What to do with left over foreign coins?

One of the annoyances of travelling international is the amount of “small change” that can accumulate. In some countries, coins are used instead of small notes so at the end of a trip, you can have a surprisingly large amount of money tied up in coinage.  There is a limit as to how many of these coins one wants to collect for souvenir purposes and these coins are “virtually” worthless on return as most money changers and banks only accept notes in foreign exchange transactions.


Options- Spend, Save, Give

  1. Learn the coinage of the country you are in and be vigilant in spending change as soon as you get it. Ask clerks in shops to help you to avoid getting small change
  2. Leave them as part of your tip for hotel staff (if you leave a tip)
    Photo: bill image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com
    Photo: bill image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com
  3. Top up your Starbucks card with leftover notes and coins as you leave the Canada, Hong Kong, Mexico, Australia, Thailand, UK and USA (I have done this at a few airports now!)- NB The minimum amount that must be loaded onto your Starbucks Card is $5 at participating stores.  Only countries listed above participate in the interchangeable Starbucks program
  4. Ask your hotel’s check out agent to change loose coins into notes for you as you check out- notes which you can more easily exchange or bring next visit
  5. Carry pill (or old film) containers for coins for those places you travel to on a very regular basis.  These were often useful to pay for things upon arrival

    Source: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/

    Source: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/

  6. Coins can make very interesting gifts for kids, nephews and nieces or colleagues!
  7. Deposit them in a charity tin or box in a shop or store (I am reluctant to give them to beggars). Many legitimate charities have such facilities on shop countersCollection-box
  8. Check if your airline has a collection envelope system on board for donation to charity (Emirates has a Foundation, Many One World Airlines participate in Change for Good). Coins placed in the envelopes are sorted, transported and sold to raise money for worthy projects

cx ch for good

Any thoughts?


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  1. We visited New Zealand in 2011 not long after the earthquake devastated Christchurch. Not only did we have coinage we had numerous small bills. We asked the clerk at the front desk as we checked out of our hotel if there were local charities to which we could contribute the money. We were told just past security at the airport there were opportunities to contribute to the earthquake relief fund. We also added some additional money when we dropped out small change.
    Looking for worthy local charities is a good idea.

  2. Leaving a bunch of coins as a tip is acceptable in the US but considered rude in many foreign countries.

    The last thing we do is use our change to settle up the hotel bill. It can take a few extra minutes and some hotels balk at the coins. Using airline donations schemes profits the airlines only (they get the tax break, you don’t) – I avoid this.

    If you are a foreign visitor to the US you can always use a self service check out at a grocery store and pay with your coins – cashiers generally won’t take a bunch of loose change.

  3. sell them on ebay! once you have a collection put them up on ebay and you may be surprised

  4. I keep any leftover money that I have left. Provided that it is a country that I visit frequently. For me that is always Canada….because I visit there several times a year. I normally have twenty to thirty dollars in Canadian money at anytime. Its enough cash to get me through until
    I get to a fee free ATM.

  5. I normally do last minute souvenir shopping at the airport and at checkout, will give my leftover foreign currency and ask the cashier to deduct that amount from the total and then I’d pay the remainder on my credit card.

  6. I do two things:

    1. Spend at the airport. Most places will let you pay with coins and then pay the difference on a credit card. I have Chase Sapphire Preferred so I don’t worry about fees. Last week I paid 30p at LHR in coin and the rest on my card.

    2. Same principle but on the hotel bill.

  7. When I’m leaving a country, I give the final hotel all my coins, and put the rest on a credit card. My final trip to the airport is prepaid, or I’ll put it on a card, or I’ll round up the taxi fare so that I’m using paper only. And look! No coins!

  8. If you wont spend coins or banknotes for a long time, then donating them to charity is a good idea. Most charity shops have a box for foreign coins. Banknotes in particular can stop being legal tender every now and then. The charities get paid from companies like Change Coins (www.changecoins.com) who change bulk coin collections for charity. The cost of getting coins back to banks abroad in bulk is expensive so the charities don’t get the full value of the coins, but they generally get more for countries that are closer to the UK. They might get from 80%-90% of the midpoint rate (full value). Some countries have so many regulations it is hard to get them back and unsettled areas with black markets are impossible, however the charities will get a value by weight for the more difficult countries.

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