It’s my privilege to travel internationally on a regular basis and I frequently visit multiple countries on a single trip. I’ve gotten pretty good at most aspects of international travel, but one of the things I’ve struggled with is currency exchange when departing a country. I try to go cashless, but frequently find myself using my credit card for very small purchases in dicey locations (or taxi fare) or imposing on colleagues who are carrying local currency.
It’s easy enough to get local currency from an ATM, (My preferred way since currency exchange kiosks are generally not good. (Watch both the exchange rate and fees when exchanging currency) But it’s a challenge to deal with the change that’s left over from the trip? [pullquote] I’ve tried to manage the many currencies I use in a year by putting each in a plastic sandwich bag…with the intention of grabbing the currencies I need for the next trip. Yeah, you guessed it…I usually forget. [/pullquote] And the “crumbs” that make it home usually don’t add up to cover that first airport->hotel taxi ride anyway. So back to the ATM…then home again with even more change. Well, after visiting a country for the first time, I do send one of each of the bills and coins to my Granddaughter…she gets a kick out of showing her friends bills with 100,000 on them. Now…that probably won’t last much longer…teenage-hood arrives this year.
One of my friends just throws whatever change he has into one of the charitable contribution repositories you’ll find in most airports…which is better than sitting in a baggie in my credenza drawer I guess. But it’s sometimes unclear what the charity is really going to do, or how much of the cash would actually be used for “administration”.
If you’re a Starbucks fan, I have an idea for you. Though not universally true, I’ve found (with increasing frequency) that it’s easy to find a Starbucks in just about any part of the world. As of this post Starbucks is saying that they have “…more than 5,500 coffeehouses in over 50 countries.” On a recent trip to Asia there were two Starbucks locations within a block of my Beijing hotel (with one of those being right across the street) and I found one at the airport as I was leaving Jakarta.
So, how does having a Starbucks nearby help? Well…if you have one, you can reload your Starbucks card at any participating store. So you can take that leftover currency and have Starbucks will add it to your card where it will automatically be converted to your home currency without a fee.
There’s a lot of good info in the Starbucks FAQ… http://www.starbucks.com/customer-service/faqs/card/
Full disclosure…I haven’t road tested this much, but would love to hear feedback on your experience if you decide to give it a try.
*** Copying one of the statements from Starbucks Terms and Conditions in order to save some of my international friends from trying this when it’s not likely to work: Starbucks Cards are accepted at most Starbucks locations in North America, including airport and grocery locations. Starbucks Cards can also be used interchangeably at most stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Starbucks Cards issued in Greece, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, <chrome_find style=”padding: 0px; margin: 0px; overflow: visible !important; “>Spain, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey may only be used in the country from which they are issued.