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‘Forgotten’ Cash: British holidaymakers sit on £663m stack of leftover foreign currency

Press Release   •   Aug 24, 2015 00:00 BST

London, 24 August 2015: Stacks of foreign cash are gathering dust in Britain’s homes as holidaymakers estimate having an average of £55.25 in leftover foreign currency, accumulating to more than £663m sitting at home1.

New figures released today from Visa Europe reveal two in five Brits (39%) admit to keeping unused currency in the house. The research found that the average traveller estimates having £55.25 in foreign cash such as Dollars, Euros, Yen or Rupeesat home. And one in six (16%) put their hands up to having at least £75 of leftover currency. This one-sixth of the population alone has accumulated a staggering £369m2 in total.

Meanwhile, not spending all their holiday cash leads almost a third (30%) of British travellers getting caught up in ‘squanderlust’ – spending unused currency at the airport because they know they won’t be able to spend it at home.

Kevin Jenkins, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Visa Europe comments:

“British holidaymakers could be saving money instead of returning home with foreign currency, which likely remains unused and gathering dust. Our research suggests that as a nation, we have accumulated £663m of foreign currency in our homes – hard-earned money which could be better put to use or donated to charity.

“And for those anxious to use every last Dollar or Dirham, a frenzied episode of ‘squanderlust’ frequently means unnecessary airport spending. Using a Visa card abroad is the smarter way to spend – it’s more convenient, it’s safe and you won’t return home with foreign currency which will never see the day of light again. Paying by card means you only use the money you want to spend and the cost of making card payments at the point-of-sale in foreign countries are often comparable to using a high street bureau de change before the trip3.”

Visa Europe holiday spending tips

Here are Visa Europe’s top tips for making the most of holidays abroad and keeping finances secure:

  • Familiarise yourself: Look up the local currency and get an idea of how much the basics cost in comparison to what they cost at home – like a taxi from the airport or a cup of coffee. You can look at Visa Europe’s competitive exchange rates here: www.visaeurope.com/making-payments/exchange-rates. Card issuer fees may vary
  • Download a travel-friendly app: A travel app can be the perfect companion to make life easier when you’re on the road. The new Visa Travel Tools app helps you to check local prices in your own currency with its currency converter and also has a handy ATM locator to make finding a cash machine at your destination quick and easy. The Visa Travel Tools app is now available to download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
  • Take less cash: Using a Visa card on holiday is the smarter way to spend abroad as you’re protected against fraud. With Visa cards accepted at millions of locations around the world, spending abroad shouldn’t be greatly different to how you pay at home. Just look out for the Visa logo in nearly every country in the world to help make the foreign, familiar
  • Get the best value: Keep in mind the cost of using your Visa card abroad will vary* but it is usually better value than the airport bureau de change and comparable to the cost of buying currency at a high street bureau de changeiii
  • Use the tools available to you: If you need cash then it’s more convenient to take it out locally, use an ATM locator and find out where you can safely and conveniently withdraw money – wherever you might be on holiday. You can look at Visa Europe’s ATM locator here: www.visaeurope.com/making-payments/atm-locator
  • Keep it local: If using your card to make a payment or withdraw cash locally, you might be asked if you’d prefer to pay in the local or your home currency. Selecting the local option will usually give you the most competitive rates and avoid hidden fees. ***
  • Pay it forward:If you have any extra small change or foreign currency leftover from your break, why not donate it to a charity before leaving the country and put it to better use.

For more information visit www.visaeurope.com

About the report

About ‘Cross Border Spending’

Visa Europe commissioned research with Populus who surveyed 2,000 adults aged 18+ in each of the following 16 European countries including: UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Austria, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Switzerland between 6-23 March 2015. Sample sizes are nationally representative in each country.

About Visa Europe

Visa Europe is a payments technology business owned and operated by member banks and other payment service providers from 37 countries across Europe.

Visa Europe is at the heart of the payments ecosystem providing the services and infrastructure to enable millions of European consumers, businesses and governments to make electronic payments. Its members are responsible for issuing cards, signing up retailers and deciding cardholder and retailer fees. Visa Europe is also the largest transaction processor in Europe, responsible for processing more than 16 billion transactions annually – at a rate of 1,622 transactions per second at peak times.

There are more than 500m Visa cards in Europe, while €1 in every €6 spent in Europe is on a Visa card. Total expenditure on Visa cards exceeds €2 trillion annually, with €1.5 trillion spent at point-of-sale.

Since 2004, Visa Europe has been independent of Visa Inc. and incorporated in the UK, with an exclusive, irrevocable and perpetual licence in Europe. Both companies work in partnership to enable global Visa payments in more than 200 countries and territories. 

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