According to a recent piece of research, UK households are hoarding millions in expired foreign currency. But if you still have ancient foreign notes and coins, the good news is they’re not worthless – you CAN still exchange them.
Now, it’s important to note that this research comes with a major health warning.
Bureau de change firm Leftover Currency claims Brits have some £1.8 billion in unused foreign cash sitting at home – and a massive £417 million of that is in currencies that no longer exist.
Yet that’s based on an analysis of 3,000 of its customer transactions last year, which it has extrapolated to the rest of the country – highly problematic given customers of Leftover Currency are far more likely than the average household to have, er, leftover currency.
Even so, its figures are striking. Of the top 10 most commonly exchanged leftover currencies, an astonishing five were pre-euro currencies that no longer exist.
And while again this may not be an entirely representative stat – after all, the proportion of people changing expired currency is likely to be much higher than average at one of the few bureaux de change which lets you do it – the overall message is clear. Fifteen years after the euro was first introduced, there’s still a mountain of leftover francs, pesetas and lire out there.
What expired currencies do people still have?
Here’s Leftover Currency’s list of the top 10 expired currencies it reckons Brits have stashed away at home.
- Deutsche marks
- Spanish pesetas
- French francs
- Italian lire
- Irish pounds
- Belgian francs
- Dutch guilders
- Greek drachmas
- Cypriot pounds
- Austrian schillings
Where to exchange expired currencies
A small number of bureaux in the UK – including Leftover Currency, natch, and Unused Travel Money – allow you to exchange some expired currencies, though the rate you’ll get can vary hugely. Much depends on whether the pre-euro currency can still be exchanged at the central bank of the country that issued them.
- If a central bank will still take the currency (eg, Deutsche marks, Spanish pesetas)… You’ll usually get the best rate at the central bank itself, though of course trying to do this can be a major hassle. Alternatively, you should be able to get a decent rate from the bureaux above, though Leftover Currency says it takes a higher margin than the fixed rates charged by central banks.
- If a central bank WON’T still take the currency (eg, Italian lire, French francs, Greek drachmas)… Then a UK bureau’s probably your best option, but you’ll get a much worse rate. Leftover Currency says it buys this kind of currency for its collectable value – about 10% of what it used to be worth.
Is changing expired currency at a UK bureau safe?
We don’t have much feedback on these firms, so be wary before sending in your cash. However, Leftover Currency has been given a 9.8/10 rating on review website Trustpilot and Unused Travel Money 4.8/5 via reviews on the website Compare Holiday Money (which itself has a 9.8 rating on Trustpilot).
The safest option if you can is to take your cash to Leftover Currency’s London office on Regent Street – unfortunately Unused Travel Money is post-only.
Patently there’s always an element of risk sending money by post, particularly if using a lesser-known company, and it’s safest to use a courier with tracked delivery and some form of insurance cover. But at the same time, it’s worth bearing in mind that as things stand the money you have is otherwise unspendable, so you may not have a great deal to lose should the worst happen.
How much can I get for my expired currency?
The rates the two bureaux offer for coins in the top five currencies (where available) are below. You’ll usually get a slightly better rate for notes. You can opt to be paid by bank transfer or PayPal.
Exchange rates for coins of expired currencies
|Leftover Currency||Unused Travel Money|
|Buying rate||What gets £10 (1)||Buying rate||What gets £10 (1)|
|Deutsche marks||25.65p/mark||38.5 DEM||35.81p/mark||27.9 DEM|
|Spanish pesetas||0.337p/peseta||2,970 ESP||0.385p/peseta||2,600 ESP|
|French francs||1.03p/franc (2)||970 FRF||N/A||N/A|
|Italian lire||0.003p/lira (2)||333,330 ITL||N/A||N/A|
|Irish pounds||75.49p/pound||13.20 IEP||83.75p/pound||11.94 IEP|
|Rates for coins as of 3.30pm 17 Feb 2017. (1) Excludes courier fees if sending in. (2) Rate for notes – coins not accepted.|
Remember – if you’re looking to exchange currency which IS still in circulation, use our holiday money comparison tool TravelMoneyMax to check the rates across 30+ bureaux and make sure you’re getting the best deal.