I’ve recently reorganized my system for keeping track of various currencies from international travel. My new system is not perfect, but its much better than my old way of putting remaining coins in an envelope, then stashing it in a drawer to likely forget.
I always try to use a points earning credit card for as much spend as possible everywhere I go, but outside of the US, carrying cash is almost always a necessity. When I arrive in a foreign country, I avoid the currency exchange windows in airports, since they almost always charge a extortionate rate or worse. I try to determine how much I might need for my time in the country then get it all at once at an ATM.
My first million, sadly only in Indonesian Rupiah
I rarely have a lot of leftover cash on my travels. Most currency exchanges only take paper bills, and due to the previously mentioned rates, unless I have a lot of cash, I don’t bother exchanging back. Places that I visit frequently, such as Canada, I often just keep a bare minimum of leftover currency (and loonies and toonies) in my passport/card holder. For places I’m less likely to be returning to soon, I often purchase gum or other small items to reduce my pocket change. If I have some money remaining I often donate these on the various charities that the airlines offer, but still I do occasionally end up with some change or small bills from a trip.
Previously, I would just stuff this into an envelope and try to remember it for a future trip. After several years of this, I had a drawer full of envelopes, and I realized I should try to organize this more efficiently. I did some research, and found a somewhat related post on the excellent Australian Business Traveler site. The Moleskine folder that was suggested looks much prettier than my solution, but I’m happy with what I have and ultimately needed more pockets than those provided. I visited a local office supply store to find this. Given one of the current hot topics in the miles/points world, I was happy to have a reason to visit Office Depot.
A plastic pocket file. Intended for coupons or index cards.
I also picked up some small envelopes, and then made an envelope for each of the various currencies I had then filed them by destination.
After making up this system of envelope for each currency, then filed by name, I felt a little bit like the anal-retentive man from the Saturday Night Live skit from many years ago. I’m really dating myself here, but a quick search yielded this video and made me laugh. Hope it will do the same for you. I don’t think I’ve gone quite so far. At least I have a nice compact place to find my foreign currency for future trips. It is a huge improvement compared with what I did before.
How do you keep track of currency from your international travels?