I know, I know, you’re probably more concerned with how to say ‘money’ or ‘moolah’ in Spanish than you are with the word for those pesky copper (or zinc?) coins that make your wallet / purse bulge in such annoying fashion!
But set foot in a Spanish speaking country and you’ll quickly realize that ‘change’ is probably one of THE most useful words when it comes to any sort of transaction, especially if you’re planning on chowing down on some tasty street food or snapping up artisan goods at the local market.
In this article we’re going to look at absolutely everything related to ‘change’ (of the round, copper variety). We’ll have a look at all the different ways to say ‘change’ in Spanish AND learn some change-centric phrases!
You’re sure to thank the heavens for this article the next time someone gives you the wrong amount of change in a Spanish speaking country!
Let’s get into it!
How to say ‘change’ in Spanish
This one’s the self-proclaimed king of the “change list”. ‘Cambio’ is the Spanish equivalent of the English word ‘change’ and it’s equally as useful!
The beauty of ‘cambio’ is that it can be used to refer both to the ‘change’ in your pocket AND the money returned to you when you make a purchase in a store.
Let’s look at an example of ‘cambio’ being used to refer to money given back in a store –
Cliente – ¿Cuánto te debo?
Vendedor – Cuatrocientos cincuenta pesos, por favor.
El cliente le da un billete de quinientos
Vendedor – Recibo quinientos. Ahorita te doy tu cambio.
El vendedor le da cincuenta pesos al cliente
Cliente – Gracias, buen día.
Vendedor – Igualmente.
Customer – How much do I owe you?
Seller – Four hundred and fifty pesos, please.
The customer hands the seller a five-hundred peso bill
Seller – Ok, five-hundred pesos. Change coming right up!
The seller hands fifty pesos to the customer
Customer – Thanks, have a nice day.
Seller – You too.
‘Cambio’ can also be used to refer to small coins –
Gus – ¿Traes cambio? ¡Nada más traigo un billete de quinientos!
Erika – A ver, ¡déjame checar!
Gus – Do you have any change (referring to coins / smaller denomination bills)? I’ve only got a 500 peso bill!
Erika – Let me check!
Erika’s top tip – in Spanish ‘traer cambio’ (literally ‘to bring change’) is the equivalent of ‘to have change’. If you’re in a pickle and can´t remember what verb to use, the literal translation ‘tener cambio’ is also acceptable.
‘Vuelto’ refers specifically to money returned when making a purchase at stores and the like. It’s NOT used to refer to those little coins chinking away in your pocket.
This one’s not as common as ‘cambio’ (I told you that it was the self-proclaimed king of the list), but it’s always nice to mix things up a bit!
Let’s dive into some examples –
Aquí tú vuelto.
Here’s your change
¡Espera!, todavía no te doy el vuelto.
Wait, I haven’t given you your change yet!
Treinta y siete pesos de vuelto.
Thirty-seven pesos change.
In contrast to ‘vuelto’, ‘moneda’ (and its plural form ‘monedas’) is only used to refer to “pocket change”.
It literally translates to ‘coin’ (‘moneda’) or ‘coins’ (‘monedas’) but can also be used as a synonym of ‘small change’.
Let’s have a look at ‘monedas’ in action –
¡No tengo nada de monedas!
I don´t have any (small) change!
Do you have any change?
And a few examples in which ‘monedas’ means ‘coins’ –
¿Cuántas monedas traes?
How many coins have you got on you?
Una disculpa, ¡no acepto monedas!
I’m really sorry, but I don’t take coins!
This one’s colloquial Mexican Spanish and you’re sure to hear it everywhere (from taco stand to tianguis*) when in one of Mexico´s thriving metropolises.
It’s basically a synonym of ‘small change’ and, being colloquial Spanish, should only be used in informal conversations (with your pals, etc.).
If you spend any significant amount of time in one of Mexico´s bustling street markets and you ever have to pay for low-cost products with high denomination bills, you’re sure to hear an “Oye (insert Mexican name here), ¿no tienes feria?” as the seller in question desperately tries to change the five-hundred peso bill you handed over to pay for a bag of tomatoes that cost a mere twenty-five pesos!
It’s important to bear in mind that ‘feria’ also translates to ‘fair’ (or ‘funfair’) in English, so don’t get confused next time someone says, “Vamos a la feria“!
Here are some more examples –
Vamos a necesitar más feria si vamos al tianguis…¡Traes puros billetes de quinientos!
We’re going to need more change if we go to the street market … You’ve only got 500 peso bills!
¿Me prestas algo de feria? Voy a la tienda.
Could you lend me some change? I’m going to the shop.
Voy a necesitar mucha feria para dar cambio.
I’m going to need lots of coins (and small denomination notes) in order to give change!
¡Ojo! (Watch out!): ‘feria’ can also be a synonym of ‘money’, depending on the context –
Voy a ganar una buena feria este fin de semana.
I´m going to earn a lot of money this weekend.
Erika’s note – a ‘tianguis’ is basically a temporary street market; they sell anything from clothes to antiques (some of them even have a little bit of everything!).
‘Moralla’ is another way of saying ‘small change’ in Mexico. It’s very specific in its meaning and can only be used to refer to coins (NOT small denomination notes).
You’re sure to get a nod of approvement if you whip this one out in the right context! I remember the owner of my favorite taco stand being really quite taken aback when I told him that I only had ‘moralla’ a few years back!
