Banking & Finance


Whether you are paid in pounds or in dollars, it is generally a good idea to open up a local bank account once you have moved.

Banking services offered are very similar to those in the US. Be aware that opening a bank account can take up to eight weeks, so we recommend doing this right away.

The major banks in the UK are:

Debit & Credit Cards

Ask about receiving a debit card, credit card and cheques when you open an account. Most banks issue a “pin and chip” card in the form of MasterCard or Visa. These can be used throughout the UK and Europe.

American Express is widely used across the UK (& Europe), although many smaller stores and cafes do not accept Amex - so make sure you have a backup Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card.

Contactless Payments

Contactless payments are supported by almost all credit and debit cards, and most merchants in the UK. Contactless allows you to tap your card to the machine to make a payment, without needing to touch the machine nor enter a pin code. 

As of July 2020, payments up to £45 can be made using contactless.

Apple Pay and Google Pay are a form of contactless payment. However, in many stores and restaurants, the payment limit is much higher. For example, at Waitrose or Costco, bills even over £100 can be paid with Apple Pay.

Transferring Money in the UK

Transferring money in the UK is extremely easy.

Your bank website or mobile app has the ability to transfer money using a name, sort code, (the sort code identifies the bank and branch to which the account is registered) and account number. Recently banks have introduced verification to ensure the name matches the account number to reduce fraud. There is usually no charge to transfer money in this way.

Additionally, for subscriptions to services from businesses - for example a gym membership or annual membership to the national trust - you can set up a direct debit, which authorizes the company to withdraw money on a regular (weekly, monthly, annually, etc.) basis. You can cancel the direct debit anytime from your bank website.

Transferring Money Internationally

The easiest way to transfer money internationally is to have a bank in both countries and have accounts in multiple currencies so you can convert currencies locally.

For example, HSBC has banking in many countries around the world - USA, Canada, UK, Europe, and many countries in Asia. HSBC facilitates instant transfers between your own accounts regardless of country or even currency conversion.

Alternatively, services such as Transferwise offers international transfers and very competitive currency conversion services.

Writing Cheques/Checks in the UK

The format for writing cheques in the UK varies slightly from US standards. This website shows you exactly how to write a cheque in the UK:

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About the group

The American Women of Surrey (AWS), International Women's Group,  is a not-for-profit club founded in 1975 to provide a welcoming atmosphere for expatriates and their families living in Surrey. We offer social, cultural and philanthropic opportunities for our 230+ members representing more than 30 nationalities.


VP Welcoming:

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AWS International Women's Group
P.O. Box 170
Cobham, Surrey
KT11 2YJ

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