Too Little, Too Late — When Does Change Stop Being Good?

at home, i hate carrying coins around with me. abroad, though, unless you’re willing to pay hefty transaction fees, using your debit or credit cards for small purchases just doesn’t make sense. meaning you come home with a ton of coins (or small bills) that you couldn’t manage to spend at the airport. i have an upcoming trip that will take me through three currency regions: the pound sterling, the euro, and the canadian dollar, and i have chump change from past trips to each.

Oyster Card, Pound Sterling Coinage

My UK stash (hopefully I haven't confused any Canadian coins)

at what point, though, does it not make sense to bring your leftover money with you? i have £1.97 (a little over $3 US) in 17 coins. i think i have come up with some sort of algorithm that takes into account:

  • the value of the money (↑)
  • the number of coins (↓)
  • the time spent in each area (↑)
  • other upcoming trips where i will be able to use this currency (↓)
  • how long until i can use the money on this trip (↓)

according to this, i will bring my pound of pounds (ha, actually, not sure how much it weighs) but will leave my €1.05 (only two coins, but i will be going to germany later this summer) and C$8 (just transiting through canada on the way home after 10 days and will have lounge access, and will be going to toronto for a long weekend next month).

something i wish is that more airlines would take part in UNICEF’s change for good program, where flight attendants collect leftover change during flights that will be used to fund programs around the world. if i’m on a flight where they offer it, i donate. i’ve also seen collection points (maybe not related to this program) in airports as well, but this program needs to become more widespread. it’s a win-win situation for all.


for the record, i also have a collection of czech koruna, chinese yuan, hong kong dollars, south korean won, argentinean pesos, cambodian riel, and south african rand — none amounting to over a couple dollars’ worth, if that.

3 Comments on "Too Little, Too Late — When Does Change Stop Being Good?"

  1. You coming to London? Get in touch if you do and we can have a drink or a meal. You can use some of your “pound of pounds”. And having the Oyster card is really good, as if you get into Heathrow and are minded to take the Tube, you won’t have to stand in the long queue to get a ticket, as long as you have enough for the fare into London from there on the card. We have house Oyster cards that we lend to visitors to our humble abode. They’re responsible for adding cash to them while they’re here. It’s an amenity.

    I have three or four stashes. I have lots of Hong Kong money that I’m unlikely to use again, but you never know. I have a stash of Singaporean coins and notes that HWMBO uses when he travels there to see his family and then adds to when he returns. I have a stash of US coins and notes that I use when I go to the US, and we have a Euro stash that we can use if we ever go to Europe (if there’s still a Euro then).

    I find it useful to have a significant amount of coins and notes in case I have to take a taxi somewhere straight out of the airport. My rule number one is: don’t change money at the airport. They stiff you with a terrible exchange rate or heavy fees.

    • Yes, I never exchange money anywhere, preferring to rely on ATMs at my destination.

      Alas, only in London for one night on the way to Greece (talk about there being a euro left!). If you’re free for an early breakfast a week from Saturday, I’m thinking of going to the greasy spoon where they film the exterior of Sherlock (not sure where off the top of my head but close to Euston, but not really Baker St).

      • Oh, well, I never saw that comment (I think). In any case, I found that ATMs are not always reliable. The first one I visited in New Zealand didn’t take Visa cards (which my debit card is) but I couldn’t see the notice because it was dark outside. So I thought my card had been invalidated somehow. Next day I realised my mistake, but I’d only been left with NZ$10 after the exorbitant cab ride from Auckland airport to downtown.

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