Hombre contando su morralla en el mostrador
Hombre – Una disculpa, traigo pura morralla.
Man counting his change on the shop counter
Man – I’m so sorry, I’ve only got small change.
¿Traes algo de moralla?
Have you got any small change?
How to ask for change in Spanish
Now you know all the words for ‘change’, you need to get acquainted with the various ways to actually ask for it (should the shopkeeper happen to forget, god forbid!).
Here are four of our favorites –
Mi cambio, por favor
Although it may sound somewhat curt in English, ‘Mi cambio, por favor’ (‘My change, please’ in English) is a great way to remind someone that they’ve yet to give you your change!
If you do actually want to sound more menacing, put on your best angry voice and you’ll be good to go!
Me puedes dar mi cambio / vuelto, por favor
This one’s a more formal alternative to ‘Mi cambio, por favor’ and it literally translates to ‘Could you give me my change, please’.
Juan está en un restaurant y el mesero se esta tardando en traerle su cambio
Juan – ¿Me puedes dar mi cambio?, por favor.
Mesero – Si, señor, en seguido te lo traigo.
Juan is in a restaurant and the waiter is taking a while to bring him his change
John – Could you possibly bring me my change, please?
Waiter – Of course, Sir, I’ll be right back.
Te encargo mi cambio
This little gem of a phrase is best used at a taco stand or busy street stall when the person attending you is particularly busy or has been distracted by another customer´s question!
It literally translates to “I put you in charge of giving me my change”. We´d obviously never say this in English but trust me when I say that it’s a nifty little phrase in Spanish!
Un hombre en un puesto de tacos ya lleva 5 minutos esperando su cambio
Hombre – Te encargo mi cambio, por favor.
A man at a taco stand has been waiting 5 minutes for his change
Man – Can I have my change, please.
Se te olvidó mi cambio
If you want to tell someone that they forgot your change, you can give ‘se te olvidó mi cambio‘ a whirl. It translates to ‘you forgot my change’ and does exactly what it says on the tin!
If you want to be a little less direct, you could also preface ‘se te olvidó mi cambio´ with a ‘Creo que …’. As in English, ‘I think that …’ sounds less direct and softens the impact slightly (if that’s your intention, of course!).
‘Keep the change‘ in Spanish
I´ve actually addressed this at length in my article on all the different ways to say ‘keep the change‘ in Spanish. Definitely give it a try if you’re of the tip leaving kind (being honest, the tight-fisted amongst you will probably find it useful too)!
Anyway, ‘keep the change’ translates to ‘Quédese el cambio’ or ‘Quédaselo’ (which literally means ‘keep it’)
Remember to check out the above-mentioned article for a couple of pretty slick (if you ask me at least!) alternatives.
‘Here’s your change‘ in Spanish
If you ever find your way into the seller’s shoes (or if you just want to be able to fully understand the store clerk!), here are 5 quick and easy ways to say ‘here’s your change’ in Spanish –
Aquí está tu cambio
This one´s the literal translation of ‘Here’s your change’ and you’re sure to hear it all the time in shops both big and small!
‘Tu cambio’ is also commonly heard when being handed change. It literally translates to ‘Your change’.
This one’s also used to remind someone that they’re owed change. If you ever leave a store without change in hand, the shop assistant is likely to shout an ‘Espera, tu cambio’ in your general direction.
‘Tu vuelto’ means the exact same thing as the above mentioned ´tu cambio´, but obviously the word ‘vuelto‘ is used instead.
It’s not quite as common as ´tu cambio´ (at least not here in Mexico).
Le doy su cambio
This is a common variation of ‘Aquí está tu cambio’ and literally translates to ‘I give you your change’.
You may also hear the less formal ‘Te doy tu cambio’, depending on the situation.
Lo que te sobra / Esto te sobró / Te sobró cambio
The verb ‘sobrar’ means ‘to be left over’ (there is no English equivalent), so the above phrases all refer to that which is left over (i.e., your change!).
‘Te sobró cambio´ (i.e., ‘You have change left over’) is often used in situations in which neither party was expecting to have to deal with change.
Maybe you thought you had just the right amount of money at the ready (but in fact miscounted), in this instance the store clerk might say ‘te sobró cambio’.
Vendedor – Va a ser ciento cuarenta y ocho pesos.
Ana procede a contar su cambio
Ana – Aquí tienes, ciento cuarenta y ocho pesos.
Vendedor – Gracias.
El vendedor cuenta el cambio y se da cuenta de que Ana no lo había contado bien
Vendedor – Son ciento cincuenta. ¡Te sobró cambio!
Seller – One hundred and forty-eight pesos, please.
Anna proceeds to count her change
Ana – Here you go, one hundred and forty-eight pesos.
Seller – Thanks.
The seller counts the change and realizes that Anna handed him the wrong amount
Seller – You gave me one hundred and fifty. I owe you change!
And that’s all for today! Hopefully I´ve answered all your ‘change’ related queries / questions and then some (that was the plan, anyway!).
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite change-related sayings –
“Look after the pounds (dollars to my friends across the pond) and the pennies (or cents) will look after themselves“, which actually translates to “muchos pocos hacen un montón” in Spanish, but I think you get the point!
Oh, and if you wanna learn more “money” related phrases, be sure to head on over to our article on all the different ways to ask how much something costs in Spanish!