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Loose Change at Airport? Cash It In

… and quids for free? Well, almost: those foreign coins sitting in your drawer can now be put to good use.

It’s a rigmarole that globetrotters have become familiar with: you’re departing for home at an airport and in your wallet is a farrago of foreign notes and coins. Do you use them up on an overpriced OJ? Or dump them in a donation box? While you’re debating in your head how best to spend your remaining 14.57 Turkish lira, you are called for boarding and the money winds up in a jar somewhere at home, never to be seen again, just like those roubles and pesos from trips prior.

Now, a small Israeli start-up, Travelersbox, wants to change that. It has been installing kiosks at airports around the world that work like a cross between bureaux de change and cash deposit machines, except that they take coins (on top of notes) and convert them into digital currency such as store gift cards or Paypal deposits.

The company, founded by three childhood friends, turned to partners such as Starbucks, Skype and Sephora after finding it impossible to persuade banks to lower their unviably high commissions and fees. Travelersbox takes 3 per cent to 10 per cent per transaction, and aims to eliminate fees in the long term by shifting the cost burden to its affiliates.

TheLines

That’s an impressive list of partners, and it doesn’t stop here for Traveler’s Box. (Click to expand)

While nobody really knows how much foreign change is lying dormant, the company estimates that the global market for its service is potentially worth around US$40 billion (S$57 billion) a year. That’s enough to entice investors, the most famous being tax refund company Global Blue, to pump in a total of US$5 million into the fledgling firm.

The machines are currently found at airports in Italy, the Philippines, Turkey and Georgia, and will soon be launched in Brazil, India and Japan. Singapore is on the cards, promises a company spokesman.

And, if you still feel inclined for some largesse, fret not. Travelersbox works with charities such as Red Cross, Unicef and WWF, as well.

Interested? Check out the Traveler’s Box website.