Having travelled for quite a bit, I’ve accumulated more than loose change from countries I’ve visited. I tend not to reconvert foreign currency back into US dollars, because it’s a souvenir, and/or I don’t want to loose value on the commission that’s charged, and/or some of those countries I know I will go back and visit at some time. It’s useful to arrive with some local currency on hand, even in this day and age, where ATMs are so widespread or Hamiltons as widely accepted as cash in developing countries.
(I did lose a bit when the EU converted to the euro, but oh well. My 100 French Franc bill makes a lovely souvenir.)
The other thing I do with my foreign currency is loan it to my friends who are travelling abroad, just so they’ll have some local cash on hand, i.e. what if their ATM card doesn’t work, and they’ve arrived at the airport at 6 AM in the morning and need to take a taxi to get to town. Or they need to make a phone call from the airport? Foreign exchange booths at airports tend to give rather bad rates, rather like snack bars in airports tend to charge higher prices.
Since I like travelling so much, I want my friends who travel to have good travel experiences too, so if I can loan them small change as a little insurance when travelling, maybe that will help them enjoy their trip more.
(In Cantonese, there’s a slang term “jahk doi”, which means to “weigh down the wallet”, not so much that there’s so much coinage that it’s dragging your pants down, but that if the wallet is empty, putting something in it will prevent it from blowing away, like a paperweight! I actually learnt this term from Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”!)
Just this year alone, I’ve loaned out euros, pound sterling, Chinese RMB, Japanese yen. The only condition I request of my friends is that they bring back the same amount in that foreign currency, so that I (or another travelling friend) can use it the next time I go to that country.
My friends, being the kind and generous souls that they are, usually end up returning to me a little more than I loaned them, in change. So I end up making a slight profit!