Traveling abroad can be life changing. By hopping on an airplane for a few quick hours you’ll get to experience new cultures, try new foods, see new sites, and have the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes—even if it’s just for a few short days. Heck, you may even make a friend or two along the way.
However, getting to see, do, and eat new things can get expensive. Between hotel costs, plane tickets, sightseeing tours, restaurants, and nights out on the town, that vacation to a new country could quickly become a financial mountain.
Though you’ll likely want to come home with at least a souvenir or two you purchased on your sojourn, there is one thing you’ll probably want to leave behind—extra foreign currency that merely goes to waste upon landing.
Even the best budgeters may end up with some extra cash at the end of a trip. And since you can’t spend that foreign currency back home in the United States, you’ll need to come up with an alternative plan for all those foreign coins and bills now burning a hole in your pocket.
Sure, those bills may be pretty (Have you seen the Australian dollar?), but it won’t do you any good hanging as art on the wall. And you don’t want to miss out on saving or spending that money on things you need at home.
Instead of letting it go to waste, here are a few things you could choose to do with that leftover foreign change once your trip is done and your regular life sets in again.
Using it to Pay Part of Your Hotel Bill on Vacation
This might seem obvious, but there’s nothing worse than arriving at your gate with five minutes until boarding, only to realize you’ve still got about $80 worth of Moroccan Dirham or Turkish Lira left in your wallet.
That’s why it’s crucial to keep track of your spending while you’re on your trip by creating a travel budget. A trip specific budget can help you keep your spending in check and help you make sure you don’t have any local currency left by the time you depart.
If you don’t spend all your money that’s OK too, it’s just important to keep track. In fact, the earlier you realize you’ll have leftover money, the better. Sometimes hotels will let you split your bill up, so that you can use up your extra currency and then put the rest on a credit card.
Just remember to save enough for the cab ride to the airport—Uber or Lyft aren’t available everywhere and not every cab accepts credit.
Shopping Duty Free
If you have a fair chunk of foreign currency leftover consider making a stop at the Duty Free stores upon departure. This can be a good strategy if you are buying something you’d use ordinarily, like your favorite perfume or liquor, or if you’re still looking to buy a souvenir treat from the destination.
However, some countries, especially those that are sensitive to inflation, don’t accept foreign currency (except for Euros and dollars) at Duty Free so double check that your change is eligible before you show up at the register with a cart full of goods.
Donating to Charity
Thanks to Change For Good initiative , you won’t have to exchange a dime as they do all the hard work of charitable giving for you. They’ve partnered with several airlines, including American Airlines and Aer Lingus, to help passengers donate their excess change.
On these flights, passengers receive envelopes in which they can donate their leftover foreign currency. If you’re not flying with a partner airline, and still want to donate, you can mail your change to the organization.
Some airports have similar initiatives and programs that raise money for different charities around the world—all you need to do is find the box or envelope and stuff it full of your extra change that you have to spare.
Not only does this allow you to contribute to a worthy cause, but it will also help you feel good about not letting your spare change go to waste.
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Although exchanging physical money comes with a fee, this can be one way to recoup your cash if you aren’t planning on visiting the country again anytime soon.
But where can you exchange foreign currency in a pinch?
Since money exchanges have notoriously high rates, make sure to search the exchange rates before using just any kiosk.
Although it is counterintuitive, airports are known to have some of the worst exchange rates, so it might be worth waiting if you know there will be another option available when you get home.
Your local bank may also be willing to exchange currency. You could make a few calls before you even leave for your trip to find out who will exchange your cash and for what fee. If you have enough money left over from your vacation it could be worth the additional effort.
Saving it For Another Time
If you know you’ll be visiting again, why not store your extra foreign currency with your passport? Not only will you be able to keep the money, but you’ll save yourself a trip to the ATM upon arrival.
This can be one of the easiest solutions to the what to do with leftover foreign coins problem. And, it might encourage you to start planning your return visit.
Exchanging it for Bitcoin (or Another Cryptocurrency)
While this idea might sound outlandish to some, many crypto nomads swear by this technique. Theoretically, you could get a better exchange rate than if you change it into cash in another currency.
Cryptocurrency is an internet-based medium of exchange that allows users to make financial transactions. It uses a decentralized model, meaning it’s the currency of both no one and everyone at the same time. (Think of it like a worldwide currency where there are no exchange rates.)
Be it buying crypto or using it for physical goods like coffee at Starbucks, the use of cryptocurrencies is on the rise. You could even swap out your leftover physical change from vacation rather quickly for some digital dollars at crypto ATMS, so long as they are available in your location.
Sure, you may not be able to find a crypto ATM everywhere (yet) but in countries like Thailand, Singapore, and the Czech Republic, crypto ATMs can be found in abundance.
According to a Block Genesis analysis, by August of 2019, there were a reported 5,353 crypto ATMs across 81 different countries, making this a viable exchange option for some. Amsterdam even recently opened up a Bitcoin and Ethereum ATM in their airport so travelers can exchange their cash just before boarding.
However, the crypto market can be very volatile, so make sure if you choose to exchange your fiat into BTC, you understand the risks that come with it.
Regift Leftover Coins as a Quirky Souvenir
If you’ve got leftover coins, they can be a fun gift. It can be an opportunity to teach kids about both the world at large and about money. Bonus points if they are from a country with a cool design on their currency—like the Egyptian Pound with Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Any leftover coins or bills can be a thoughtful gift for any of your friends or family members traveling to the same spot. Again, bonus points if it’s for friends heading out on a honeymoon.
There’s no better way to send them on their first trip as a married couple than with a little dough lining their pockets.
Using SoFi Checking and Savings®
Unless it involves spending, donating, or regifting, all of the other options come with a fee. And that means you’re spending money just to get your own money back.
So, if you want to travel abroad and not worry about bringing home extra currency, consider opening up a checking and savings account with SoFi before you jet off to a new place.
SoFi Checking and Savings gives you access to any ATM within the Allpoint® Network and you won’t get charged a fee (saving you even more money while you’re abroad).
In addition, the SoFi Checking and Savings card has no account fees and no fees for P2P transfers, making it a great card for world travelers and homebodies alike.
We work hard to charge zero account fees. With that in mind, our fee structure is subject to change at any time. Whether you’re coming home from a great trip, or have a wanderlust you want to satisfy, know that you have options when it comes to using all those foreign coins—and you have options for saving money too.
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Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
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