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How to get the best return on your unused holiday money

John Fitzsimons
Written By:
John Fitzsimons

It’s a common sight at airports across the world – British holidaymakers shuffling between the various shops, trying to find somewhere to spend those last few handfuls of change. Nobody wants to return home with a wallet full of foreign currency after all.

Yet, many of us do just that. Indeed, according to research from LeftoverCurrency.com, the average household has around £65 of unused holiday money just sitting around.

So if you do return home with a decent amount of unused holiday money, what are your best options when converting it back into sterling? How can you ensure it doesn’t simply gather dust at the back of the chest of drawers?

Where did you get your holiday money in the first place?

Some people will head straight to the currency exchange bureau in the airport they return to, though it’s important to remember that these offer the worst rates whether you’re buying or selling currency. If you want to get a decent return, you’ll need to hold onto that cash a little bit longer.

The next option is to return to the bank or foreign exchange bureau you bought the money from in the first place. Outlets like Marks & Spencer and the Post Office heavily promote the fact that they will take those unused notes off your hands, though you will generally have to produce proof that you bought the currency there in the first place.

If you are really prepared, you can ensure you get a decent return on unused holiday money when purchasing it in the first place. With Travelex for example, you can enjoy a ‘buy back guarantee’, which ensures that you can sell the money back for the same rate at which you bought it. It only applies to notes though, and costs £3.99.

Shopping around

Alternatively, you can shop around different currency bureaux to compare prices.

This may not be as easy as you would imagine – while online stores highlight their ‘buy’ prices prominently, more digging is often required to find the ‘sell’ price.

You can save some time by utilising a comparison site, like CompareHolidayMoney.com, or go directly to a firm like LeftoverCurrency.com which will take it off your hands. These sites, and the likes of UnusedTravelMoney.com, may even buy unused currency that is no longer in circulation, like lira or French francs.

Don’t get holiday money in the first place

Again, this requires you to be prepared from the outset, but one way of avoiding the drama of changing up unused notes is to avoid getting them in the first place.

There are a host of credit cards specifically designed for holidaymakers to use overseas. Take the Halifax Clarity card, which charges no fees for spending or withdrawing cash abroad, or the Barclaycard Platinum, which is fee-free on international use for five years.

Alternatively, you could go for a prepaid card. You load the cards up with money in advance, and then use them in shops or withdraw money from them at ATMs wherever you are. Bear in mind each of these cards will have a different fee structure depending on how you use it so make sure you fully understand what you will have to pay – and when – before signing up.

For more, read YourMoney.com’s Prepaid cards: what are they and are they right for your holiday