People Are Selling Leftover Foreign Currency On eBay For More Than Face Value

When you travel abroad you invariably find yourself with leftover foreign currency. I always get money out of an ATM wherever I go. That way I’ll get a bank rate, and my bank doesn’t charge me currency conversion fees.

The best ways to get rid of leftover foreign currency are usually,

  • Use it towards your final hotel bill, paying the balance with a credit card
  • Add it to your Starbucks card before skipping town
  • Refill gas in your rental car, paying with the cash you have left (and then refilling more using a credit card if you must)

Whatever you do, don’t use a money changing booth at the airport to buy foreign currency in the U.S. before your trip. And hoarding the leftover cash is fine if it’s for somewhere you travel to often and remember to bring it with you, but not useful for an occasional traveler.

It’s never occurred to me to sell foreign currency on eBay, and never occurred to me that you might sell it for more than it’s worth. But that appears to be a thing.

With retail businesses like restaurants and shops, that might once have been used to launder money, going out of business or seeing significantly less volume I wonder if this is a way to clean cash and exchange it for digital currency? How else to explain selling money for more than the face value of money? Some of these auctions come with free shipping, but others priced above face value even charge extra for that.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I guess it is less than buying at the kiosks, banks do not seem to carry other currency any more. The only other place domesticaly I used to get currency is AAA, have not done that in years either. I have on occassion used WU to send myself money in Asia countries. I also keep a coupon holder to keep various currencies of countries I frequented, that is before March of this year. My worst experience with keeping money too long was Sweden, I brought what I had after not being there for a few years. The currency was no longer used, they replaced it all. I was told no one really uses cash anymore to just use cards.

  2. @Leonard

    I disposed of some Krona just this weekend and found a 20 and 50 had been discontinued in 2016! I wouldn’t mind too much, but I’ve been three times since then!

  3. Another item that sells higher than face on eBay is gift cards. Reportedly that it is a good way to launder cash, although I don’t quite understand the process behind it–doesn’t the money have to go through a bank, regardless?

  4. A lot of foreign exchange brick and mortar shops have shut down during this pandemic in Europe, and so getting foreign cash at home before heading abroad has become more difficult than it used to be. And for a variety of reasons, some people don’t like using their ATM cards abroad to pull out cash if they can help it.

    About the old demonetized Swedish currency notes — and also about demonetized Norwegian currency notes — they can be replaced with current notes (or the equivalent) by dealing with the relevant national central bank to get some value out of them.

  5. I sell left over currency on eBay all the time. It always sells. Depending on the currency, it may take some time. Euros/Pounds/Yen/most Pesos go fast, others, not so much….

  6. Cash, cash equivalents, and stores of value (like gold) often sell above face value because there are people trying to liquidate stolen gift cards and ebay bucks. I’ve been watching this happen for over 5 years, I’m guessing ebay doesn’t care as long as they get a cut.

  7. While I am a little worried about sending cash in the mail, I guess it isn’t any worse than devaluing in my closet. I always bring currencies home so that I have a little start up money when I go back, but I don’t see me going back to some places such as Hong Kong. I wonder if I could sell my octopus cards on Ebay. I will now start watching Ebay postings to see how they are doing.

  8. I used to have a fear of using the airport kiosks on return due to poor exchange rates. Then I realized that on what is usually less than $100 the loss is like $5 and stopped worrying about it. Better than getting stuck with $20-$60 of foreign currency or the hassle of selling on eBay.

    One trip, I wisely used up all my leftover cash at the airport on treats for co-workers and then left them in the overhead bin on the plane. So, you can’t always win.

    I use ATM on arrival and haven’t had an issue in at least the last 10 years, but there are probably some more exotic locales where this may be an issue. However, for those countries it’s probably hard to purchase local currency in advance.

  9. ATM gives the best exchange rate, as long as your bank refunds ATM fees like my Schwab account does. Pull as you go and have a backup card in case your primary is comprised.

  10. THANKS!
    When I visited Kiev a few years ago, I kept some Hryvnia, planning to exchange it when I got to Thailand a few months later….nope! No exchange booth or bank in Thailand would take them, then, after returning to LA, I couldn’t find anywhere here that would exchange them and my banks would not allow me to deposit them).
    Not a big amount (about $100 USD), but I never considered using eBay to get something for them!

  11. I always just dump all of my leftover cash at check out of my hotel and ask the concierge to apply it to my bill, anything leftover on my nill afterwards I put on the appropriate card. I sometimes feel bad dumping a bunch of small change coins / bills on the counter of a fancy hotel but hey, money is money.

  12. There’s n auctioneer in New York who always starts charity dinner auctions by auctioning off a $100 bill. The price usually pauses at about $99 but with coaxing and considering it’s all for charity I’ve seen it go for north of $1,000.

    As for leftover foreign currency, my usual strategy is the same as @Rico’s “One trip, I wisely used up all my leftover cash at the airport on treats for co-workers and then left them in the overhead bin on the plane.” but @Thomas’s practice of using it to pay part of the hotel bill makes a lot of sense.

  13. I can’t see this working for long as ebay is risking a KYC/AML investigation or worse. There are significant state and federal regulations that attach to money transmittal services.

    Personally I have no interest in disposing of the “easy to sell” currencies like Euros, UK, Japanese Yen as I know I will need them again at some point and it is very convenient to avoid rushing to an ATM upon landing. Ditto for Mexican pesos.

    As for the others I used to keep them but decided the better option was to exchange them at The rate isn’t great but it is the only place I know that will accept coins, and if you are in London you can avoid the postage.

  14. I suspect some of the premium is driven by redemption of eBay Bucks, which expire after 30 days. Kroger gift cards sell at an almost comical premium (50%+). Of course, it doesn’t exclude money laundering.

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