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What should I do with my foreign currency?

Lucy Miller 6th Jun 2020 3 Comments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you had a holiday booked just before the coronavirus lockdown started, you might have more to think about than airline refunds and trying to claw back the cash you’d spent on hotels. You might have foreign currency burning a hole in your pocket now, too – especially if you were about to head off on a spring trip right before lockdown was imposed! Whether your foreign currency was on a prepaid currency card or in cash, it’s important that you don’t forget about it.

So, what should you do with the foreign currency that you bought before lockdown? Here are a few suggestions… 

Consider your financial situation

Consider converting foreign currency back if you're facing debt

The first thing you need to do is consider your financial situation. If you’re sitting on a large amount of foreign currency that could otherwise be used to help you pay off debt or for basic essentials during the lockdown, keeping hold of it probably isn’t the best idea. If you’re struggling after being furloughed or made redundant, you might want to look into how best to change your money back rather than holding onto it. 

However, if you’ve decided to postpone (rather than cancel) your holiday, keeping hold of it saves you the commission fees of turning it back into pounds then again into the currency when it’s time to travel.

When to change your foreign currency back 

Keep an eye on the value of the pound if you’re considering whether or not to change your holiday money back. The pound tends to be worth less in volatile times (so was unstable in key Brexit periods, for example) but tends to be more stable when politics are on an even keel. 

What has this got to do with your holiday money? Well, you don’t want to change your money back from Euros or whichever currency you currently have when the pound is weak, as this means you get less of your money back. You can check the value of the pound using this helpful BBC tool. 

Foreign currency in cash: contact the place you bought our foreign currency from 

If you’ve got a wad of foreign currency notes, the first thing to do is to contact the place that you bought it from. All bureau de change should have a buy-back option for unused foreign currency, so find out what the terms of this are in the first instance. 

It’s likely that there have been changes to companies’ regular policies in light of the number of foreign trips that have been cancelled in recent months. Many places that sell currency will offer a refund guarantee, and some are also offering to buy back your currency at the rate that you bought it for. If you purchased from a reputable seller, you should have no trouble buying back your currency. Make sure you have your currency receipt and evidence of your cancelled holiday to hand, in case it’s asked for.

Make sure you check the rates available from other places before you convert it back. You might find an even better deal at your local bank, for example, so do some research before handing your dollars over!

Check the offers on your currency app

Foreign currency apps are useful

If you bought your holiday money through a prepaid currency app (such as Caxton or the Post Office’s Travel Money Card) you should check to see what they’re offering their customers. Cheap buy-back options could incentivise you to convert your foreign currency back to pounds.

On the other hand, they might also offer incentives for you to keep the money for a future holiday. Some companies have removed the fees on UK spending, to encourage you to use your card if you’ve got British currency loaded, so this might be something to consider if you’ve converted your money back and it’s still sitting on the app. Make sure you investigate all your options.

Make money by converting to a different foreign currency 

Planning on taking a trip in the future that uses a different currency from that that you’ve currently got going to waste in your pocket? You could actually MAKE money if you’re savvy about it! This is a bit like Forex trading, but on a very small scale. 

Talk to your bureau de change about your holiday plans, and see if it’s worth converting your existing foreign currency into a different currency altogether. If the market is suitable, you could save yourself money in the future by altering your holiday cash in this way. 

Save it for future holidays 

Of course, you can always save your foreign currency for future trips abroad. We might not know when we can jet off on a plane again, but your money is unlikely to be going anywhere. Sitting tight on your holiday money is particularly sensible if you’ve got euros, as you’ll be able to spend them in many different countries, whenever that might be. It doesn’t matter if you don’t end up in the country that you originally planned, as long as it uses the euro. Think of it as an investment in your future holiday plans! 

You’ll also find the US dollar is a strong currency in many countries, too. It’s officially currency in many places, such as Ecuador, Guam, the Republic of Zimbabwe, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Other countries also accept US dollars even though it’s not an official currency – such as Canada, Russia, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Belize.

Donate your foreign currency 

This is not one for those who are struggling through the coronavirus lockdown, obviously. But if you do have some foreign currency that you’re happy to donate rather than hold onto or change back, this can be a great way to help a charity out. This is an especially good idea if you know you’re not going to be using it for a long time, or if you have foreign currency that has gone out of circulation. It doesn’t need to be a lot either – that purse of old coins you’ve just found in the wardrobe can be of real use. Poverty Child is just one of the charities that can make use of your old coins and foreign banknotes. Go on, do a good deed! 

Have you got a sneaky trick for converting your foreign currency if your holiday has been cancelled? We’d love to hear about it – let us know over on the forums.

More holiday tips

Whether you’re desperate to get your cancellation refund back, or you fancy a budget-friendly staycation in the UK, read these articles next for more summer holiday tips!

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3 years ago

One thing i must do with my old foreign currency is to ensure they do not expire or country do not withdraw old notes from circulation.

3 years ago

I really appreciate this article

3 years ago

I’ve got various coins and notes left over from holidays. Appreciate the information.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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