foreign currency

Leftover currency? Here’s what to do with it.

Courtesy Beth Whitman

As souvenirs go, going home with leftover currency can feel wasteful. For my first story on Travel+Leisure, I gathered up some suggestions for putting that “funny money” to good use.

Here’s a slightly different version of that story.

Spend it

Some people suggest stopping at a Starbucks before leaving a country to have leftover cash added, fee-free, to a Starbucks card balance. Others suggest paying part your hotel bill with your remaining cash and coins and paying the balance with your credit card.

Save it for another time

Beth Whitman, founder of Wanderlust and Lipstick and WanderTours has a basket of envelopes and small purses filled with coins and bills from past trips around the world, organized by country. “It helps to have some local currency upon arrival for taxis or tips without having to go to an ATM or change money,” Whitman advises.

Exchange it 

Travelex exchanges leftover currency at its stores in cities and in airports, and by mail. Airport stores swap bills and most coins on the spot, but know that each store sets its own rates and fees. Mailing-in exchanges to Travelex are limited to banknotes and their checks may not arrive for three weeks, but the $5 fixed fee and day-of exchange rate is apt to net you more.

Another mail-in option is offered by a Leftover Currency, which takes both notes and coins for circulating and discontinued currencies. They promise to pay within 5 working days via PayPal, check or bank transfer, or to donate the value of what you brought home to charity.

Donate it

Look for “change globes” or bins to collect leftover money from travelers leaving a country. And ten airlines, including American, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, currently participate in UNICEF’s Change for Good program, which collects spare currency from passengers on international flights.

Make friends

“Ask around to see if friends or neighbors have nieces or nephews who collect coins,” said traveler writer Carol Pucci, “A little bag of foreign coins that had been sitting my desk for years recently found a good home in a kid’s collection.”

Make Art

Leftover coins offer an opportunity to explore your inner Etsy. Drill holes to make earrings or a necklace, or get out the glue gun and decorate a frame to hold a favorite travel photo.

Surprise yourself 

Keep it in your wallet. “Whenever I go to pay for something and stumble across the foreign currency, I’m transported, for a moment, back to that destination” said Francine Cohen.

Have another suggestion for what do to do with your leftover currency? Share your ideas in the comment section.