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What to Do with Leftover Foreign Currency After Your Trip

Photo by Dobo Kristian via Shutterstock
Written by Chris Osburn

Back from your big trip with some leftover foreign currency? Don’t worry. You’ve got options. Let’s explore a few of the smarter ways save, change or spend it.

Keep for Later

If there’s a good chance you might be heading back to the country where the currency in question was issued, just hang onto it. Odds are exchange rates won’t fluctuate too much in the short term. Plus, you’ll spare yourself some hassle and from having to pay any pesky exchange fees. If you travel often to a particular destination, keep a special wallet or purse with money from that country along with any documents or other items specific to traveling there. It’ll sure come in handy!


Change Itexchange-money

No upcoming return trip on the horizon? Then it’s probably best to exchange it for your home currency. Just keep in mind most exchanges only accept bills and no coins. It’s also worth noting that invariably exchanges at airports offer the worst rates. For up-to-date info on rates, online foreign exchange service,, is as handy a resource as any out there. You can use XE to change money online, but it might pay to shop around first.

You might also want to sell or trade the foreign currency to an acquaintance who’s going where you’ve been. If you can’t think of anybody off the top of your head, maybe leave a message on the noticeboard at work or at anywhere you might congregate with others, even online.

If you’ve got coins left from your trip, it might be harder to convert. Maybe try to spend the coins in flight on drinks or snacks or at the airport (even once you’ve arrived back in your home country) on small but not so frivolous purchase like food, gum, or a bottle of water.

In the U.K., some Coinstar automated kiosks actually accept a limited variety of foreign coins to be converted in local currency. At the time of writing this article, such isn’t the case in the U.S.

And if you’ve been somewhere especially exotic, it might be in your interest to contact coin collectors.

Man Overwhelmed by Coins

Give It Away

For a more charitable approach to dealing with leftover currency, consider donating it to a cause that’s important to you. Many reputable nonprofits are happy to accept your unused coins or bills from wherever you’ve been. One example is UNICEF’s Change for Good program that makes it easy to mail your money to them. Some airlines have their attendants pass through the aisles of a plane in flight to collect spare change for their chosen charities. You’ll often see donation boxes at airports where you can drop your coins for a good cause as well.

How about you? What are your tips for using your leftover foreign currency?

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.

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