Travellers' Checks v. credit card

Old Oct 16th, 2002, 06:12 PM
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Travellers' Checks v. credit card

going to hong kong in a month. planning on using Master Card. is that widely accepted, or should i invest in travellers' checks?
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 10:05 AM
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Credit Card is widely accepted in Hong Kong, especially VISA and MASTER card. However, you have to spare some cash( you can exchange your own currency to Hong Kong dollars very easily) for your daily expense, such as food, travelling etc. Travellers' Cheque is not needed. ATM machines is very common in Hong Kong, you can draw cash thro' your credit card if needed. Banks are open 9 to 5 on weekdays and 9 to 1 on Saturday but close on Sunday.
Old Oct 20th, 2002, 05:17 PM
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I took travelers check to China and Hong Kong, to avoid the new surcharge that the credit card companies are adding on for out of US charges. If you take travelers checks, be sure that your purchasing signature can be matched EXACTLY when signing the second time. I had to sign one check eight times before they would cash it. A couple of places even used magnafying glasses on the signatures. I had two picture IDs and a passport, but the two signatures had to match exactly or they wouldn't cash it. Most times I had to sign three times.
Old Oct 20th, 2002, 07:34 PM
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Although credit cards are readily accepted in Hong Kong, keep in mind that some merchants will add a 5% surcharge unless you are paying cash. Larger stores may waive this fee if you express hesitancy to make the purchase or if you are a repeat customer (this is more the case than the exception these days with the slow economy).

Not all ATM or credit cards from overseas seem to work properly. At least I have never had much luck. Always keep some spare HK$ for transportation and minor needs. Most hotels take Amex, Mastercard and Visa, and some will cash travellers' checks. The best rates for exchanging foreign currency or checks, however, come from banks like the Hang Seng or HSBC. Streetside money exchange marts charge an exorbitant rate for a credit card cash advance - a whopping 10% - so this is not recommended except in an absolute emergency (plus you get hit with another few % on your credit card statement).

When cashing travellers' checks at a bank, there is a HK $60 fee (probably much higher now since I haven't done this for quite a few years) each time no matter how small the amount.

Lastly, count all your cash before leaving a bank. Do so in front of the teller even if you make others wait. There are an unscrupulous few who take advantage of unsuspecting tourists in a hurry.
Old Oct 20th, 2002, 08:52 PM
Peter N-H
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I'd like just to quibble slightly with some of Bart's second paragraph above. In my experience (and I have an account there) the HSBC charges an absolutely whopping fee for exchange, and there are street money changers who offer both better exchange rates and zero commission. I've even had HSBC staff privately recommend me to go elsewhere to exchange money. The best rate for using a credit card may well come from them, however.

The money changers to avoid are Thomas Cook at the airport (dreadful rates--but then there are few countries in the world where exchanging at the airport is a good idea) and those right on the main streets in tourist areas such as Kowloon's 'Golden Mile'. These take foreigners for a ride as often as they can. If you must go to these places, then at least shop around and ask a simple question which avoids any ambiguity about posted exchange rates, commissions, etc. "If I give you one hundred dollars (pounds, francs, or whatever you are working with), exactly how much with you give me." Make it clear whether you are exchanging cash or a cheque, and if you are exhanging a larger sum, bargain for a better rate.

The exchange shops in and around Nathan Road, and at the front entrance to Chungking Mansions all offer terrible deals. But try walking north of the Holiday Inn and turning right, for instance, and matters begin to improve. Take a few more turns and pick money changers in small arcades off these small streets and things get better still. Posted rates are what you get, and there's no commission. The shops are close enough together that you can check two or three and pick the best rate.

And I'd like to endorse Mike's comment above about taking cheques to China. I haven't done this for some time, but I hear an increasing number of stories from travellers along the lines of Mike's, and a couple of times I've been roped in to provide translation, but never with a happy resolution. Those who are sufficiently cautious should simply take cash instead.

Peter N-H
Old Oct 21st, 2002, 07:51 PM
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Iris, do you wear a moneybelt? If so, don't bother with traveler's checks. I've only found them to be a hassle in many places. Just like Mike pointed out above-some places won't cash them!!!!!! I had the same experience years ago in Italy.

Take your ATM card, Hong Kong is loaded with banks-you will get the best exchange rate with that. The rest of China is more difficult though to find an ATM that works. If you need cash, exchange it. You will get a similiar rate as a traveler's check.

Unless you buy something wildly expensive, use cash to avoid the surcharge. Or get a card thru MBNA in the states, I believe they still don't charge a fee(at least I didn't see one on our statement).

Old Oct 21st, 2002, 08:40 PM
hk girl
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I understand from your post that you're only going to HK - so don't worry about precautions that should be taken while only in China.

Agree with Andreas. And actually, all ATM machines are accessible 24-hour - you just have to slide your credit/ATM card through to gain access into the ATM room after hours.

About foreign credit cards - I used to live in the US for 10 years and had been using my US-issued VISA and MC with no problems.

I have moved back to HK for quite a while now, and have actually never come across the 5% surcharge problem. And I believe this is illegal? Do keep in mind that some merchants do not take credit cards for purchases under HK$200 though. And of course, there are always those small shops / eateries and taxi rides that would require some cash.
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