Best Ways to Take Money to the UK in 2024

The UK is a great place to visit - but also an attractive location for Canadians looking to live, work or study overseas. With vibrant cities and attractive rural areas, good job opportunities and world class universities, it’s easy to see why the UK is a hit. If you’re heading to the UK you’ll need to think about how to spend in British pounds when you’re there.

This guide has you covered with 4 possible ways to take money to the UK, including their benefits and drawbacks, to help you pick the right way for you.

Best ways to take money to the UK

The best way to take money to the UK may come down to how long you’ll be there and how you prefer to manage your money. To help you decide, this guide walks through the pros and cons of the following popular options:

Prepaid travel cards to use in the UK

Ideal for: safe and easy ways to spend in GBP, with options to hold a balance in pounds and a selection of other currencies as well as CAD

Prepaid travel cards are usually available from specialist providers, and link to a multi-currency account you can use to hold a range of major global currencies. That makes them a flexible option for trips to the UK - but also a good pick if you travel often, as you can simply hold on to the same card and use it again next time.

Different cards have their own features and fees but you’ll usually find cards aimed at travellers have ways to add money in CAD and convert to foreign currencies, no fees to spend currencies you hold, and some fee free ATM withdrawals. This makes them ideal for international use, as you’ll avoid any foreign transaction fee your bank may apply when you spend overseas.

Prepaid cards also come with inbuilt security benefits. Firstly you can use them to make ATM withdrawals rather than taking the risk of carrying lots of cash, and secondly they’re not linked to your normal CAD transaction account. This means that even if you were unlucky enough to have your travel prepaid card stolen, your main account remains secure.

Learn more about our picks for the 5 best prepaid cards - there’s more on our top choice, Wise, next.

Wise - our pick for prepaid travel card

With this card:

  • Hold and exchange 40+ currencies and manage your money from your phone

  • No annual or monthly fees to pay, and no minimum balance requirement

  • Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with no markup

  • Some free ATM withdrawals available every month

  • Receive payments to your account with local bank details for up to 9 currencies

Read a full Wise card review

Wise card
Wise card prosWise card cons

✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate

✅ No foreign transaction fees apply

✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies

✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies

✅No minimum balance or ongoing fees

❌ It can take up to 14 days for your physical card to arrive by mail

❌ Free ATM withdrawals are limited to 2 per month, to the value of 350 CAD. Fees of 1.75% + 1.5 CAD after that

❌ 10 CAD fee to receive payments to Wise in CAD, via SWIFT

Pros and cons of taking money to the UK with a prepaid travel card


  • As a major currency, several card options let you hold, withdraw and spend GBP conveniently

  • Add money to your card over time to help you save and budget for your trip

  • Cards are available with no minimum balance or ongoing fees to pay

  • Currency exchange may have better rates than a bank will offer


  • Not all prepaid cards have international features - look out for one specifically optimised for travel

  • Exchange rates may include a markup on the mid-market rate

  • ATM fees may apply, depending on the card you pick

  • Some cards charge a fee if you spend in an unsupported currency, or if you spend a currency you don’t hold in your account already

Travel debit cards to use in the UK

Ideal for: simple, low cost ways to spend and make withdrawals in the UK, which you can top up and manage from your phone

Travel debit cards often come with an app you can use to add money, view transactions and keep an eye on your budget while you’re away. Many are linked to a multi-currency account so you can add dollars and then switch to the currency or currencies you need for your planned travels. This will often get you a better exchange rate compared to using your bank, because there’s no foreign transaction fee to pay.

Travel debit cards don’t have any eligibility rules or credit check, and there’s no interest to pay either. You just add a balance and spend right away. They’re secure and easy to use, and some are free or cheap to buy, and come with low or no ongoing costs. That means that if you choose a card which supports a broad range of currencies rather than just GBP you can also use it for the next time you go away.

We’ll go into more detail about our top pick for a travel debit card - the Canada Post Cash Passport - next. You can also learn more about the best travel debit cards in Canada here.

