We’ve all been there. You come back from an international trip and you still have some unused cash or coins. I’ll often put my change in my backpack when going to the airport, only to find it days later. In this video/post, we’re exploring some ways to deal with leftover foreign currency. We’ll cover where to exchange foreign currency, as well as some other creative ways to deal with this issue.

As many of you know, I’m a big advocate of using your credit cards whenever possible, especially when traveling. You’ll want to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and pay in the local currency. Though there are places and situations where you have to use cash. There’s simply no way around it. This often leaves you with unused foreign currency when you get home.

Below are some conventional and creative ways to deal with your leftover currency.

1. Exchange it:

Exchanging your foreign currency seems logical, but the options are confusing. You could use the foreign currency exchange booth at the airport, but exchange rates are generally unfavorable. These booths also tend to charge a conversion fee. You can also take your leftover currency to a bank, but most will only accept certain currencies and won’t take coins. Many banks also have a minimum amount requirement and charge a fee for conversions. Unless you’ve got a lot of notes leftover, I don’t recommend this route.

There are other options when it comes to exchanging your currency. Casinos are a great place to exchange money as they tend to take various currencies and offer market rates. I haven’t personally exchanged at a casino, but it seems like a viable option, especially if you live near one.

The last way that I know is to use a service like Leftover Currency. A lot of travelers have used the service and their reviews seem to be consistently high. All you have to do is fill out an exchange form and mail your currency. You’ll then receive your money electronically through direct bank transfer, Paypal, or check. The accepted currencies are limited, but this is a better option than the exchange booths. The company doesn’t charge a fee either, and their exchange rates are based on market rates.

The only drawback is the process of mailing currency, as it does seem a bit risky. Though based on the reviews online, people seem to rate the service highly.

2. Apply it to your final hotel bill:

If you’re ending your overseas trip, you might want to ask the hotel whether you can pay part of your bill with your remaining cash and coins. Most hotels will honor the request. You may need some currency if you’re taking a taxi that doesn’t accept credit cards or paying a departure fee. Though in most cases, this is probably the easiest way to unload your currency before heading home.

3. Donate it:

Another option for your leftover currency is to donate it. Many airlines and airport lounges will collect donations, especially for programs like UNICEF’s Change for Good.

You may also consider donating it to your local school district. Currency can be used to help kids learn about geography. Anything that we can do to help teachers inspire and engage kids seems like a worthy cause. Teachers tend to be underpaid and underappreciated, especially in the US. Finding ways to help them through donating is an excellent option.

4. Load money on your Starbucks card:

This was a great tip that I found from Frugal Travel Guy. Most airports around the world have a Starbucks, so you can ask the store to load up your Starbucks card. Starbucks policy states that there are no transaction or conversion fees and that the credit occurs in the original currency of the card. Assuming there are no language or technical barriers, this is an easy way to exchange your currency.

5. Sell it on eBay:

This is one method that I saw recommended on several travel forums. It’s legal, but it seems rather complicated in terms of proving the amounts and dealing with discrepancies. I personally wouldn’t go this route, but I’m including it since it’s a viable and popular option.

6. Give it as a gift:

When I was a kid, one of my uncles traveled around the world for his job and gave me his leftover currency. I loved collecting them and it made me curious about traveling to a lot of distant places.

If there is a young person in your life, consider giving your leftover currency to them as a gift. It makes for a great souvenir and may inspire them in the future to travel and explore the world.

7. Keep it:

Whether it’s for sentimental value or in case you decide to visit a location again, it might make sense to keep it. There is always the risk that your currency might become outdated. For example, when many European countries adopted the Euro, there was a grace period to exchange the old currencies. Also, sometimes countries will transition to new materials, which is what happened in the UK with their £5 notes, so your currency might become outdated or obsolete. Having some old currency is a good way to remember a trip and encourage you to book your next adventure.

What do you do with your leftover currency? Do you have any additional tips? Please let us know in the comment section below.

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  • I donated my leftover currency, all coin, to a jewelry maker at a private arts/crafts show. She was very appreciative, wanted to pay me and said the coins would add very nicely to some of her jewelry she had planned to create: earrings, necklace, etc.

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