At a time when sterling is soaring in value against almost all foreign currencies – rising by seven per cent against the euro since the first UK lockdown began a year ago, consumer research conducted by Post Office Travel Money reveals that Britons are hoarding a total of over £3.5 billion worth of euros, US dollars and other currencies from past holidays abroad.
The research found that over four-in-five (82 per cent) of 2,080 adults surveyed had taken overseas holidays in the past but only 22 per cent of them changed leftover foreign currency back into sterling when they returned home. Instead over half of holidaymakers (51 per cent) kept hold of their leftover currency, worth an average of almost £155 each.
Men stashed away far more currency than women from their travels abroad – an average of £188 each compared with £117 for women. Scottish holidaymakers proved to be the biggest hoarders with an average stash of £263 compared with £150 for Londoners and just £92 for holidaymakers from the East of England.
According to the research, almost one-in-five (18 per cent) Britons who had travelled abroad forgot about their leftover holiday money – even though changing the substantial amounts of currency stored in travel wallets or bottom drawers back into sterling would help those with no immediate holiday plans to fund the weekly shop or treats for the family.
Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of those found to be hoarding leftover currency said they were keeping it to use on a future holiday, which suggests a strong appetite for trips abroad when the current overseas travel restrictions are relaxed.
Euros and US dollars account for the vast majority of leftover cash. 85 per cent of the holiday money hoard is held in euros, while 25 per cent is US dollars. Among those people planning to use their currency on a future holiday, most of those holding euros intend to use these on a eurozone trip in 2021 or 2022. However, there is less appetite for trips to the USA as less than half of those holding dollars plan to use these on Stateside trips later this year or next.
The consumer research findings chime with the latest data from Post Office Travel Money on ‘buy-back’ of foreign currency into sterling. In the year since lockdown first began last March, the UK’s largest provider of holiday money reports that there has been a drop of around 50 per cent in the amount of currency converted back into sterling in its branch network.
Nick Boden, Head of Post Office Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four UK currency transactions 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 forseeable 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 per cent and Caribbean currencies have weakened by 18-28 per cent. There will be big gains too in popular long haul destinations like Kenya, Mauritius and Dubai.”
How sterling has strengthened against holiday currencies since last March
Currency % 2021 v 2020 March 2021 March 2020 £500 buys +/- Turkish lira +37.1% 9.7257 7.0929 +£135.35 Jamaican dollar +28.3% 188.2675 146.6983 +£110.40 Dominican peso oro +26.5% 73.4155 58.0414 +£104.71 Kenyan shilling +22.1% 139.84742 114.5057 +£90.60 Mauritius rupee +21.5% 51.4050 42.3251 +£88.32 UAE dirham +19.0% 4.8736 4.0965 +£79.73 US dollar +19.0% 1.3607 1.1439 +£79.66 East Caribbean dollar +18.8% 3.4782 2.9286 +£79.01 Egyptian pound +18.6% 19.7300 16.6366 +£78.39 Barbados dollar +18.4% 2.5577 2.1594 +£77.86 Japanese yen +18.0% 144.1639 122.1873 +£76.22 Vietnamese dong +13.8% 28,118.0586 24,702.0549 +£60.74 Swiss franc +12.6% 1.2478 1.1082 +£55.94 Hungarian forint +11.3% 397.4998 357.2803 +£50.59 Thai baht +10.9% 40.14 36.1940 +£49.15 Malaysian ringgit +9.9% 5.3382 4.8589 +£44.89 Icelandic krona +9.0% 160.8465 147.5943 +£41.20 Euro +7.0% 1.1405 1.0660 +£32.66 Bulgarian lev +7.0% 2.1429 2.0033 +£32.57 Croatian kuna +6.6% 8.3023 7.7865 +£31.06 Danish kroner +6.5% 8.2196 7.7187 +£30.47 Canadian dollar +2.7% 1.6646 1.6203 +£13.31 Czech koruna +2.5% 28.3626 27.6579 +£12.42 Mexican peso 0.0% 27.2573 27.2456 +£0.21 Swedish kronor -2.4% 11.2475 11.5237 -£12.28 New Zealand dollar -6.8% 1.8579 1.9924 -£36.20 Australian dollar -8.8% 1.7890 1.9606 -£47.96 Norwegian krone -9.8% 11.2403 12.4617 -£54.33
Respondents to the Post Office research were also asked whether they were aware of currency buy back guarantees offered by foreign exchange providers in the event of future holiday cancellations. One-fifth (20 per cent) thought that Post Office Travel Money offered this kind of guarantee – nearly double the proportion for its closest travel money competitors (Tesco: 12 per cent, Sainsbury: 11 per cent and M&S: 10 per cent).
Post Office Travel Money (www.postoffice.co.uk/refundguarantee) offers a full refund on currency purchases in the case of a significant event that leads to the cancellation of a holiday. To qualify for a refund, Post Office customers will need to provide their currency purchase receipt as well as evidence of their holiday cancellation.
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