What’s in my wallet (cash edition)…

No, this isn’t a post about the credit cards in my wallet with 14 affiliate links. Instead it’s just a picture of the cash that’s in my wallet right now.

I think every credit card churner can relate to the situation where you have $200,000 of credit lines in your wallet, but can’t afford a pack of gum at a gas station that doesn’t accept credit cards on small purchases. That was me today…

Speaking of which, I need a better system for organizing foreign currency, since I can’t keep track of which is which. Anyone have a good strategy?

Filed Under: Misc.
  1. I got a bunch of smallish envelopes in Japan, just the right size to hold paper currency, and keep everything in the pocket of my travel wallet, with a little note on the edge/end of each envelope showing which currency it is. The “active” currency in my destination country gets transferred to my regular wallet on the plane.

  2. Ziplock bags (one for each currency). Your wallet only holds the currency of the country you are in at the moment. When you arrive you swap out the relevant ziplock bag with the stuff in your wallet.

    At home I have a drawer with about twenty bags, each full of notes, coins, and business cards/flyers for that country.

    Makes even multiple-country trips a snap 🙂

  3. I would say ziplocks or envelopes, or you could always try the Starbucks trick (load your currency onto a Starbucks GC before you leave whatever country you’re in)

  4. I love these little Moleskine pouches. (Disclaimer: yes, I write there. No, I really don’t care if you click there or Google “moleskine document pouches”.)

    I also love giving foreign currency away to charity on the plane. It gives me warm fuzzies and means I don’t have to keep track of currencies.

    (Also, if this isn’t a rich people problem I don’t know what is. OH NO HOW DO I KEEP TRACK OF ALL MY MONEY?)

  5. I never carry multiple currencies in my wallet. The clutter is a recipe for disaster if you find ourself in a hurry and can’t find the right note.

    Ziploc snack bags are the perfect way to store cash. I empty my wallet of all the cash I won’t be using at my destination before I arrive. I also clean my wallet of non-essential credit cards and other pocket litter I won’t need at the destination so that my wallet only contains what I need. This is good practice in case you loose your wallet and keeps it thin and easy to manage.

  6. I do have a separate wallet for the larger currencies, usually for when I travel. A wallet/envelope per region.

    But really, it’s not so bad to have many currencies in one wallet when you travel. Small change, however, is a pain, and those are just given away..

  7. I do the exact same thing as Sendaiben. Guess we Japan-based flyers know what’s up 😉

    I also carry an extra empty bag to put my home currency in just to make it easier, especially when I’m carrying several different currencies.

  8. I use either those zip-lock plastic bags they gibe you at most currency exchange desks, or just a plain envelope. Either way, one per currency. The ‘active’ currency (the one in use right now) is in my wallet, the others I will need on the trip are in my passport wallet. The ones I won’t use on the trip stay at home.

  9. Another vote for Ziploc bags. I do need a lot of times 2 currencies at the same time in the wallet though. Coins in Europe are a real pain though since my wallet has no coin storage. I tend to donate them on the way home.

  10. My wallet has a divider and I put the currency for whatever country I am in in the outside portion and my failsafe currency (dollars or euros) in the other portion.


  11. Ben – On paper, you’re rich! 😉

    I agree with the ‘give it away before I leave the country’ approach.

    Although, I did have so save some of the 3 peso bills I got in Cuba, with the picture of Che!

  12. Wow. Somehow, I’ve traveled to so many countries over the years without a local cash management system.

    Blind luck? Blind ignorance? A simple life?

  13. I’m usually pretty good about not having excessive amounts of cash on my when I leave a country. If I’ve got less than ~$100 and the airport exchange rate isn’t bad, I’ll just take care of it there. Sometimes, there’s limits as to how small of a bill some places will accept.

    I subscribe to the theory of “hit up the ATM when you get there” and unless I’m going somewhere where you have to pay a cash visa on arrival fee, I’m not apt to have much cash in my wallet.

    One time this bit me in the arse, and it wasn’t a third world country, either. When my then-girlfriend and I went to London for the weekend, I just figured we’d hit the ATM, and grab enough cash to get a tube ticket and get us in to central London. Well, right when we landed at LHR, a big lightning strike knocked all of the ATMs off line. If I combined the residuals of three different currencies, I had just enough cash to get the tube ticket… and hopefully find a functioning ATM elsewhere in the city.

  14. I usually pull out very little money at a time with my fidelity cash ATM card with no international fees. That way I never have a big amount of foreign currency. Then I only have a little left so either spend at airport or exchange at a small loss.

  15. I have a binder. Its got a big “report holder” type pocket for any information I had from the country (e.g. maps, brochures worth keeping, etc), and then a small “2 index card” holder type sheet for the currency. Whenever I plan on traveling to a country, I pop open the binder, pull out the cash/coins, and go. When I get back, I pop open the binder and stow the cash/coins for the next time.

    An added value of the binder is that if something major happens, I’ve got 1 thing to pull with currency across the world, to run with.

  16. I would start by organizing it by currency, not face value. Wouldn’t want those Zimbabwe dollars screwing things up.

    That said, why do you have a 500 Euro note? Any place that won’t take credit cards is going to turn you away when you try to use THAT to pay for a pack of gum. Believe me, I’ve tried.

