Although the world at large is becoming increasingly cashless, with credit cards and travel money cards leading the charge, there’s still a place for actual foreign currency when you’re overseas.
I find it both reassuring and convenient to have some local notes and coins for any country I visit – especially if that means I don’t have to desperately change my money at the airport or hotel, where exchange rates are always among the worst going.
So at the end of any trip, a stash of local currency has steadily built up. Here are some ways to handle it.
1. When checking out of the hotel
When it’s time to heck out of the hotel, I have all the coins changed into notes and highest-denomination coins, just to cut down on the loose ’shrapnel’. Some people I know prefer to just put all foreign currency – notes and coins - towards paying off part of the hotel bill.
2. Top up your travel card
Another way to make use of foreign currency for your next trip is to put some or all of it onto the balance of that country’s tap-and-go travel card, such as London’s Oyster card and Hong Kong’s Octopus card.
It’s a simple task for your last day on the ground, especially if you’re catching a train to the airport.
3. Keep the notes for next time
For a destination I expect to return to, or one I regularly visit, I always like to have some notes on hand for that next trip, just for the convenience factor of having some local currency when I land.
The ‘travel drawer’ in my office thus contains not only my passport, some visa photos and an international AC/USB charger, but a series of envelopes with currency and travel cards for the UK, Europe, the USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Europe, the UAE and many other countries.
This adds a bit of grab-and-go simplicity to my next trip to each of those countries.
4. Donate it
This one is an oldie but a goodie, especially for the soul.
You might not want to part with the highest-value notes from your overseas trip, but loose change and small-denomination notes are always welcome as donations, either at the airport or during your flight through programs such as the UNICEF Change for Good scheme.