Canada Post Cash Passport - our pick for travel debit card

With this card:

  • Get your card conveniently online or in a Canada Post location

  • Load any of up to 7 major foreign currencies, including GBP

  • No fee to spend a currency you hold in your account

  • Lock in exchange rates in advance of travel

  • Free secondary card in case your first is lost or stolen

Canada Post Cash Passport card prosCanada Post Cash Passport card cons

✅Hold 7 major currencies in your account

✅No extra fee to spend a currency you hold

✅Issued on the Mastercard network for global acceptance

✅Contactless payments or Chip and PIN options

✅24/7 global assistance if you lose your card

❌15 CAD fee to get your first card

❌3.25% fee if you spend in TRY or another currency you don’t hold in your account

❌Top up and cash out fees may also apply

Pros and cons of taking money to the UK with a travel debit card


  • Secure and safe to use - you can often freeze your card through an app if you ever need to

  • Make cash withdrawals on arrival and as you need to - which means you don’t need to buy your foreign currency in advance

  • Cards from specialist services are often linked to multi-currency accounts you can use on future trips too

  • No restrictive eligibility rules, interest or penalty fees


  • Some transaction fees usually apply

  • You may pay a fee when converting from one currency to another, which can be rolled up in the exchange rate you get

  • Some cards have card order or closure costs associated

Taking cash in the UK

Ideal for: tipping, taxis and small purchases - and as a back up in case your card is unavailable

Cash usage in the UK is relatively low - but there are still times when you can’t really avoid it. Most chain stores, hotels and restaurants will gladly accept a card payment but in markets and small shops you may need cash. You may also find that some merchants won’t take a card for a very low value purchase due to the fees they pay to process it.

Carrying cash in the UK is a good idea, even if you don’t need to use it frequently. You’ll have a few options to get your pounds: you can buy in advance through a service like Canada Post, carry CAD to exchange on arrival, or make ATM withdrawals once you’re there.

ATMs are easy to find pretty much everywhere, and can be the most convenient option for getting your GBP. It avoids having to carry lots of cash, means you don’t need to hunt out currency exchange stores, and if you use a travel debit card or prepaid travel card from a provider like Wise you might also find you get low overall costs and a great exchange rate.

Do I need cash in the UK?

It’s a good idea to have some pounds with you when you’re in the UK. While cash isn’t always needed, some small merchants prefer it, and you’ll need it for tipping and buying things in markets too.

In most cases the easiest option to get your travel cash is to make ATM withdrawals on arrival. Choose a prepaid card or travel debit card and you may also find you benefit from low or no fees and a strong exchange rate.

How to buy pounds on arrival in the UK?

If you prefer to carry Canadian dollars to exchange on arrival you’ll be able to do so in tourist areas and larger towns and cities. Bear in mind your exchange options will be limited outside of busy areas - and as you’ll need to shop around to get a good deal you’ll have to take precious time out of your trip.

How to buy pounds in Canada?

It’s possible to buy pounds in Canada before you travel if you’d like to. Canada Post has partnered with CIBC to offer foreign cash for collection or home delivery, or there are individual currency exchange stores in all major urban centres. Fees and exchange rate markups may apply.

Best place to get pounds from 

There’s no single best place to get your travel cash. Providers pick their own rates and fees, which can vary widely. Shopping around is essential - remember to look at both any upfront cost and the exchange rate being offered, as there’s often an extra charge tucked away in the rate a provider uses for retail customers.

Pros and cons of taking cash to the UK


  • Having cash is a good back up plan in case your card is lost or stolen

  • You’ll sometimes be asked to pay in cash, particularly when making a low value purchase

  • Buy your cash before you leave Canada to set your budget in advance


  • Carrying a lot of cash isn't particularly safe

  • You’ll usually waste time during your break if you’re having to compare costs to get a good deal

  • Exchange rates vary widely and usually include a markup - an extra fee

Travel credit cards to use in the UK

Ideal for: spreading the cost of travel over several months, and earning rewards on your spending

Travel credit cards often offer better reward earning opportunities when you spend on travel, or when you spend in foreign currencies. It’s also pretty common to get extra perks like complimentary travel insurance thrown in as part of the package. However, it’s important to remember that there can be a lot of fees involved when using a credit card overseas. As well as any annual charge you’ll pay a cash advance fee if you use an ATM, and interest if you don’t clear your bill on time.

Weigh up the potential benefits of using a travel credit card before you get one - if you choose a card which has no foreign transaction fee when abroad, and which offers rewards you can really use, it can be a good option. Plus, having a credit card with you when you travel can be useful for times you need a payment guarantee, such as when hiring a car or checking into a hotel.

Learn about our top pick - the HSBC World Elite Mastercard - next.

