The unit of currency in the UK is the pound sterling (£).
One pound is divided into 100 pence (p).
Coins and notes
There are coins for 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 &
£2, and paper notes for £5, £10, £20 &
£50. In Scotland, you might receive notes issued by a Scottish
Bank – you can use these notes in all parts of the UK.
You may change your own currency into pounds sterling at a bank,
building society, post offices and at some travel agencies. Ports,
airports and larger railway stations often have places for changing
money. You will pay a charge for changing money. When you are arriving
in the UK, if you can, bring a small amount of sterling with you
to allow for travel, food and so on. £200 should be enough
to cover these immediate expenses when you arrive.
A bank account
Even if you are only going to be in the UK for a few months, it
is worth opening a bank account. You may need proof of your home
address from your home bank. Some banks do not let you open an account
unless you are going to stay for at least 9 months. Banks and building
societies offer many types of account. You are most likely to need
a ‘current’ or ‘student’ account. Most current
accounts remain free of charge provided you do not go ‘overdrawn’,
that is, take out more money than you have in the bank. Quite large
charges may then be incurred so keep careful note of the money you
put in and take out of your current account. It normally does not
matter which bank you open an account with: conditions and rates
are about the same. If you are keeping a lot of money in the UK
you should think about opening another account which will give you
interest on your money. In this case ask student welfare at your
college for advice.
Cheques and Switch/Solo/Visa debit
When you open a current account you will be given a cheque book
and guarantee card often called a cheque card. You can use cheques
instead of cash to pay for goods and services (click on this
Matters website for guidance on on how to write a cheque). When
you present a cheque you will need to show this card to prove your
identity. You will only be able to obtain instant credit on cheques
up to the card limit – normally £50 or £100. To
purchase items over this limit would normally mean presenting a
cheque in advance of collection of your goods.
You may be able to request the ‘Switch’, ‘Solo’
or Visa Debit facility when you open your bank account. These are
debit cards – you can use your card to pay for goods/services
in a shop and over the internet. The payment is taken straight from
your bank account (unlike a credit card, where you receive a bill
at the end of the month). When you pay with one of these cards,
you need to hand over your card, then either type in your PIN number
(a 4-digit code that your bank gives you) or sign the receipt.
There are two main types, Visa and Mastercard. The different types
are identical in operation. There are many shops that take these
types of card in the UK. You will
to hand over the card when making a purchase and you will be asked
to sign the receipt or to type in your PIN number (a 4-digit code
from your credit card company). Items purchased on the card must
be paid for on a monthly basis. If you do not pay all the money
outstanding on the card in one month, the balance is carried over
to the next. You pay a substantial interest charge on any money
carried over to the next month. You may spend on each card any amount
up to your credit limit, which is usually £500-£2000.
Credit cards are useful for purchasing items like concert tickets
over the phone or the internet. You can also use some foreign credit
cards in some bank cash machines. Many companies offer credit cards
– a good starting point is to have a look at the cards offered
by the main banks. But be careful! It is very easy to run up large
debts with credit cards.
Many banks and supermarkets have cash machines (or ATMs) which
will enable you to withdraw money at most times. To use these machines
you normally enter your cheque card and then type in a Personal
Identification Number (PIN). The machine will then ask you what
service you require. You may see how much money you have in your
account, order a statement
or withdraw money. Never keep your PIN and your cheque card together
for security reasons. It is a good idea to memorise your PIN so
that you do not need to write it down.
This is the name given to a thief who steals money or your wallet
from your pocket or bag. Be careful! Make sure you know where your
money is. Keep it safe when you are in crowded places like the bus,
underground or walking around.
Advice on debt
Money worries are one of the biggest causes of stress for students.
It can be difficult to find enough money to pay for course fees,
accommodation and living costs. It is vital that you do not wait
and let any debt get out of control. The problem will not go away
– it is better to get advice as soon as possible. Talk to the International
Office, a counsellor in the Students’ Union or a member of staff
in your college for help.
This guide is copyrighted © Friends International 2005. No
part of this work may be reproduced without
the written permission of Friends International.
Additional local information provided by Friends International in Guildford, 2007.