How to Identify Foreign Currency

Foreign Currency

If you’re anything like me, and you’ve have done more than your fair share of travelling, there’s a good possibility that you’ll have accumulated a drawer full of spare change, made up of all sorts of weird and wonderful foreign currencies.

Whether your collection spans years or decades, apart from the more obviously identifiable ones particularly with English writing on them like – British Pounds, US Dollars, Australian Dollars & Euros – it can be a struggle to remember where the rest came from, and whether or not they’re even still legal tender, right?

Whether it’s notes or coins, how do you work out where the money has come from, and how much it’s worth? Well, here are a few ways that I discover to help you to find out:

Google Lens

Unfortunately, there isn’t just an app that you can just point your phone camera at the currency and get a definitive answer. (Anyone want to go halves in developing one?)

The closest thing that I’ve found at this stage is Google Lens.

Probably one of the lesser-known products from Google. Google Lens started out as own Google Goggles app. However, over the last couple of years, it was rebranded as Lens and not only available as its own app but also included in a couple of other Google apps including Google Assistant and Google Photos.

Google Lens has many purposes, but one of its key features is translating foreign languages.

With the app installed/active, simply point your phone’s camera at the text on the money press and hold the screen and it’ll search its online database in order to decipher exactly what you’re looking at.

I must admit, Google Lens handles notes much better than it does with coins. But it’s worth a go to at least give you a starting point.

Google Search

If you know where you’ve been, then a simple Google search for money of each country might just give you the answers you seek.

It’s not entirely fool proof, but in most cases it will present a good selection of images of each of the denominations for that particular country’s currency.


Alternatively, a Wikipedia search of the places you’ve visited should also give you links to articles for each country’s currency.

While both this and the Google search method can be a little longwinded, they are your best options to identify currencies from the comfort of your own home.

Bank or Local Currency Exchange

If all else fails, take the money to your local bank or currency exchange.

In most cases, particularly currency exchanges, they deal with foreign currency on a regular basis and should be able to help in the identification process.

Most banks and exchanges won’t accept foreign coins, but they should be able to help you work out where it has come from.

What Should I Do With My Foreign Currency?

Well… You could just keep it.

But if life has changed and you’re not planning on visiting those countries again, then you could always exchange back to your local currency.

As I just mentioned, banks and currency exchanges don’t usually accept coins. But the notes you’ll be able to transfer back to your own local currency without any issues should you see fit.

Depending on how the exchange rate has changed since you purchased it, you might have made yourself a tidy little profit.

As for the coins, at the very least keep a couple as mementos of your travels.

For the rest, most international airports and some banks have donation bins that accept all currencies for a not-for-profit agency. In Australia, that’s usually Unicef but I have seen similar setups in other countries I’ve travelled to as well.

Otherwise, you can try your luck trying to sell them off on Ebay.

For more travel tips, make sure you check out the rest of my blog posts as well.

Also, make sure you check out the travel tools that I use the most to help you save some money when booking your next trip.

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About the author

Rhys Vandersyde

Traveller, Photographer, Content Creator - I've spent the last 20 years actively seeking out new destinations and new adventures. Find out more about me here:

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