Money: Cash, Credit or Debit? Part One – Cash

Since arriving in the U.K. a month ago, I have some surprises and frustrations when it comes to dealing with money, not unexpectedly, of course. I knew I’d encounter some initial hiccups and was warned by previous Fulbright recipients of what I might run up against while trying to live and work in another country.

But first, here’s some of the cash – or, pound notes:

They are prettier than American dollar bills and remind me of Canadian money in the color, texture, and size. I would imagine the coloring helps it to be less likely a target for counterfeiting. The oval shape in the middle (see where someone wrote a secret code?) is a watermark, so when you hold it to the light you see the queen’s portrait. Other security features include a hologram and these features. The other people on the bills are Charles Darwin and Adam Smith (A Scottish philosopher and economist). Bills not shown: an old paper £5 note, features Elizabeth Fry (prison reformer), the new replacement polymer £5 showcasing Winston Churchill, and the £50, which has steam engine inventors Boulton and Watt. The paper five will go out of circulation on May 2017, so if you got them, use or deposit them! (The identity and type of current banknotes from the Bank of England website.) The other paper notes will be replaced in subsequent years.

Mostly, I carry around a bunch of pound coins.From a Bank of England’s currency standpoint, they last much, much longer than paper notes. The drawback? Soooo heavy.

Starting at about the two o’clock position, the coins are Pence (slightly larger than a US penny), Two Pence, Five Pence, Ten Pence (at the bottom), Twenty Pence (with angled cut), Fifty Pence, A Pound (smaller than a quarter), and Two Pounds. The pound coin is thicker than the others – and heavier – which is helpful when blindly digging into a pocket or purse to find tip money.


If you were around before 1971, you would have used a different monetary system in England, with a 240 based, instead of a 100. (Argh! The Maths!) Here’s a clear explanation of guineas, crowns, shillings, and bobs. Well, as clear as a money system based on 240 can be! Thankfully, I can use one similar to the U.S. system, which helps in conversions and factoring taxes or tips.

Cash is commonly used in England, much more so than the U.S., and tipping is not as common, as workers are paid a living wage (unlike US waitstaff, for instance). Those are topics for the next post!

I posted the math problem below on Facebook, leading to tears, gnashing of teeth, and general angst. My mathematically inclined friends, though, thought it was awesome! What do you think?

Here’s a little math problem for you…
The average price of gas in Burlington, Vermont, is $2.222 and is sold by the gallon.
The average price of petrol in Nottingham, UK, is 112.2p and sold by the liter.
One British pound is equivalent to 1.30 US dollars.
The US gallon is used in the United States and is equal to exactly 3.785411784 litres.
The number one selling car in the UK is the Ford Fiesta, which has a fuel capacity of 41 litres.
The fuel capacity of a Ford Fiesta in the US is 12.4 gallons.
1) Express how much Nigel in the UK will pay for a full tank in both dollars and pounds, as well as how much Jasmine in the US will pay for a full tank in both dollars and pounds.
2) What is the difference in prices of fuel between Notts & BTV?
3) What is the size difference of the Ford Fiesta tank in the UK vs the US?
4) What is your theory on the difference in tank sizes between a Ford Fiesta in the UK vs the US?

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