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What to do with leftover foreign currency

Explore your options for using leftover foreign currency so you can get more value from it.

If you get to the end of an overseas trip and still have foreign currency in your wallet, it can be hard to figure out how to use it. After all, even if you can’t spend it at home, it’s still money.
So whether you’re just about to fly home or you’ve already returned with your pockets full of foreign cash, here are some ways you can make this extra travel money work for you.

How to use leftover foreign currency before flying home

If it’s the last day of your trip or you’re on the way to the airport, here are some ways you can put your leftover currency to use:

  • Pay for your accommodation. When you’re checking out of your hotel or other accommodation, you could use extra cash to settle any outstanding payments. Or, if you’ve been staying with friends, you could gift them with some of your leftover cash before you leave.
  • Buy extra souvenirs. This could be a thoughtful way to share part of your trip with friends and family. Even if you have already bought gifts for most people, getting a few extra presents with your foreign currency could mean you’re sorted for birthdays and Christmas
  • Spend it at the airport. Having a meal, coffee or even doing some last-minute shopping are all popular ways to use up foreign currency before boarding your flight home.
  • Donate it to charity. Many airports have charity donation boxes and some airlines also collect change before you land so that it goes to a worthwhile cause.
  • Exchange it before you leave. Generally, exchanging foreign currency in the country where it’s used is easier than doing it when you’re back home. It can also be more affordable, because the currency you’re selling is actually used in that country. Most airports have several currency exchange booths, so if you have time to spare, you could even compare exchange rates to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Ways to use leftover foreign currency after returning from a trip

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Check out these options when you’re back home and want to make the most of your travel money:

  • Sell it to a currency exchange service. Many currency exchange services in Australia will buy back foreign currency after you’ve returned from an overseas trip. There are also some banks that offer this service. Just remember to check for any fees and consider getting a few quotes so that you can find a place that offers the most competitive rates.
  • Swap it with a friend who is travelling. If you have a friend who’s travelling to the same country, you could offer to swap your leftover currency with them in exchange for Australian dollars. Using the wholesale exchange rate (available online) means that both of you will usually get a better deal than if you went to a currency exchange service.
  • Donate it to UNICEF. If you’re already back in Australia and still want to use leftover foreign cash to support a charity, you can donate it to UNICEF at any Bankwest branch. With this option 100% of the funds will go to UNICEF’s Coins for Kids program, which helps provide essential resources to children in need.
  • Save it for next time. If you’re planning to travel back to the country you’ve visited, you could simply store your leftover foreign currency somewhere safe until your next trip.

What about leftover foreign currency on a travel card?

Sorted out your cash but still have travel money on a card? Here’s what you can do with it:

  • Convert it back to Australian dollars. Most travel money cards allow you to switch between currencies, including Australian dollars. You can then use the card to pay for purchases in Australia, withdraw the cash from an ATM or EFTPOS machine, or take it to your bank if you want to cancel the card.
  • Save it for next time. If you’re already planning your next trip, you could simply keep the money on your card. Most travel money cards allow you to load and spend in a range of foreign currencies, so you could even convert your leftover money to the currency you’ll use next time. Just make sure you check your card’s expiry date and any inactivity fees that could apply between now and when you next travel.
  • Use it for online shopping. If you’re shopping with online stores that are based overseas, using your leftover currency to pay could help you avoid the foreign transaction fees charged by most Australian debit cards and credit cards. It also means you’ll know exactly how much you’re spending.

All the notes and coins you carry with you overseas can add up to a lot of leftover currency when you reach the end of your trip. The same goes for foreign currency that’s left on a travel card. But these options give you a range of ways to put your leftover foreign currency to good use.

Comparison of travel money cards

Rates last updated November 20th, 2018
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
Hold up to 10 currencies and lock in your exchange rate. No load, reload or transaction fees on purchases and part of a worldwide ATM alliance.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 3.50, USD 2.50, GBP 2.00, EUR 2.20, NZD 4.50, CAD 3.00, HKD 20.00, SGD 4.00, THB 95, JPY 260

0%
$0
Get the chance to win a share of 1 million Qantas Points for every $100 in foreign currency you load onto your Qantas Travel Money card plus earn up to 5000 bonus points.
AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50

1%
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

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Amy Bradney-George

Amy is a senior writer at finder.com.au with more than 10 years experience covering credit cards, personal finance and various lifestyle topics. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on money matters, Amy spends her time as an actress.

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