 13% of its value against the dollar by falling to $1.15.
Other negative news for the UK came in October with the ONS’ surprise downward revision to the UK’s wealth by some £490 billion! Ratings agencies had already been downbeat on the UK’s finances. In September, Moody’s downgraded the UK’s credit rating from Aa1 to Aa2 on the grounds that “fiscal pressures will be exacerbated by [the UK’s] departure from the EU.”
On a more positive note, in September, HSBC cancelled its forecast for the pound to fall to parity with the euro. HSBC’s revised year-end forecasts now place GBP/EUR at €1.12 and GBP/USD at $1.35.
United Kingdom currency and money saving tips
England is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Be sure to get out of London and England's smaller cities are fascinating and boast a robust culture. England is not known as a budget location and if you don't keep an eye on your budget it can be expensive. ATM's are everywhere and all major credit cards are accepted though you could purchase a Prepaid Travel Card if you prefer not to carry your credit card with you all the time while travelling.
In the United Kingdom, the National Rail service is known to always expensive, no matter how long your trip is. Depending how worried you are about your budget, by booking your ticket with the National Rail over a week in advance and during off peak hours, you can secure you tickets for for up to 50%.
For more travel tips and ideas on ways to save money when traveling in the United Kingdom read our UK Travel guide.
United Kingdom Trip Checklist
Travel money for the United Kingdom
Save money and time by Ordering your British pound sterling online from Travelex, you get better rates and can pick up the GBP cash locally or even on travel day at the airport.
Another popular option is to use a Pre-paid Travel Card. Your Debit/Credit Card provider will charge you 2% from market mid-rate, but your bank may also charge an extra 3% as an “Overseas Transaction Charge” plus “Overseas ATM” fees for withdrawing cash.
For card purchases if offered a choice of currencies always select to Pay in British pound sterling otherwise you may get much worst exchange rates.
When in London BER recommends CitizenM London Bankside trendy boutique hotels.
Sending money to the United Kingdom
When sending money to the United Kingdom it’s important to compare your bank’s rates & fees with those we have negotiated with our partner money transfer providers. To get a better deal you should follow these 3 simple steps :
- Open an account with a BER reviewed FX provider (id docs may be required)
- You specify the local or British pound sterling amount you want to transfer
- Make a local currency domestic transfer for the requested amount to the provider's bank account in your country
- Once your funds are received by the provider the converted GBP amount will be transfered to the recipient account you specify in the United Kingdom.
By comparing the rates of FX specialist providers rates versus your bank's standard rates you can hopefully save around 5% and maybe more - end result is more British pound sterling deposited into the recipient bank account in the United Kingdom and less margins and fees kept by the banks!