HSBC World Elite Mastercard - our pick for travel credit card

With this card:

  • Spend internationally with no foreign transaction fee

  • Variable interest rate based on purchase type and personal circumstances

  • Add extra cardholders to your account for free

  • Lots of extras and travel benefits offered

  • 24/7 support of you’re a victim of theft or fraud

HSBC World Elite Mastercard prosHSBC World Elite Mastercard cons

✅ No foreign transaction fee

✅ Up to 4 supplementary users on each account with no extra annual charge

✅ 24 hour worldwide assistance to get cash to you if your card is stolen

✅ Some complimentary insurance offered

✅ Options to earn rewards, including enhanced benefits for travel spending

❌ Interest and penalty fees may apply depending on how you use your card

❌ Annual fee of 149 CAD

❌ ATM withdrawals come with fees and a higher rate of interest compared to purchases

Pros and cons of travel credit cards to the UK


  • Different cards offer their own selection of travel rewards and perks as part of the annual fee you pay

  • You can spread the costs of your trip out over a few months

  • Some cards have low or no foreign transaction fees

  • Use as a payment guarantee in hotels and when renting a car


  • Interest and fees usually apply if you don’t pay back your bill immediately

  • Cash advance and interest costs apply when using an ATM

  • Eligibility rules apply

Travel requirements from Canada to the UK

Canadians travelling to the UK as tourists won’t usually need a visa for stays of up to 6 months. Bear in mind though that your passport must be valid throughout your stay, and you’ll need to get a visa lined up if you intend to work or study while you’re there.

Check the Canadian government’s travel advisory page to learn more and to get detailed information for your specific destination.

Does the UK accept Canadian dollars? 

No. You won’t be able to spend CAD anywhere in the UK. If you’re carrying Canadian dollars with you you'll need to exchange them for pounds when you arrive.

Best currency to take to the UK

You’ll only be able to spend in pounds in the UK. While you can carry cash in CAD and convert it on arrival, or get some GBP in cash before you leave, for many travellers using a specialised travel card for cash withdrawals in the UK as and when you need them is the easiest solution.

Top travel money tips to the UK

Here are a few final tips to help your money go further while you’re away:

  • Have several different payment methods in case one isn't accepted wherever you are

  • Get a travel money card before you leave to make it easier and cheaper to spend and withdraw in the UK

  • Use the handy Exiap guides to learn more about currency exchange, travel cards, and more

How much money do I need per day in the UK?

The costs of hotels, activities and attractions in the UK varies a lot based on where you decide to go. London can be pretty pricey - as can some very popular tourist areas such as the Lake District or Cornwall. That said, there are also interesting smaller towns and rural places which are very beautiful and which can be enjoyed on a more modest budget. That means that you’ll be able to plan the trip that suits your personal preferences.

You’ll want to do some research to see how much day to day life will cost while you’re in the UK. As an example, in London you’ll find a 3 course lunch for 2 will set you back in the region of 135 CAD, while a single bus or tube ride will cost over 5 CAD.

Do some detailed research to see how much things are likely to cost based on your plans and where you’re headed, so you can plan your budget. Get more detailed cost information by country and city, from

How much does it cost to fly from Canada to the UK?

At the time of writing (October 2023), the cheapest flights from Canada to the UK start from around 700 CAD per person return. A direct flight to London is likely to take you in the region of 9 hours - but bear in mind that many advertised flight options involve one or more stops, which can mean a journey of 24 hours or more once you add in layovers.

Conclusion - best ways to take money to the UK

There’s no single best way to take money to the UK. In fact, having more than one way to pay is definitely a good idea - just in case you end up in a situation where your preferred payment method isn't accepted.

A good solution for many people could be to get a travel card - such as a prepaid travel card from Wise or a Canada Post Cash Passport - and to carry that as well as your regular debit or credit card as a back up. You can then use your travel card to make ATM withdrawals on arrival for those times when you need cash.

Use this guide to decide which option to take money to the UK will work best for you, based on your own preferences and needs.

FAQ - Best ways to take money to the UK

Should I exchange money before I travel to the UK?

While you can switch Canadian dollars for GBP before you travel, it’s actually very easy to just make a cash withdrawal at an ATM on arrival in the UK. This can also be cheap, and may get you a better exchange rate compared to exchanging in advance, particularly if you have a travel card from a provider like Wise.

Can I withdraw pounds from a local ATM?

You can’t withdraw pounds at a normal ATM in Canada. However, you can get a travel card to make an ATM withdrawal on arrival in the UK, which will often mean you pay less compared to using your bank card.

Are prepaid travel cards a good way to take money to the UK?

Travel prepaid cards from services like Wise are a safe way to spend when abroad. With Wise you’ll also get mid-market exchange rates and low, transparent fees which can bring down the costs of your trip.

Can I use cash in the UK?

Yes. While many people prefer to transact by card in the UK, there are some times when cash is unavoidable, such as when shopping in markets or with small stores. In general, making sure you always have some cash in pounds, and a travel card for spending or getting cash from an ATM, is a good choice so you have a back up plan if you ever need it.