Buddy. Can You Spare A Drachma?

Did you travel to a foreign country this Christmas? If so, we bet you came back with some unused notes and coins and are now wondering what to do with them. Most of you will probably put them away somewhere. If so, you’re not alone.

In a survey carried out by Visa Europe, it estimated that UK travelers collected unused foreign currency worth more than £900m. They worked out that some 64% of travelers return from abroad with foreign currency and that the average holidaymaker is coming home with just over £28 in notes and coins. That’s a lot of change to hide in a drawer.

Somewhat bravely, we think, 17% of those surveyed admitted that they threw the money away on returning (!), rather than be lumbered with loose change. And only 4% said they donated it to charity. That leaves 96% of us to be converted to the idea that handing over unwanted foreig change to a good cause is a better idea than stuffing it away in a sock drawer.

Both the airlines and various charities are trying hard to do their bit here. The ‘Change for Good’ partnership, set up between UNICEF and the international airline industry back in 1987, has generated more than $70m (£45m) to help vulnerable children in more than 150 countries simply through collecting unused currency from passengers.

British Airways, having previously been part of the UNICEF partnership for 15 years, launched its own global charity partnership called ‘Flying Star’ with Comic Relief. Virgin Atlantic run a similar on-board charitable appeal called  ‘Change for Children’ which supports global sustainable development programmes.

Age UK welcomes currency brought in to any Age UK, Help the Aged or Age Concern shop while Marks & Spencer Money’s ‘Change 4 Change’ converts foreign and outdated currency into funds for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. The retailer lets you donate unwanted coins or notes at any M&S Bureau de Change.

Of course, as we increasingly move to a cashless society, the amount of loose change available to charities will decline too. So we applaud the work done by Dutch banking group ING which recently announced that it has collaborated with a donation startup platform called Whydonate to develop a contactless ‘collection box’.

The box will allow people to donate money via a contactless debit card or their mobile phone. The system is only available in Holland at the moment but they have plans to roll it out across Europe in the future.

Go on. Make some space for your socks. Donate all your unused and unwanted foreign currency to a charity today.


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