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At the end of your vacation abroad, you’re bound to have some spare local currency on hand. Depending on the amount and the current conversion rates and fees, you might feel it’s not worth exchanging it at the airport. Not to worry, there are other options of what to do with those colorful bills and funky coins!

Before you leave the country

  • Give a nice tip to your last taxi driver, waitstaff, or housekeeping. This is a feel-good, generous option. Who doesn’t like to end a fun trip in a pay-if-forward spirit? It may even help elevate your mood, which can often slump at the end of a trip.
  • Apply it to your hotel bill. You’ll get full value for your money and lessen the credit card bill later.
  • Donate to charity. On many international flights, the flight attendants collect leftover currency for UNICEF. You may also spot charity donation barrels in the airport where you can drop off the money.
  • Put the money on your Starbucks card. At an airport Starbucks, you can load your Starbucks card with the money. There are no transaction or conversion fees, and the value on the card will be held in the currency of the issuing country.
  • Buy pre-flight snacks and/or souvenirs for friends! All airport vendors should be able to accept part-cash/part-credit payments. Treat yourself to a smoothie or guilty pleasure reading!

When you’re back home

While unpacking, you’re likely to find extra foreign currency folded up in pants’ pockets, rolling around the bottom of travel bags and purses, or even tucked away safely between pairs of socks. Now what?

  • Keep it…
    • For a future trip. Put it in a zip lock freezer bag, label it, and file it away for a future return trip to the country or region.
    • To convert to another currency. You can always convert it to another foreign currency for your next trip. It may not be much, but if you’re a budget traveler, every little bit helps!
  • Use it as a souvenir. Put the money in a shadow box with a few of your favorite photos from the trip to decorate your home. Or use it inside a scrap book.
  • Exchange it at a casino. A local casino can give you a favorable exchange rate.
  • Sell the money on eBay. Yep, you can sell and purchase currency on eBay. Follow the guidelines and make sure you’re getting as good a deal as you would converting it elsewhere, like your credit union.
  • Use a mail-in exchange option. If you really can’t make your way to your credit union to exchange the money, there are mail-in services. Some only accept paper bills while others will accept coins. You’ll need to pay for postage and usually a flat fee (say $5). You’ll receive the day-of exchange rate. You can opt for a check, payment to a platform like PayPal, or direct deposit, depending on the vendor.