Olympic Tourists To Compete In Epic Line-Standing Competitions At London’s ATMs

What’s more annoying than someone calling it an ATM machine? A super long line at the ATM, which is going to be the reality for many tourists cruising into London for the Olympic games. Officials are warning tourists of epic queues, advising travelers to bring their own British pounds instead of trying to access ATMs.

Apparently tourists are wandering around befuddled, confused over the high prices of things in Britain, and many don’t even know what kind of currency to use. Just to be clear, everyone — it’s pounds, not euros. And American dollars won’t work to buy that bobblehead of Queen Elizabeth II, either.

London is expecting the long lines at ATMs as dozens of the machines ran out of cash during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June, honoring the queen’s 60-year-reign — and that was just a weekend. Around 1 million extra people are expected to flood into London for the games, which begin on July 27 and run through Aug. 12.

At some bars and restaurants, customers left behind drivers’ licenses and other collateral, and returned with cash the next day to pay their bills, reports the Associated Press.

The UK’s Payment Council says it’s been working on figuring out how much cash will be needed in the city, and which denominations will be most useful. It’s also telling tourists to bring their own cash before they arrive and have backup plans in case machines run out at the 1,700 ATMs near Olympic venues.

“We’ve been working to make sure that there is enough cash to meet demand,” said Michelle Whiteman, spokeswoman for the Payments Council. “But at any point in time, a cash machine may run out of cash. It’s just that it will be more noticeable during an event like this.”

Throwing another kink in the possible ways to pay is the fact that Visa is an exclusive sponsor for the games, so people at Olympic venues will have to use cash or Visa credit or debit cards, or go to a kiosk where they can purchase a Visa prepaid card using a different credit card. Oh, and it removed 27 ATMs from venues and replaced them with only eight Visa-only machines.

Visa’s not worried, however, as “We’ve been sponsoring the games for 26 years and we’ve never had an issue with it,” said the head of Olympic management for Visa Inc.

Olympic tourists warned about London cash squeeze [Associated Press]


Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.