A Travelers Check Misery Story

Apr 4th, 2008, 10:59 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,597
travelgirl, we arrive in NYC for a two night stay before flying to Europe for several months, and at the Miami airport on the way to NYC, my partner realized he was missing his ATM card. We realized we must have left it in the machine at our own bank the night before when we went to get cash (the old machines didn't even beep when your card came out at the end). We called the bank when it opened and they sent us a new card to our NYC hotel overnight at no charge. They said if we had already been in Europe, they would have sent us one, but it would have taken two days! That was nice to know. (Bank of America)
NeoPatrick is offline  
Apr 4th, 2008, 11:21 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,766
My experience is that no human bank employee is guaranteed accurate when it comes to rules and fees for foreign card usage. I always request the terms in writing. Same for CC coverage of auto rental CDW. This care is also needed to find out the conversion terms (usually interbank rate plus 1%), fees (0%-3% and $0-$5). The "No Fee" at Amex buys you a pooreer conversion rate, so the fee is built in.

With many banks offering no fee checking, having one or two free accounts with a useful but limited balance allows not only for alternatives to rejected cards, but also protection from major cash drainage if a fraudster gets a card.
AJPeabody is offline  
Apr 4th, 2008, 06:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,873
I had gotten travelers checks in British pounds when I went there in 1999. I had 50 pounds left - just what I needed to pay my last hotel bill. The hotel would not accept it and the bank down the street wanted 5 pounds to cash it !

The next year I also carried a few TCs in pounds and just cashed them at AMEX offices where there was no problem. ( I knew there were offices where we would be). For the last week of the trip, we just used my friend's ATM card, had no problem, and I would never do it any other way now.

bigtyke is offline  
Apr 4th, 2008, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,873
In the late 80's, my wife and I went to Germany. We made all the reservations by mail and sent checks (in marks) to the hotels to reserve the first night.

It was a real pain in the butt getting the checks in the foreign currency. The local branch bank didn't know how to do it and so it took several calls to the main office to get them.

I ended up doing this about three times because of the lengthy process of getting reservations. The first time, the banker goofed and didn't charge me the fee. The next two times I paid the very large fee (percentage wise).

To add insult to injury, one of the hotels did not cash my check drawn on the German bank since it wasn't their bank and they would have been charged a big fee. I paid in cash and took the check back to the US where I paid another conversion fee when I cashed it in Arizona.
bigtyke is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 12:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,998
Money systems change. Consider ZIMBABWE, how would you operate there? Both banks and separate businesses operate ATM machines. They are for profit endeavors. Travellers Checks are a wonderful money. If they are stolen or lost they can be replaced! USA or any local currency is a reasonable backup money to carry. Any conversion function requires labor or machine time...it has to be paid for. Educating consumers is difficult if not impossible. Caveat Emptor!
GSteed is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 04:25 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,264
The first time I went to Europe My family and friends gave me AM EX travelers checks as gifts. And when I think back at what a pain in the ass those things were I cringe.

I was ripped off at every turn with those things. For one thing no one wanted to except them (exp. in Paris) and then when I would try and cash them I would be charged a service fee on top of the exchange rate and I'd end up losing up to 14.00 dollars on a 50.00 TC. I was so pissed. I ended up keeping them and cashing them in at home. I found a AM EX office in Madrid and taking a cash advance on my Am EX card. You may ask why didn't I just cash them in there in Madrid, I just didn't want to deal with them anymore. And when I took them to AAA to cash them in at home, they acted like they were doing me a favor.

I only deal with cash.
Mamaw is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 09:36 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,597
Speaking of TC's, there's still one bit of advice I offer which not everyone will agree with. If you INSIST of having TC's for Europe, I strongly suggest buying them at home in pounds or euros. Why? Because you know the rate of exchange you'll get at home (and somewhere like AAA or your bank may not be a horrible exchange rate). But then in Europe you WILL get full face value for them. Despite the difficulties of trying to find places that will accept TC's, most hotels will accept them at full face value in THEIR currency. I'd personally much rather pay a couple percent up front at home, and then get full value for them in Europe, rather than be at the mercy of a store, bank, or hotel agreeing to take them but adding 10% or so in exchange rate.

And as to the idea of just taking them for emergency but bringing them back home and keeping them for the next trip. Why? I'd rather knock a couple hundred dollars off my current trip by using them, than putting them in a drawer where they are worth nothing. Nearly any hotel in Europe will take TCs in their currency toward payment. So take some if you wish for emergency, but in their currency -- and then dump them on your final hotel bill before you come home.

