The first rule of leftover currency is: don't convert it, at least if you expect to return to the location in the near future. The margins for conversion mean that switching from euros to sterling and back erases a significant slice of the value.
But suppose you feel that the likelihood of your returning to Bahrain, Mauritius or Paraguay is so low that you'd rather cash out now? Until now, it has been difficult or impossible, particularly with coins. A shiny new solution has just appeared at Blackfriars Tube station in London, in the shape of a Fourex currency-conversion machine (fourex.co.uk). You can feed in coins and notes, including pre-euro currencies, and get cash on the spot – in pounds, euros or US dollars – or donate to charity, providing value for obsolete 20th-century cash. With no minimum sum, it can create micro-wealth from small change.
The Independent Traveller tested it out with a range of foreign currency, pumping in coins like a last-chancer in Las Vegas.
We didn't exactly hit the jackpot. The Bahraini dinar was rejected, followed by Finnish marks, Faroese krona, Mauritian rupees, and Ecuadorean sucres. The firm later said that a temporary focus issue on the camera used to recognise cash was responsible.
The first success was with Portuguese escudos –though of the 2,000 in notes that were fed in, only 1,500 were registered and the other 500 simply swallowed. The screen said we were £3.75 up (though arguably we were £1.25 down). Next, 660 escudos in coins – which generated just 21 pence, at a rate eight times worse than for notes. Ten Slovenian tolars earned less than a penny.
Evidently Fourex reckons that offering a fraction of the notional value for obsolete coins will still attract business, and it's probably right.
The venture is backed by Sir Richard Branson, and has big expansion plans: King's Cross station and Westfield Stratford are next in line for the Fourex change revolution.
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