  17. I agree with and do the same thing as sendaiben, but I keep my Ziplocs in a shoebox. I also paper clip two Ziplocs together for each currency, one for paper money, the other for coins.

  18. @ Scottrick — Hah, they are organized by currency. Highest Euro note I had was 20. The 500 bill is Thai Baht, I believe.

  19. Actually, what concerns me more looking at that picture is just what (other) clothes you had to sell to accumulate that much cash. Just how lucky were you to get the 500 euro note? 🙂

    Seriously, I used to just spend what I had left (not much most times) at the airport or maybe the hotel gift shop before I left – something indicative of the country/city/region. Since the wife has decreed clutter-less-ness, I use the little envelopes they give you at the bank write a little note ala Joe & the rest of us smart ones. Throw them in a drawer at home and pull out the needed ones for a trip.

  20. We have a couple of Baggallinis, available at most travel stores. Very handy when not traveling but also when traveling to multiple countries.

  21. I keep the euros and pounds, and spend the rest. It’s pretty easy to pay down your cash at your last hotel; keep enough for the cab ride plus about the equivalent of $20 for spending at the airport.

    Buy souvenirs or give it away if you are under $20.

    The main reason I keep Euros and Pounds is to have money for the luggage trolleys upon arrival. The coins are usually returned when the trolley is a return, but it’s a bitch to have to get change when you first get there.

  22. I use the ziploc bags even though people luagh at me and say its ghetto. At least it keeps all my things organized by country and I can easily identify them

  23. There’s a wonderful multi colored zipper case approx 4x6inches that works great for currency. Each one goes in a different color. I bought mine a few years ago and love it. I got it from either Magellans or Travelsmith but I’m sure others carry it.

  24. If I have a meaningful amount, I change it either to something useful (euros or if they don’t have it dollars) or to the currency of my next destination. Otherwise just spend it at the airport – give all the coins, bills to the cashier and pay the rest with a CC.

    I used to have hundreds of euros worth leftover currency at home, then I thought why have it laying in a box, so just went to a currency exchange office and changed it all. Got an exchange slip a foot long.

    Oh, I also use (small denomination) foreign currency as office decoration. Put 3-4 banknotes in an A4 plastic pouch and laminate it. Really cool!

  25. 500EUR is purple… I thought your 500 was HKD initially, but maybe not.

    I place the bills I’ll use in one envelope at home and souvenir ones in another (I rarely keep those anymore). I keep USD, EUR, HKD, SGD, JPY and that’s about it. I just add the currency of the country I’ll transit or visit to my travel wallet before the trip begins. Travel wallet holds BPs, passport, some airline cards & CC, US & abroadband sim cards.

  26. I use the UA amenity kits [after using the contents 🙂 ]. Since I go back to the same countries often, I don’t have a problem with keeping bills/coins for my next visit. Plus, other country-specific items can fit (small maps, etc.).

  27. I’m not Lucky but somehow lucky to only carry two different currencies with me, Euros and US dollars. Like Ike (comment #13) I have two portions in my wallet. One for the dollar notes, and one for the euro notes.
    I only have to remember to swap the coins before going to/after coming back from the US.

  28. Oh, and I have an envelope at home with some more dollar notes. Got that envelope from my bank when I bought dollars some time ago (I not only use dollars in the US but also at our local commissary).

  29. I have a 2nd wallet for foreign coins and currency (and try to donate them when I see airport kiosks). I’ll keep small bills and give them to friends as little “you should be traveling” gifts.

  30. A few years ago I bought a great foreign currency pouch on JL duty free, not sure if it is still available. I also use ziplock bags sorted by currnxy

  31. I never take currency home any more. Just don’t want to deal with the organization required. I usually apply what’s left to the hotel bill and then give the remaining coins to the Change for Goods program. Makes me feel good and eliminates the need for keeping currency. The only exception are Euros since I travel to Europe on a regular basis.

  32. Low-tech: I rip a piece off a paper (or use an ATM slip) and put it as a separator in my wallet. I don’t write on it because I know the currencies, I just keep the active currency foremost position.

    For change, I bought 500 of these little ziplock pouches (2″) on amazon for a few bucks. They’re targeted at bead collectors.

  33. Yeah, ziplock bags. As the other guy said, in days when I had to carry a lot of cash, I was a bit worried that it would look ghetto/drug dealerish, especially as I’m from New Orleans…but nothing was ever as simple, easy, and practical as the ziplock bag. And the ziplock bag stops airport security workers from easily palming a bill. They have to risk actually going to jail if they grab an entire bag of cash in a ziplock bag with someone’s business card or another proof of ownership. I’ve tried the pouches, but the bills, chips, etc. still need to be in ziplocks within the pouches…

  34. My Wells Fargo ATM card has a $5 per use fee, so I never use that. :>{ My Citibank ATM card however has no fees for International withdrawals at all. I just take out enough for a day at a time. So I don’t get stuck with excess currency at the end, and don’t have to worry about it being lost or stolen either.

  35. I keep currencies in ziplock bags but generally only Euro and Pounds as they are the most used for me. For other currencies I bring back the smallest note and coins as souvenirs, a few coins for nieces w/gifts and donate other cash.
    It’s funny that my wallet always has a BA LHR arrivals Fast Pass voucher and my free champagne at the hotel voucher.

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