What to do with extra foreign currency? If you’re like me, you hate to get rid of it. First of all, it’s much glitzier than U.S. money. Second, it’s a sweet and vivid memory of my trip.
Still, what to do? Here are some ideas, from practical to pretty. Choose what works best for you. Or mix and match! No judgment. Absolutely none.
Spend it: If you know that you’re never returning to Uzbekistan, don’t hesitate to use up your cash. Pay part of your your hotel bill, go for a great meal, generously tip the housekeeper and cabbie, buy trinkets at the airport. Bring home the customs limit of fine Scotch whisky. Go ahead, splurge! (I would still keep a few coins and bills, but that’s just me.) The rule-of-thumb: If you have $100 or less, spend it. More than $100? Well, read on…
Save it: On the other hand, it’s nice to have a stash of coins and small bills for the next time. An ATM won’t help you with that–they only spit out big bills. Are you an Anglophile? Pocket those pounds! Same with Euros, loonies and toonies, pesos, yen, rupees…any place that you adore and plan to visit again. I have ziplock bags for the currency from each of my favorite destinations. When it’s time to pack, voila! Instant cash! I find that keeping it is also an incentive to return.
Donate it: Airlines and hotels often collect foreign currency for charities. You may also be able to locate your favorite cause in the town where you stayed. Museums have donation boxes, teachers need school supplies. Churches always need money–light a few candles. Libraries? Pet shelters? Food pantries? They are everywhere. Just ask around. And, yes, I’ve been known to give to beggars. Entirely up to you, but it does feel good.
Drink it: Don’t shoot the messenger. The truth is, there is probably a Starbucks where you’re going. (If not, good for you!) Before you head back home, get rid of those heavy coins by taking them to Starbucks and loading your card. It’s kind of satisfying to think that your first few stateside drinks will be from “there”…
Display it: Admit it, there’s some very gorgeous money out there. Foreign currency is colorful, with clear inserts, holograms, exotic wildlife, you name it. Not the drab American bills. Keep some! Put it in a pretty bowl for people to see. No one can resist touching it and talking about it. It’s a fun reminder for you, too.
Give it: Children are born collectors. Share your treasure with them. Make up a little bag with some of the local candy or a souvenir you brought back, along with some coins. Give them a real-time geography lesson. Kids like REAL souvenirs, too. And nothing’s more real than money. They will always remember–and maybe you’ve inspired them to go out and get their own!
Still need a couple more ideas? Here you go!
Craft it: Make coin magnets! Head to your local craft supply store and buy small magnets (about .5 inches) and glue. For about $10, you’ll be able to whip out a few awesome refrigerator magnets that will dazzle others. No high-level crafty skills required.
Convert it: To me, this is the least exciting option. To you, it may be the only logical thing to do. If you’ve ended up with way more than you expected, you can exchange foreign currency for yours at the airport. It probably won’t give you the best rate, but it’s handy. Does your own bank convert money? You may do better waiting till you’re back home.
Speaking of money…