Brits hoarding almost £4bn in unspent foreign currency

Abigail Fenton
·Writer
·2-min read
Brits are holding on to £57 worth of foreign money each, research suggests. (Ibrahim Rifath/Unspalsh)
Brits are holding on to £57 worth of foreign money each, study finds. Photo: Ibrahim Rifath/Unspalsh

Brits are currently hoarding more than £3.8bn ($4.8bn) in unspent foreign currency, equating to £57 per person, research suggests.

Analysis of LeftoverCurrency.com data, by financial analysts at AskTraders, found that around £3.8bn of foreign cash is currently sat in Brits’ drawers or wallets, unused.

Given that the average food bill per household per week is £61.90, that means Brits could be holding enough foreign currency to cover almost a weeks’ worth of food for a family.

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The biggest concentration of unspent foreign change was in the south-east, which clocked up around £523m the study found.

However, the capital is close behind, with Londoners having about £508m lying around their homes.

Meanwhile, Wales is holding on to the least, at just £163m — less than a third of that in the south-east.

Distribution of loose foreign change in the UK.
Distribution of loose foreign change in the UK. Graphic: AskTraders

“The reasons we hold onto the money after returning home from our holiday can seem bizarre to some, but often it is a push to visit again sometime in the future,” said Tom Sourlet, a travel blogger for Spaghetti Traveller.

“We always say we will return to our dream locations, but often we end up heading somewhere new. There is also the inevitable frustration that bureau de change companies only change up notes, so we end up with copious amounts of coins.

“The euro has reduced the amount of coins I save, but I used to love looking through the unique designs, such as the Spanish peseta coin with a hole in.”

In another study, AskTraders found eight out of 10 consumers prefer to use cash when travelling abroad, though three quarters said they felt it left them vulnerable to germs and disease.

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Nigel Frith, senior financial analyst at AskTraders, said: "Holding foreign currency is something many of us do, whether it's for nostalgia, saving or simply forgetting to exchange. The small amounts add up.

"Given the restrictions on travel right now, it's likely many people will consider exchanging their foreign currency in favour of GBP. Even looking ahead to the future, it's questionable whether consumers will be willing to use cash at all."