Britons hoarding over £3.5bn in foreign holiday cash

Suban Abdulla
·3 min read
Close-up of several banknotes from all over the world :
More than two in five (42%) of people in the UK have leftover holiday currency. Photo: Getty

British holidaymakers are sitting on a treasure chest of foreign cash worth over £3.5bn ($4.9bn), a new survey shows.

According to a study by Post Office Travel Money almost 23 million adults in the UK have leftover holiday money sitting at home.

With holidays having been cancelled or postponed over the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey of 2,080 people across the UK in February found men have more foreign money at home than women — at an average of £188 compared with £117.

Of the respondents, 82% had taken overseas holidays in the past but only 22% of them changed leftover foreign cash back into sterling when they returned home.

While 18% of Britons who had travelled abroad forgot about their leftover holiday money, 72% of those who had leftover currency said they were keeping it to use on a future holiday, suggesting a strong boost in demand for trips overseas.

Based on UK adult population figures, 51% of holidaymakers kept hold of their leftover currency, worth an average of almost £155 each. Based on this average amount of leftover cash, the research overall the total holiday currency "cash stash" could be as high as £3.5bn.

On average, people in Scotland were found to have the most holiday cash tucked away, at around £263, compared with £150 for Londoners and £91.84 for holidaymakers from the East of England.

It added that the Euro (GBPEUR=X) and US dollar (GBPUSD=X) account for much of the spare cash, with 85% of the holiday cash hoard being held in euros, while 25% is US dollars.

READ MORE: BA considers using large jets for UK's post-lockdown holiday boom

Post Office Travel Money accounts for one-in-four UK currency transactions in the country.

Nick Boden, head of Post Office Travel Money, said: “Our research shows that there are billions of pounds worth of foreign cash hidden away at home so now might be the time to check how much you have. If it turns out to be currency for Australia, New Zealand, Norway or Sweden and you are not planning to travel to these countries in the foreseeable future, now might be the time to change it back into sterling. These have risen in value against sterling, and you will get more cash back.

"Equally, if you are planning a holiday abroad when the rules allow it, it is worth considering destinations where sterling has risen most in value. The pound is worth over seven per cent more against the euro than a year ago, but other currencies have weakened more. 

"The Turkish lira is down by over 37% and Caribbean currencies have weakened by 18-28%. There will be big gains too in popular long haul destinations like Kenya, Mauritius and Dubai."

It comes after, British flag carrier British Airways last week said it is considering deploying some of its bigger planes to add capacity for an anticipated post-pandemic holiday rush as the UK eases out of lockdown.

BA, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L), could divert some of its jets used on long-haul routes to short-haul destinations as demand for European trips from the UK increases.

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