How to dispose of foreign currency before returning home

Although the world as a whole is becoming increasingly cashless, with credit cards and travel cards leading the way, there is still a place for real foreign currency when you are abroad.

I find it both reassuring and convenient to have local banknotes and coins for all the countries I visit – especially if it means I don’t have to desperately change my money at the airport or hotel, where the exchange rates are always among the worst.
Thus, at the end of any trip, a reserve of local currency has steadily accumulated. Here are some ways to handle it.

1. Departing from the hotel

When it’s time to get out of the hotel, I get all the coins changed to highest denomination bills and coins, just to cut down on “shrapnel”. Some people I know prefer to put in all the foreign currency – bills and coins – to pay part of the hotel bill.

2. Top up your subscription

Another way to use foreign currency for your next trip is to put some or all of it on that country’s tap-and-go travel card balance, such as the London Oyster card and the Octopus card from Hong Kong.

It’s a simple task for your last day on the ground, especially if you’re taking a train to the airport.

3. Save the notes for next time

For a destination I plan to return to, or a destination I visit regularly, I always like to have a few notes handy for that next trip, just for the convenience of having local currency when I land.

My office “travel drawer” therefore contains not only my passport, some visa photos and an international AC/USB charger, but a series of envelopes with change and travel cards for the UK, l ‘Europe, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Europe, United Arab Emirates and many other countries.

It adds a bit of on-the-go simplicity to my next trip to each of these countries.

4. Donate it

This one is an oldie but a goodie, especially for the soul.

You may not want to part with the most valuable tickets from your trip abroad, but change and small denomination notes are always welcome as donations, whether at the airport or during your flight through programs such as UNICEF’s Change for Good programme.