Selling unused foreign currency: are ‘buy back rates’ worth paying for?

Updated on 01 September 2016

Some foreign currency exchange outlets offer a ‘buy back rate’ guarantee for leftover holiday money. But is it worth paying extra for?

Selling unused foreign currency

If you’ve overestimated the amount of foreign currency you needed on holiday, you’re probably keen to convert what you have leftover when you get home.

It’s simple to sell unused foreign currency back at a bureau or a bank. But you’re likely to get a poor rate of exchange and it can be difficult to compare deals.

Some providers offer ‘buy back’ schemes which allow you to secure a decent rate at the time you purchase your travel money – sometimes at the rate you buy it at. But these come at a cost.

We’ve taken a look at what buy back deals are available and whether they’re worth going for.

How the deals stack up

Travelex offers a ‘Buy Back Guarantee’ scheme which will set you back £3.99 per order. The guarantee is valid for 45 days from the original collection or delivery date on foreign currency notes and travellers’ cheques (not pre-paid cards) and is available on home delivery and in branches. You’ll need a receipt or home delivery invoice when returning unused bank notes.

The Money Shop also charges £3.99 for its ‘Buy Back Guarantee'. But it only applies on converting the equivalent of £200 back.  However, its guarantee is valid for a longer two calendar months. You’ll need your receipt but can go to any branch. Traveller’s cheques and travel money cards are excluded. 

Thomson’s ‘Buy Back Guarantee’ is only available on purchases made in-store, costs £3.95 and also only applies on converting up to £200 back. You must go back to the original shop with your receipt within 60 days. Traveller’s cheques and travel money cards are excluded. 

While Eurochange has three tiered options charging a one-off fee that allows you to swap a percentage of your original order at the same rate you bought it for. For £1 you can exchange up to 15% within 15 days of your purchase date; for £3 you can exchange up to 30% within 30 days and for £5 you can swap back a maximum of 30% within 45 days.

Is it worth shelling out?

Of course ideally you’ll budget well enough to avoid coming home with a wad of notes to change back.  But if you’re concerned about returning with a sizeable amount or want to change more than you need just in case then securing a ‘buy back’ deal can be a savvy move.

The one-off costs of the deals mentioned above are low enough to make a difference on foreign currency you bring back over £10.

However, you should make sure to check the small print first as you may be restricted to returning your money to the same branch or face a time limit of just fifteen days in order to take advantage of your original exchange rate; which won’t leave much time to spare if you’re on a two-week break!

You should also be careful to note any restrictions on how much can be changed back like with Thomson and The Money Shop. If you have more than the equivalent of £200 to convert your secured buy back rate won’t apply on the excess amount. 

Also if you prefer taking a combination of travellers’ cheques and cash; be prepared to stump up the ‘buy back’ rate on each.

Remember you can always avoid shelling out on a buy back rate guarantee by hanging onto whatever is left for your next trip or trying to broker a deal with friends or family who’ve got holidays coming up. 

What about pre-paid cards and coins?

Buy back deals won’t usually include money left on pre-paid ‘cash passport’ cards or on loose coins.

When it comes to pre-paid cards at the end of your trip you can drain the leftover funds at a cash machine, though charges can reach as much as £3 a time. And if you ask your provider to ‘redeem’ any funds this may cost even more.

On the flip side if you spend every penny before heading home, you could be hit with other charges. Some providers charge users a fee for ‘inactivity’ which if there’s no money on the card anyway will lead to a negative balance which then attracts a further charge.

When it comes to foreign coins you won't find many places willing to swap them back to pounds for you. But there are a few websites that offer to exchange them. Cash4Coins for example is currently offering 62p back for 1 euro which is the equivalent of a buy back rate of 1.62. However, ou’ll need at least 5kg of coins to use this service. If your coins weigh less than 5kg the company is happy to accept them as a donation for charity.

More on travel:

The best debit cards to use on your travels

The best credit cards to use on your travels

How to avoid blowing your holiday budget



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