There are coins for 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2, and paper notes for £5, £10, £20 and £50. In Scotland, you might receive notes issued by a Scottish Bank – you can use these notes in all parts of the UK.

Changing Money

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.

Opening 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.

Credit Cards and Cheques

Cheques and Switch/Solo/Visa debit
You can use cheques instead of cash to pay for goods and services (click on this Money 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.

Credit Cards

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. 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.

Cash Machines

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.


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.