By the way, I've sent TC's in euros several times to individuals as apartment payments. They have all agreed as there is NO charge to them when they deposit them in their bank accounts at face value.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 10:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,515
I'm one of those who does not agree with the above advice at all. I take Cs for emergency, not to pay regular hotel bills. I use a credit card for that. Whenever I do cash them (and I know where to in Paris for a good rate), I do it at an exchange bureau, AMex, places like that. I have never gotten as bad a rate as what AAA charges in the US. However, most people may not need to use them at all, in which case you can just deposit them at home in your bank account if they are in USD. Besides, some places in Europe still charge you a fee to cash them even if they are in euro as they are a check, not cash, and those are the types of places you might run across if you did use them as an emergency (not your hotel).

No bank in the US that I have ever had experience with cares if you deposit TCs in USD, they don't charge anything. If they are in USD, they are actually very easy to use in the US with no fee -- at grocery stores, etc.

Anyway, those are the reasons I personally never get them in euro, only in my native currency. I have never regretted that.
Christina is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 11:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 56
Travelgirl2, How did you choose your forum name? Do you carry a moneybelt? I'd guess not because if you did, you'd notice your lack of an ATM card in your moneybelt, next to your passport, CC, plane or e-ticket, emergency US dollars, extra ATM card etc. Maybe a travel checklist would work for you.
agilepagile is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 12:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,597
Christina, it's very nice that if you need to "cash a TC for emergency" that you will always find one of those convenient places open to cash them. You must have a lot more control over your emergencies than I do mine. I'll still maintain that nearly any decent hotel in Europe WILL in an emergency cash a TC for you -- and if it is in their currency you will get a whole lot more for it than if it is in dollars.

To me an "emergency" means that if the place you find that will take it at 11 PM on Saturday night says they'll give you an exchange rate of 12 or 15% loss since they are exchanging currency -- I'd rather be assured of getting face value because it's already in their currency. And whether you want to believe it or not -- if your credit cards all fail at nearly any restaurant and you offer them a TC in their currency, they will pretty much take it. If it says 100 euro on it, they will pretty much give you 100 euro for it. But if it says $100 dollars, if they only want to give you $50 credit, what else can you do? That is the kind of real "emergency" I'm talking about.

The worst situation I ever saw with having US TC's was when I went to cash one at an American Express office in Geneva. They were going to charge nearly 15% currency exchange for THEIR OWN TC to change it into local currency. If it had been in Swiss Francs or even in euros they would have cashed at no charge at face value! At least that's what they said! They would cash a 100 Swiss franc or 100 euro AMerican Express TC at full value. Meanwhile they were making a big deal about NOT charging me any fee because it was in dollars, but I'm enough of a math whizz to figure out what it was really costing by the rate they were giving me. And the real clincher was if I wanted to cash the $100 US TC for $100 US (which is exactly what I was trying to do), they charged nearly 30% and would give me only about $70, because they were exchanging the dollars to francs to cash it, and then changing the francs in cash to dollars in cash. Outrageous.

Of course, you may continue to disagree with me, but the bottom line is ANY KIND of TC's you use in Europe is going to cost you money. I'd just rather have the charges up front at home where I know what's happening and have an easy choice to go somewhere else if I don't like their rate of sale, than taking the risk of being at somebody's mercy when an "emergency" happens in Europe. Then you may not have any choice but to take what they offer you.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 10:39 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4,255
agilepagile - I chose my screen name through lack of imagination. Travelgirl was taken, so I became travelgirl2. How about you? Yours is much more interesting.

I travel light. No money belt. Two credit cards, an atm card, maybe $50 US and usually try to save some currency at the end of the trip to bring on the next one, about 100GBP in this case. Would never bring an extra atm card. I do have a good system on where to put my wallet and things in a small bag I use to travel, but this time while still at home I must have taken my atm out of my wallet and put it back in my coat pocket without realizing it.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2008, 05:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,338
NP: "most hotels will accept them at full face value in THEIR currency" That was true in the "old days" - but from my experience and from talking to folks at my travel programs, apparently is no longer the case. Many hotels will not take TCs in ANY currency. Same w/ most restaurants. And even many banks will not exchange TCs anymore.

That is why I advise folks 1) not to use TCs , but 2) if they just must, to take them in their home currency. They will be free and if not needed they can be used at home, or deposited back into their bank account. But just taking a couple of $100 bills or a few $20's will serve the same purpose - though slightly more expensive to exchange.
janisj is online now  

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