On every trip I end up with piles of small coins. The reason, I find it quite difficult to identify foreign coins quickly. It is quite annoying to to read every value of a coin, especially in those countries where you need a magnifying glass to read the values (e.g. try making sense of US coins for example). The result is that I usually pay with bills leading to yet more coins due to change.

Is there a trick or template that would enable me to quickly make sense of the different coins in a country I am visiting?

  • 2
    personally I find that if I make an effort to read the coins for the first couple of times, even if that means taking a long time to pay something, I get used to them really fast. So the best trick I could give you, is just consequently use coins every time you can and you'll be accustomed after a day or two.
    – drat
    Nov 1 '13 at 13:00
  • 2
    Don't ever mix Danish and Norwegian coins in your wallet.
    – gerrit
    Nov 1 '13 at 13:38
  • Are you looking for a 'trick or template' like yellow coins are worth more than white coins, which are worth more than orange coins? I don't think there's any... Nov 10 '15 at 4:15
  • A little trick that may help: before paying, pull out a small set of coins, whatever mix is suited to pay the small change bit. For example, in the Euro-Zone, that may mean having 1 5cent piece, 2 2-cent-pieces and one 1-cent-piece on hand -> A small enough group of coins to easily sort through. I never used that for travelling to help remember coins, but it certainly helps in getting all those small coins out of the way too!
    – Layna
    Apr 22 '16 at 8:54

I have this problem. I recently visited for the first time the Eurozone, then the UK. I find the coins in the UK to be especially annoying/confusing. But after a couple weeks of frustration, I just took a moment, when I was away from a cashier, not buying anything, and studied the various coins for about 5 minutes. Since then I'm able to pay without trouble.

So I think the key is simply to make a conscious effort, ideally when you aren't holding up a transaction.

There have also been times when I've just offered a pile of coins to a cashier and said "Would you do the honor?" They usually smile and oblige. I think most cashiers, especially in tourist places, are accustomed to foreigners who have not learned the local currency.


I would separate them by colour in my mind first, most countries use different metals for at least some denominations. Then secondly think of size. Try getting used to the largest denomination coin first and spending these as they will be heavier and you don't want to keep too many. In the 25c/10c range you will end up with more of these coins so remember these ones next.

  • I'd expect that spending high-denomination coins first would increase the weight you carry. As soon as you get more than two or three coins in change, those will usually be heavier than the coin you just spent. Jun 14 '19 at 13:04
  • You may end up with more weight but much less value. (And you can concentrate of the fewer different smaller coins next.)
    – Willeke
    Jun 14 '19 at 20:47

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