Save money at the airport: don’t waste your foreign currency

Save money at the airport

As ever on this website, we are not looking at wholesale changes to your lifestyle. Instead, we focus on the little things which make a huge difference over time. Today, let’s look at how we can save money at the airport. Do we know how much getting rid of those last few [insert currency here] at the airport is costing us over time…?


Come spend with me, come spend, come spend away

Save money at the airport

Britons are becoming more and more well traveled. There are 196 different countries in the world and 182 different recognized currencies. In 2012, there were just over 200 million terminal passengers in UK airports. Let’s estimate that 50% of our flights are abroad. This therefore equates to approximately 1.5 visits abroad each year.

We are often faced with the following situation. We go abroad for a holiday. It may be to meet with friends and family or on business. We take (or withdraw from foreign ATMs) any holiday money we think we need. However, by the end of the holiday we haven’t spent the full amount. We arrive at the airport with a few notes and coins in our pockets.

I cannot find any data supporting a monetary figure for what people spend in airports due to foreign currency. However, from personal experience, this can be anywhere between £3 and £50 depending on what we bring back.

Save money at the airport BEFORE your holiday

Unbelievably, according to, the average amount spent by a family of four before departure was £116. The average holiday money that a family of four had put aside for their entire trip was £1,100. Therefore, over 10% of the holiday money budget is blown in the airport before travelers have even left the country. If they could avoid all of this spending, each person could save around £175 per year. This amounts to just over £10,000 over 25 years after compound bank interest.


What are my alternatives?

Firstly, if it is a country which is visited by many Britons, with a mainstream currency (e.g. Euros), you could keep the money and store it up for next time you go. However, this money will depreciate over time as it cannot earn any interest.

Even better, you could sell the foreign currency to a friend or family member at the exact exchange rate. This means that you (and the counter party) won’t have to pay the banks or currency exchange companies, thereby both saving money.

Finally, you could give this money to charity if you wish, as there are always boxes for donating to charity in the airport. Giving the money to a good cause is fine.

But, please, do not pay the equivalent of £3 for a soft drink, £5 for a coffee or £20 for a silly little statue just because you have money in your pocket.


Money saving tips

  • Don’t “get rid” of those last few notes. Thousands of people each year buy a huge number of souvenirs, magazines, food and drink at airports. They do so simply because they feel they need to spend those last amounts in the foreign currency.
  • Ensure you only take out what you need. If you do have money left over, bring it back and save it for another trip. If not, exchange the money back into GBP at the best rate available.

3 thoughts on “Save money at the airport: don’t waste your foreign currency

  1. £116 before departing is quite shocking. I think most of us are guilty of starting our holiday as soon as arriving at the airport by treating ourselves to a breakfast, a drink, some magazines, etc – but that figure is quite astounding.

  2. Two tips:
    1. airline membership rewards – if you fly regularly with one airline you may be entitled to use their airport lounges. My husband travels a lot for work so when we travel as a family we all head into the Air Canada lounge and enjoy free food, beverages, magazines and newspapers, and in many cases an open bar.
    2. We travel with carry on luggage only no matter how long we are away. There’s no incentive to pick up tacky souvenirs and a stack of magazines if you have no place to put them.

  3. Well these are really helpful money saving tips and one can save a lot of money by these ways if he/she wants to. I use to save money while exchanging currency. I compare different exchange rates and then exchange instead of exchanging on the airport where the rates are too high.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge