We’ve all come back from holiday with that little bit of foreign currency that you just can’t get rid of.

It’s not quite enough to change back, and you can’t find anything to spend it on at the airport, so it ends up coming back home with you.

But it turns out Brits could be missing out on a huge stash of cash, with up to £390m in unchanged foreign currencies tucked away in jars and drawers around the country.

According to research from money transfer firm Xpress Money Services, the average UK household (that travels abroad) contains up to five different forms of currency, with the average amount per household standing at around £47.

It seems that people will do almost anything to avoid the hassle of dealing with currency exchange

Sudhesh Giriyan, chief operating officer, Xpress Money
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78% of those with foreign currency say it has been sitting there for longer than 12 months with nearly 10% believing they still had notes and coins from more than five years ago.

High exchange rates and the idea that it’s a hassle to get to a bank or Post Office were the most common reasons given for holding onto cash.

One way we all try to get rid of our spare holiday cash is those last-minute purchases at the airport, and more than 82% of those polled admitted buying items at the airport for the sole purpose of using up foreign currency.

The 10 most popular items for using up spare holiday cash were soft toys, sunglasses, perfume, luxury chocolate, super-sized bottles of spirits, cosmetics, handbags, earphones, novelty clothing and electronic gadgets like tablets or mobiles.

Other spontaneous airport buys include bath mats, designer watches and even furniture.

Sudhesh Giriyan, chief operating officer at Xpress Money, said: “In order to use up holiday cash, many people we spoke to tend to spend on products they don’t really want, or they simply leave the foreign currency to sit at home, becoming anything but current.

Cosmetics are one of the things people buy to mop up their holiday cash. Image by Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock.com

“In the past, we've been lumbered with large amounts in foreign currencies that we don't need because we can’t be bothered to go and get it exchanged.

“It seems that people will do almost anything to avoid the hassle of dealing with currency exchange.

“The fact is, it’s no longer necessary to travel with these huge sums as getting the right amount of cash, when and where you want it is easier than ever.”

Xpress Money has launched the XOPO app, a new money transfer service that allows users to send money to a possible 160 countries by selecting contacts from popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The service, which is currently exclusive to the UK, can be used by people when they’re abroad to send a request for money back to friends and family in the UK. 

While it uses social networks to find contacts, the beneficiary’s bank details are stored away from these in a secure network, so the sender doesn’t need to input them.

Mr Giriyan added: “Additionally, any left over currency can be sent using an Xpress Money service which can be collected in pounds once a traveller is back in the UK.

“If a customer is visiting Dubai and has local currency left at the end of his trip, he/she can visit an Xpress Money location and remit that money back to the UK and collect it in pounds once he/she is back.

“This will definitely reduce the wastage of foreign reserves that tends to lie around somewhere after every vacation.”