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I'm in a situation where I have around 20k CHF. I'm wondering whether to invest the money before returning to the UK, or just exchange it for GBP.

I have no immediate plans for the money and will probably not return to Switzerland for a long time or at all.

I am a novice at all things finance.

  • Don't take the risk of carrying it in cash - transfer it to your bank in the UK. It should be free and you get a better exchange ratio than for cash. – Aganju Jun 13 '17 at 16:42
  • if you're a completely newbie to this, be careful that of course you get a better rate exchanging it "in your bank" (electronically that is), than exchanging it as paper money at a change! THEN regarding exchanging it "in your bank" - be SURE to ask your Swiss friends the way to get the best rate for that (they will know as a certainty :) ) - it might be you use just your own bank, or, one of the many services. – Fattie Jun 13 '17 at 16:56
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    Money handling doesn't scale, what you would do with 100EUR is not what you should do with 100k. About 10,000-ish is the threshold of interest for financial crime. This is where customs officials get very curious and a bit grabby, and the "structuring" laws start kicking in. And that adds a lot of friction to movement of that money. As such I would not even think of handling that kind of currency, least of all across international borders. Do electronic transfer, that's what it's for. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 13 '17 at 17:28
  • GBP is cheap right now, in the aftermath of Brexit and the recent election. Now is probably a good time to do the exchange. Any future increases in the value of the pound will mean receiving fewer of them in exchange for your CHF. – CactusCake Jun 13 '17 at 17:43
  • @Aganju: While the UK is still in the EU, Switzerland isn't. I wouldn't count on it being free. You should get quotes, and importantly, get quotes both for sending CHF and sending GBP (the difference is which bank does the exchange, sender or receiver). 20K is probably not enough to benefit from a specialized third party money exchange, but if you've got time you might shop around a bit. – MSalters Jun 14 '17 at 23:14
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If you "have no immediate plans for the money and will probably not return to Switzerland for a long time or at all" then it might be best just to exchange the money so then you can use/invest it in the UK.

Maybe keep a bill or two for memory-sake - I do that whenever I travel to a foreign country.

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    also the current series of bills is being exchanged for a new one, he will not only keep memory, the value could incrase over time – Swizzler Jun 13 '17 at 17:13
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A general principle in finance is that you shouldn't stick with an investment or situation just because it's how you're currently invested. You can ask yourself the following question to help you think it through:

If, instead, I had enough GBP to buy 20000 CHF, would I think it was a good idea to do so?

(I'm guessing the answer is probably "no.")

This way of thinking assumes you can actually make the exchange without giving someone too big of a cut. With that much money on the line, be sure to shop around for a good exchange rate.

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This is in reply to the other two answers as they don't seem to cover the downside of switching currency. I would say the question is am I willing to lose say 3% of my money in order to have it in a new more convenient currency. The answer quite likely still is yes if you don't plan to use the old currency anymore. But if you might need to switch back again at some point and you are not in need of the money at the moment, then you should just look where the money will give you the greatest long term return. To me it does not seem obvious that a UK investment would return more than a Swiss Franc investment (but perhaps that might be true).

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