Travel money: dealing with leftover currency

Being stuck with foreign cash after a trip overseas can leave you feeling short-changed. Here is how to get the most out of your unspent currency.
Share this guide
Happy couple shopping on holiday

What can you do with leftover travel money?

  • Keep it for your next trip: If you think you will visit a country which accepts your leftover currency, store it somewhere safe and ready to use next time.

  • Exchange it back into pound sterling: Visit a high street travel money provider and exchange your excess foreign currency into pound sterling.

  • Give it away: Hand your leftover currency to friends and family who are travelling to a country which accepts them or donate your foreign currency to a suitable charity.

Keep it for next time

If you plan to revisit a country which accepts your leftover currency, you can avoid any further exchange fees and charges by keeping hold of it for your next trip abroad.

If you have no choice but to exchange your currency back to pounds, make sure you compare rates to find the best deal.

Convert your money back

If you do not plan to go to a country which accepts your leftover currency in the near future, you should think about exchanging your currency back into pounds.

However, if exchange rates have fallen you could get less money back. If this is the case you could try holding off and converting your travel money back at a later date.

Remember, if you do wait to exchange your money:

  • the rates could easily go down further as well as up.

  • most providers will only convert foreign notes back*, not coins.

* Providers may not buy back some low value notes.

What is buy back?

Buy back is the process which lets you swap your unused foreign currency back into pound sterling after your trip.

You will be offered an exchange rate, just like when you bought your travel money to begin with, meaning you could end up with less or more as a result of the deal.

What is guaranteed buy back?

It lets you sell your foreign currency back at the rate available when you first exchanged your foreign currency. This is not a free service though, and could cost you up to £4.

If rates increase when you want to exchange your travel money back, go elsewhere to find a deal which will save you more money than you would have gotten with your guaranteed buy back.

Sell to a friend or family member

If you give your unused foreign currency away to friends or family you may not get any money in return. Try one of the following for a chance to make some money back:

  • Agree to exchange any leftover cash from each other's trips abroad as an ongoing deal and you could both end up saving on the cost of exchanging travel money in the future.

  • Sell your money to them at a price which cuts out the cost of using a company.

You can donate your leftover travel money to charity, but you will have to find one which accepts foreign currency.

Alternatively, airlines sometimes take foreign coin donations on return flights to the UK, as well as collection points in airports.

Prepare for next time

If you can avoid having leftover currency altogether it will save you the hassle of sorting out what to do with it.

  • If you can only use cash, then make sure you budget to cover the amount you think you will spend. Remember to take a little bit more just in case you overspend.

  • If you can use your card, make sure your bank or building society know you are going to use it abroad to avoid any transaction restrictions.

Read our guide on what is the best way to spend abroad before your next trip to save yourself the hassle of dealing with leftover currency altogether.

Spending abroad can be costly, so make sure you compare the market for the best exchange rates available on your travel money before jetting off.