Save, make, understand money


What to do with leftover foreign currency

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The average holidaymaker comes home with £70 worth of foreign currency. Rather than leaving it in the suitcase or stashing it in a drawer, here are five things to do with your leftover money.

Convert it back but play the seller’s waiting game

Buy back rates are lower than travel money rates as providers have to factor in handling charges and overheads.

When it comes to foreign currency, you want to buy when the exchange rate is at its best, so your pound buys more euros or dollars, for example. But if you have foreign currency that you want to convert back to pounds – and the pound is strong, this is a bad time to sell.

As such, it’s worth checking the performance of the pound against your holiday currency. Sites such as Xe.com or Oanda.com keep track of exchange rates and currency markets. You can also Google a pairing such as ‘euro-pound’ or check Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance, which provide data to compare currency and view historical charts. You can’t predict where rates will go but tracking them can give you an idea of the best time to sell your currency.

Sell online via a currency marketplace

You can sell your currency online via a licenced UK currency broker such as CompareHolidayMoney.com. It compares exchange buyback deals. You tell it what you want to sell, fill out a form, post your currency (or take it in person) to the chosen buyer.

You’ll get the money in your bank account within three working days.

As an example, if you want to sell euros, the site compares 15 buyers, with the best rate at 1.12 and the worst at 1.26 (an 11.84% difference) so €100 could get you £88.88 or £79.33 depending on who you sell to.

Buyers may not accept coins or higher amounts such as say €500 notes and you will need to factor in the cost of delivery, unless you can make the trip in person. With higher amounts, it may be best to opt for special delivery so the money doesn’t go missing along the way.

Another reason why you may want to go in person, especially on the day of the transaction is because the buyer buys your currency at the rate on the day it receives it, rather than the day you sell which could mean slightly more or less than you were quoted.

Load money onto a Mastercard debit card

Online site WeSwap.com has launched a buy back service for leftover currency, which includes closed currencies, such as the Indian rupee.

You need to sign up for a WeSwap account and then send your money in (it recommends using Royal Mail special delivery) where you’ll receive a Mastercard debit card. The exchanged money is then added to the debit card where you can use it at any outlet with the Mastercard logo. You can even withdraw money from an ATM.

WeSwap says major currencies are converted back to GBP at an “extremely competitive 1 –2%”, compared to the average high street mark-up of between 6-7% for buyback services. Money is added within three working days. It can’t receive 500 EUR notes, 1,000 Swiss Franc notes or coins at the moment, though it hopes to expand to include coins soon.

WeSwap buys your currency at the rate on the day it receives the money, which it says “doesn’t change much day-to-day”, but could be slightly less or slightly more than rates shown on the day you exchange. If you were to convert €100 today, you would receive £88.17.

Sell to family and friends

If you have leftover currency and you know one your relatives or friends are heading overseas (perfect if you’re both visiting Europe), then why not sell the money to them?

You’ll need to make it work for both of you so that you’re not losing out too much and they’re getting a better deal than going to a bureau. By cutting out the commission and fees, hopefully you’ll both save a few quid.

Gift to charity

WeSwap.com lets you convert your leftover cash and gift to charity instead of having the amount put on a Mastercard for personal use.

You can also give your leftover coins and notes to charity via site Cash4Coins.com which has partnered up with a number of charities such as RSPCA, Hospice UK and Alzheimers’s Society to collect old and unwanted currencies. If you have over 10kg of coins to donate, it will collect them for free.

Check with individual charities before gifting, however. NSPCC told us it accepts leftover holiday money donations, while Cancer Research says it doesn’t accept these donations.

Two more tips for future holidays

The tips above are for those travellers who come back with foreign currency but if you’re yet to travel overseas, here are a couple of ways to avoid coming home with lots of leftover money.

Buy back guarantees

A number of foreign currency outlets run ‘buy back guarantees’, such as Travelex, Caxton and Moneycorp. This gives holidaymakers peace of mind knowing the provider will buy your unspent currency at the same rate you bought it.

Check the exact T&Cs; some may not buy back coins, they may have time limits for the transaction and they may charge for the buy back scheme (around £4-£5). You also need to buy the currency from that outlet in the first place.

Consider a prepaid card

A prepaid currency card allows holidaymakers to pre-load currency on to the card and lock in the exchange rate on the day, which could be a good option if the value of the pound spikes on a particular day.

These cards also tend to offer better exchange rates than those from a bureau and with a prepaid card, you don’t need to load all your currency at once as they allow you to add smaller increments to avoid losing out on poor exchange rates.

Another bonus is they can help you budget as you know exactly how much you can spend on them. If you want to spend more you’ll need to reload the card, but as many now come with an app you can do this at home or when you’re on holiday.

For those who may have loaded too much onto the card and now want their money back in their bank accounts, Caxton says customers can withdraw the money (£1.50 fee), and you’re subject to the exchange rate on the day of the request.