Tips for Leftover Foreign Currency

Ideally, you’ll have spent every last cent so that you don’t have any foreign currency left over.  But we all know that’s wishful thinking. So what do you do with your leftover currency? Here are some tips to help you get rid of it. 

  • Save it
  • Starbucks
  • Hotel Bill
  • Bank
  • Duty Free Shopping
  • Donate

You’ll almost always be able to find a travelex kiosk or retail store to exchange your currency.  You can do this at the airport (at horrible exchange rates) or even back home after you get back. If you really want to get rid of your foreign currency, this is going to be your easiest method.  Just know that even TravelEx won’t buy back all types of currency. 

Save it

I travel a lot and over the years, I’ve accumulated currency from every single country I’ve visited.  Instead of exchanging it, I’ll label it and put it in an envelope in my home office. This way, the next time I know I’ll be traveling in the area, I’ll take it with me.  It doesn’t matter if I’m just transiting through the airport or if I’ll be there for an extended stay. I’ll take it with me. 

You never know when you’ll be at an airport and realize you forgot something.  If you’re transiting through an airport, you’ll be able to just purchase it there.   Ever forget a charging cable? You can buy one at the transit airport and charge your device vs. waiting until you get to your destination.  

Also, I have it in case I know anyone who is going to be visiting that country. I don’t mind parting with it since I usually don’t have a lot (about $50 at most) and I just say to pay me back if possible.  This way, my friends don’t have to visit the ATM or the money exchange kiosk at the airport and chances are good they’ll use the money and just pay me back.  


For those who drink Starbucks, you should try and see if they have at Starbucks at the airport.  You can add funds in store on to your Starbucks card in the local currency and it’ll be converted when you get back home.  

I actually think this is really smart since so many drink Starbucks on a regular basis.  Basically this would be like adding funds to an account but if it’s an account you consistently use, then it’s a fantastic way of using currency and making sure you don’t waste of it.

Pay your hotel bill

If you have any charges to your room, you can just pay those with any cash you may have.  Since checking out of the hotel is one of the last things you’ll do, it’s a great way to make sure you don’t have any leftover currency.  

One thing to remember though.  Remember to have enough to pay for the cab.  You can always tip someone in USD, but I doubt the cab driver is going to accept that. 


Although the worst option, you can use your bank to buy or sell foreign currency. However, you’ll not only want to check the rates but also if there is a minimum amount needed in order to buy it back.  You typically need to have some sort of relationship with them (ie checking or savings account) but you may be able to just have a credit card with them and be fine. You’ll want to check with your banking institution though.  

Spend it at the Duty Free

This would in essence be your last ditch effort to get rid of the currency.  You can always buy souvenirs or other random junk. Of course the duty free stores know that people are going to do that so they’re happy to charge for the convenience.  However, if you don’t want to deal with the currency back at home, it’s an easy way to use it. 

Donate it

Of course you can always donate the currency to charity.  A lot of flights even offer small envelopes to put donations in so that it can be donated to local charities.  Also, you’ll often see collection boxes at airports for people to donate their leftover currency to be donated.  

Final Thoughts

When you get back from a foreign trip, you’ll undoubtedly end up with currency.  Although we have a ton of options to get foreign currency, selling it is a different matter.  Speaking from experience, your best bet is to save it. You never know if you’ll be back and if the airline you’re flying has a hub in that country, chances are good you’ll be back to spend it.  I don’t know how many times I’ve transited through Hong Kong, Singapore, or Dubai but I’m always grateful to have the local currency during my layover.  

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