Tips for managing your money when you’re visually impaired

Many visually impaired people admit to handing over their wallets to shop assistants or asking a stranger for help with their PIN number at a cash point, both of which can be dangerous and reduce independence.

Here are our top four tips to help you manage your money with confidence.

1. Learn how to recognise bank notes

If you’re in the UK, notes can be identified as £5 and £10 notes are made from a plastic material, which distinguishes them from £20 notes, and £10 notes have raised bumps in the top left hand corner. The new plastic £20 will be issued in 2020. You can also purchase a bank note detector; a small device which will read your note and vibrate 1 to 4 times, indicating the denomination.

However, they’re not cheap and can be easy to lose! Listen to Mark in this video give you his top tip that requires no tech and can be used for any type of currency.

2. Make your credit/debit cards different

It’s easy enough to tell the difference between your cards if you have sight but very difficult when you don’t, especially when all cards have to be the same size and dimensions.

One solution is to cut a small notch in the side of the card, which doesn’t interfere with its function but makes it easily identifiable to the touch. Let Mark explain in more detail.

3. Use audio cash machines

Currently Barclays, Lloyds, Yorkshire Bank, HSBC and Santander produce audio cash points, with a port for headphones. The keypads should also have a raised dot on the number 5, which helps to navigate the numbers when using it. Let Mark talk you through it in this video.

You can find nearby audio ATMs using the app ‘Link ATM Locator’; a free app that identifies your closest ATM and lets you know whether it has an audio feature:

4. Try image recognition technology

There are lots of apps that use AI (artificial intelligence) to narrate the world around you – some free and some paid for. We’re big fans of Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, an app for Apple devices which can read handwriting, recognise people, identify labels, and much more.

Mark demonstrates how you can use the ‘Currency’ mode to identify different banknotes in this video, and to top it off, the app is completely free to download and use!

Want more top tips on money management? Check out our blog on 'Five accessible banking features you (probably) didn’t know existed'.

Read our banking blog

If you have any of your own tips and tricks for handling and managing money, then please get in touch and let us know about them by ringing 0300 222 5555 or emailing

Bonus tip – identifying coins!

Coins can be distinguished by rubbing your fingernail over the edge of the coin. In the UK they are in pairs –

  • 1p with 2p (small and large with a smooth edge, make with a copper coloured metal)
  • 5p with 10p (small and large with a rough edge and made of nickel, a silver colour)
  • 20p with 50p (small and large with an angular edge)
  • £1 with £2 (much thicker than the other coins).

Contrast in size in each pair, as well as the different edges and colours of the metals make it easier for blind or partially-sighted people to identify the coins.

For more tips in all areas of living with sight loss do visit our ‘Henshaws Life Hacks‘ page.

This blog was originally posted in November 2016, and was updated to contain up-to-date information in July 2018.

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Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.
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