Add Up Declutter Foreign Coins and Give Back to Charities

Useful as they may be while travelling, foreign coins can be a nuisance when returning home. Foreign coin exchange counters will almost never convert them -the low value of the transaction makes the exchange impractical -and they simply take up space. Throwing coins in the rubbish feels wrong, but the traveller might as well for all the good a handful of spare change in another currency will do. Every frequent flyer is familiar with the drifts of small change that build up around the house, gathering dust and accomplishing nothing.

Some airports have donation boxes where departing passengers can leave their spare foreign change. The donated coins go toward supporting local charities. While these are useful and serve a good cause, many airports don't have them in convenient locations and some airports don't have them at all. As a results, passengers often wind up with pockets full of useless small change, with nothing to spend it on and no one to benefit from it.

One new approach to this problem comes from designers at National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan. Their design, Add Up, is an electronic booth that accepts small change in local currencies. While the problem of storing sufficient coins would make changing coins impractical for physical exchange brokers, Add Up gets around the problem by converting coins into an electronic payment. This payment can be deposited into the user's Skype account or credited toward a mobile phone bill.

Changing coins with Add Up doesn't only help passengers; it also helps good causes. Whenever a currency transaction occurs, a small amount of money is left over following the decimal point. For instance, a traveller returning to the UK from the US with $0.98 in her pocket would exchange it for £0.6244. Under normal circumstances, the .44 of a penny would be discarded. Add Up accumulates these extra amounts from all its transactions and gives it to charity.

Although the amount of any individual Add Up transaction is minute, the designers hope that the machines will be installed in airports all around the world. As thousands of passengers deposit their surplus coins in thousands of airports every day, a steady trickle of money will flow to deserving causes.

The beauty of the Add Up system is that it solves several different problems simultaneously, ridding passengers of inconvenient foreign currency, adding money to accounts every traveller makes use of, and giving extra change to charity.

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