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How to exchange USD (and other foreign currency) to GBP within UK without paying rip off exchange rates

How to exchange USD (and other foreign currency) to GBP within UK without paying rip off exchange rates

Converting foreign currency to Great Britain Pounds (GBP) within the UK is often accompanied by steep buyback rates that may cost you upwards of 20% of the amount you wish to convert. A client of mine recently had this experience; while she was living in UK, she initially only carried United States Dollars (USD) in cash; she faced a dilemma – being ripped off at an airport travel exchange when converting, or being slightly less ripped off at the Post Office, John Lewis, or M&S where their GBP buyback rates are also high. Thankfully, we found another solution for her which I will share here.

The solution is quite simple, but requires you to register for an HSBC account in UK and opening a free Current Account. You can do this online and it only takes a few moments to fill out the form and then a few days of waiting for the card to arrive in the mail, but the wait is worth it if you are converting a non-insignificant amount of cash. I can confirm this works if you follow these steps, provided you qualify for an account. Here are the steps:

  1. Register for an HSBC UK Current Account online. You can do this completely online without having to go to a branch. It may be instant, or worst case, you have to wait for the card in the mail.
  2. Once your account is open, install the HSBC UK mobile app and set up online banking through the app.
  3. Once logged on, open HSBC Global Money Account in the application. This is instant.
  4. Now, open an HSBC Currency Account in USD. This is also instant. To do this, log onto the HSBC website and register.
  5. That’s it. You can now go to the branch and deposit USD into your currency account. After, you can use HSBC currency converter or transfer it out to Wise or another online exchange of your choice, or use the HSBC rate which is much better than the aforementioned routes earlier.

Final thoughts; Although HSBC wouldn’t be my primary choice for a bank, I’d recommend HSBC over Barclay’s. I originally tried to do this with Barclay’s but their customer service were terrible and unhelpful. They claim to offer online services, but then registration is followed with an in-person visit to a branch where their staff, based on my client, are rude and borderline racist. Talking to three different Barclay’s staff, each one iterated over a list of excuses about why they didn’t want to take on a large account which would have profited their institution. It was very bizarre, I have never seen so many employees in customer service not want to do the bare minimum to open a basic account.