The currency in Scotland is the Great British Pound Sterling (GBP). Each pound is made up of 100 pence. This is the currency that is used throughout the United Kingdom and its Crown dependencies. Within Scotland there are three banks that circulate their own bank notes. These are the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), The Bank of Scotland and The Clydesdale bank. Each note therefore looks different for the same denomination. To make it more confusing elsewhere in the UK, the Bank of England & 2 Northern Ireland banks also issue bank notes.
Scottish bank notes are accepted throughout the UK however some retailers in England & Wales may be more reluctant to accept these as they may not be as familiar with the notes. If planning to travel outwith the UK you should ensure that you exchange your Scottish banknotes for English bank notes in order that you can exchange these abroad. Bank of England notes are accepted without any issues in Scotland.
Bank Note Denomination
The first bank note in the UK was issued by the Bank of Scotland in 1696. The Bank of Scotland currently has the following bank note denominations; The £5, £10, £20, £50 & £100. The Royal Bank of Scotland has the £1, £5, £10, £20, £50 & £100 notes in circulation. The Clydesdale bank has the £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 notes. The images on these notes have also changed over the years and many older notes remain in circulation. So be prepared to be confused. The good news is that the £5, £10 & £20 notes are the most common as these are generally dispensed from ATM tellers.
The coins are slightly easier to understand starting from 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 coin and £2 coin. The 1 and 2 pence coins are copper plated and often referred to as coppers. The 5p to the 50p are nickel plated and the higher value £1 and £2 coins are nickel brass coated. Again there are various commemorative designs for these coins however the shape & style of the coins will remain consistent.
Once arriving in Scotland there are various places to exchange your currency into GBP. If possible avoid exchanges at the airport as these often offer lower rates. Generally banks offer OK rates however it is worth looking at the following retailers Debenhams, M&S or Eurochange. The main issue to look out for is that many financial institutions see transactions such as Euro to GBP or USD to GBP as a currency buy back whereby someone has gone on holiday and is now back in the UK looking to convert back unused foreign currency. Therefore they offer very bad rates.
Debit & Credit Cards
Debit & Credit cards are widely used in Scotland. There are now no fees allowed to be applied to cardholders by the retailer. Some small shops may ask for a minimum payment such as £5 however in bigger retailers such as Tesco supermarket you could pay by card for any transaction amount. To pay by card there are chip and pin terminals and for smaller transactions up to £45 these can be contact less payments.
Foreign exchange fees & bank transaction fees may be imposed by your own card issuer so it was worth investigating these before travelling. In the UK there are now many start up challengers such as Monzo or Revolut that issue cards that allow transactions abroad without any FX fees so having a similar card from your country could save yourself some money.
Cash can be withdrawn from ATM machines. Most Banks do not charge for cash withdrawals however your own bank may charge you. Other ATM machines not associated to a retail bank such as RBS, Halifax, Lloyds, Natwest, Santander, Barclays etc. may impose a charge however these ATM’s will warn you before you proceed. Dependent on the location & circumstance there may be another ATM close by that may not charge for withdrawals so it always worth checking. Most ATM’s have multilingual functionality.
Within bigger towns & cities there is an abundance of cash machines. However if travelling to the Highlands & Islands it is worth ensuring you have some cash as many villages do not have a bank or an ATM. Often the local Post office or shop provides many services to the community such as an ATM in the store.