March 13 2014

Starbucks Currency Conversion Trick

As a natural consequence of my frugal nature, I hate wastefulness.  Doesn’t much matter what the asset — money, time, effort, natural resources, whatever — wasting it just pains me.

So when I have leftover local currency from a country I’m about to leave, I must unload it efficiently.  I try to only bring/withdraw as much foreign currency as I anticipate needing, but it’s not an exact science and I inevitably have some amount left before returning home.

Some disposal methods I’ve used for small amounts, with their pros and cons:

  • Thow away.  Pros: quick and easy.  Cons: wasteful!
  • Give away at the airport.  Pros: quick and easy.  Cons: socially awkward to explain to a random stranger why you’re giving them money unsolicited.
  • Keep for future use.  Pros: super quick.  Cons: not practical if a return trip is not planned; storage and inventory tracking effort not worthwhile for small amounts.
  • Use a currency exchange service.  Cons: due to fees, not cost effective (and often infeasible) for small amounts, and a kiosk is not always available or conveniently located at the airport. 

SBUX logo

But…if there’s a Starbucks nearby you might be able to use it as an informal currency exchanger.  Just load your Starbucks card using the foreign cash.  The amount loaded should automatically convert to the “base currency” (the currency of the country where the card was originally sold).  Doesn’t take much effort, and many people already have a Starbucks card for the rewards program anyway.

This trick isn’t foolproof; some locations can’t/won’t load your card for whatever reason.  Trial and error is the only way I know of to figure out which ones will, so you may find yourself standing in line only to be rebuffed.  And of course you are converting from one restricted currency (money accepted only in certain countries) to another (credit redeemable only at places that accept Starbucks cards), but the goal is to cut your losses.

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Posted March 13, 2014 by Admin in category "Personal Finance", "Tips

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