Best places to exchange currency in London

Zorica Lončar
16.12.21
4 minute read

Visiting London? There’s so much to see and do in the UK capital, so you’ll have plenty of brilliant experiences to spend your money on.

Before you do, you’ll need to get your money sorted. For visitors from other countries, this means finding the best places for currency exchange in London.

Unfortunately, foreign exchange is big business. While lots of companies claim to offer the ‘best’ and ‘most competitive’ rates around, this isn’t always the case. If you’re not careful, you could be losing a lot of money without even realising it.

Check out this guide on how to get the best deal possible exchanging your money when travelling to London.

Sending money to or from the UK? Wise could save you more compared to your bank

Before we get started, a word.

Banks and some money transfer providers often give you an unfavourable exchange rate when you convert currencies. They add a margin or mark-up on top of the mid-market exchange rate, which is the one you’ll find on Google or currency sites like Xe.com. This means more profit for the bank, but a worse deal for you.

Wise is different. Its smart technology skips hefty international transfer fees by connecting local bank accounts all around the world. This means low fees and the real, mid-market rate every time.

Also, check out Wise’s multi-currency account, which lets you manage and send dozens of currencies all from the same account.

Join Wise and start saving today

Now, back to what you came here to read.

Things to know before exchanging your money

Before you part with your hard-earned cash, it’s useful to learn a little more about the process of exchanging money in different currencies.

Here are a few tips to consider when exchanging currency in London.

The pound’s value changes over time

The Great Britain Pound (GBP, also known as pound sterling) has a floating exchange rate¹, just like many major and widely traded currencies. This means that its value is determined by current supply and demand and will fluctuate over time. Factors affecting the rate include economic, political and other changes.

This is why timing is everything when exchanging currency. Try timing your exchange for when your home currency is stronger compared to the pound. Sign up for exchange rate alerts so you can convert currency at the perfect time.

Always check the mid-market rate

The pound is freely traded on the open market, and the exchange rate is the value at which traders are prepared to buy or sell at a given point in time.

The mid-market rate, also known as the interbank rate or spot rate, is the midpoint between the buy and sell rates from global markets. More importantly, it’s the fairest exchange rate you could possibly get.

If the exchange rate you’re offered differs from the mid-market rate, there’s a good chance there’s a mark-up added on top. This means that the provider is making commission from the exchange, while you get a poorer rate. So, it’s always worth checking whether this kind of extra fee is hidden within the exchange rate.

The good news is that finding out the true current value of the pound is easy. You can monitor the live mid-market rate at any time by checking our online currency converter.

Avoid airport and hotel currency exchanges

It’s never advisable to exchange your money at airports or hotels², but if it’s an absolute necessity there are places in London where you can do this.

There are foreign exchange bureaus, run by Travelex, in all Heathrow's terminals³. These offer ATM cash withdrawal, as well as currency to order online and collect for no commission fees.

Gatwick Airport similarly has various foreign exchange bureaus, run by moneycorp⁴. These offer 24 hour collection on key currencies, prepaid multi-currency cards and 0% commission for reserve and collect travel money.

You may also be able to exchange currency at your hotel. However, you’ll rarely get a good deal at the airport or at a hotel. Because they’re often a last resort, airport and hotel kiosks tend to set unfavourable exchange rates and higher commission². It’s the price you pay for convenience.

ATM withdrawals

Some international banks may offer free withdrawals from their ATMs worldwide. For example, premier customers at Citibank can access the Citigold lounge at Canary Wharf to withdraw EUR and USD from its Travel Money ATM⁵.

You could also ask your home bank if they have arrangements with banks in London, or if they’re part of the Global ATM Alliance. This is a network of banks that allow customers to use foreign ATMs free or at reduced cost, Barclays is a member, and has 3,000 ATMs UK-wide⁶.

Some ATMs will offer to perform the transaction in your home currency. While it sounds convenient on the surface, it's a trap. These ATMs use their own exchange rate, and it’ll likely be weaker than what you’d receive if you proceed without conversion. Always choose to be charged in the local currency. So, GBP in this case.

Spend your money before leaving

To avoid doubling up on exchange fees, try to spend all of your foreign currency before leaving the UK. This is because you’re likely to lose money when exchanging the currency back.

Alternatively, just keep your GBP for your next trip. After all, it’s another good excuse to head back to London.

Where to exchange money in London

London is a major city, so there are numerous places where you can exchange money.

Two popular foreign exchange companies in London are Travelex and moneycorp. The details for these services are listed in the table below, along with a couple of other options.

Beware though, that fee-free and commission-free foreign exchange transactions don't exist; and foreign exchange bureaus that make these claims are misleading. While they may not be charging you an outright fee, they build a profit into their exchange rate.

You can quickly confirm this by checking the current mid-market rate and comparing it to the rate you’re being offered.

Currency BureauLocationsContact information
TravelexTravelex has a branch at Selfridges on Oxford Street, as well as at all Heathrow Terminals⁷0345 872 7627⁷
moneycorpBranches in Gatwick airport⁸08456 210 210⁹
Eurochange/NM MoneyBranches across London, including Leicester Square, Liverpool Street Station and Paddington Tube Station.¹⁰Contact numbers for each branch at: https://www.eurochange.co.uk/london-branches
CurrencyOnlineGroupBranch at Waterloo, Central London¹¹0208 050 2073¹¹

The bottom line - and how the Wise travel money card could save you a bundle

Unless you know what to look out for, you could be paying a lot more than you should on your foreign exchange. Always check how far the rate you’re receiving deviates from the mid-market rate, and shop around for the best deal possible.

Even better, consider getting a Wise multi-currency account. As well as being able to send and receive money internationally for less, you can also get an international Wise debit card.

This contactless card automatically converts currency at the fairest possible exchange rate at the moment you spend. You won’t pay any foreign transaction charges, only a small fee to convert the currency. Or if you have the currency in your account already, it’s free.

You can also use your Wise debit card to spend, pay and withdraw cash - giving you an easy way to cover your costs during your time in London. Have a great trip!


Sources used for this article:

  1. Investopedia - GBP definition
  2. Money Saving Expert - cheap travel money
  3. Heathrow - currency exchange
  4. Gatwick Airport - currency cash
  5. Citibank - travel money
  6. No Fee Overseas - global ATM alliance
  7. Travelex - stores
  8. Money Corp - Gatwick Airport currency exchange
  9. Money Corp - contact
  10. Eurochange - London branches
  11. Currency Online Group - contact

Sources checked on 7-Dec-2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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