Travel money: What to do with leftover currency

Do you have foreign cash piling up in drawers? Here's how to put it to good use.

Your trip of a lifetime has come to an end but you’ve found yourself returning home with a pocket full of foreign currency. Sound familiar?

Besides exchanging the money back into pound sterling, there are a few other options available to you.

Here’s how to get the most out of your unspent foreign currency:

What can you do with leftover foreign currency?

Hold onto it

If you’re likely to be visiting the same country again or another country that will accept your leftover currency, store it somewhere safe so that it’s ready to use next time.

This is a win-win because it means you’ll be saving yourself another trip to the high street, as well as avoiding any further exchange fees and charges.

Gift it

Give the money to friends and family who will be travelling to a country which accepts the currency. You could offer this for free or sell the money to them at a price which cuts out the cost of using a travel money company.

An alternative is to donate your foreign currency to a suitable charity. Many airlines now offer this service on your return flight home to the UK, as well as at collection points in airports.

Convert it back into pound sterling

If you have no choice but to exchange your currency back into pounds, make sure you compare rates to find the best deal.

This can go one of two ways, as exchange rates are just as likely to fall as they are to rise and you could end up with far less money in return.

In this case, you could try holding off and convert your travel money back at a later date when the exchange rate has improved, but be aware most providers only accept bank notes, not coins.

What is buy back?

Buy back is the process which lets you swap your unused foreign currency back into pound sterling after your trip.

You will be offered an exchange rate, just like when you bought your travel money to begin with, meaning you could end up with less or more as a result of the deal.

What is guaranteed buy back?

It lets you sell your foreign currency back at the rate available when you first exchanged your foreign currency. But this is not a free service and could cost you up to £4.

If rates increase when you want to exchange your travel money back, we recommend going elsewhere to find a deal which will save you more money than you would have got with your guaranteed buy back.

Prepare for next time

The next time you do go away on holiday, it’s wise to think about how you can avoid returning home with any leftover currency, which will save you the hassle of sorting out what to do with it.

Plan and budget

If you’re a cash user when you travel abroad, make sure to draw up a budget for your trip. Taking a little bit more just in case you overspend is a good idea, but too much and you may be returning with excess.

If you prefer using your card, inform your bank or building society you’ll be using it abroad to avoid any transaction restrictions.

Try a digital bank

Another way around this is to bank with a challenger bank, such as Monzo or Starling.

These banks will allow you to withdraw cash overseas, without the hefty transaction fees associated with traditional banks.

This way, if you take out travel money before your trip and find you’ve sold yourself a little short, a Monzo or Starling card will allow you to take out extra cash while abroad, at no extra cost.

Find out more about the different challenger banks on offer here.

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