Cash or Travellers Checks

Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:26 AM
  #1  
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Cash or Travellers Checks

Our 16 year old son will be visiting a friend in the UK this weekend, for about 2 weeks. We want to give him some spending money, about $250, for gifts, sight-seeing etc. We trust him with cash, but would it be better for him to take half in travellers checks? Do shops, restaraunts etc. take travellers checks readily without fees?
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:30 AM
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P_M
 
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No, TC's are not readily accepted, especially if they are in US$. The best way to get cash is to use the ATM once he arrives. If it would make you feel any better, you could get him some pounds from a US bank before he leaves. Also if it would increase your comfort level, give him some US$ cash beforehand and he can exchange it over there for pounds. Personally, I always just wait and use the ATM when I arrive into the airport in London, but I understand your concern for a young man travelling alone and you want to cover all your bases.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:33 AM
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Does he have an ATM card? That is much better than TC.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:43 AM
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P. S. Please ignore the American Express commercials. They have done a very good job of marketing and have convinced the public that their TC's are accepted as cash worldwide. But we frequent travellers know it's simply not true. The ATM is the way to go these days. Also, call your bank and find out if they have any partner banks in Europe so you can withdraw from the ATM without fees.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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We would get him TC's in GBPounds, but I hear the fees are high for such a small amount. Our son doesn't have an ATM card, but if he did, does it matter if it's a Cirrus card?
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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He can use anyone's ATM card if he has the code and if you trust him - I'd just have the $250 in the checking acct the ATM is hooked to so no more could be taken out if he lost it. Cirrus or Plus work in zillions of ATMs in UK - by far best rate of exchange. Otherwise give him cash or TCs in $ and have him exchange them at the London airport on arrival - he'll easily find exchange booths right outside Customs exit at either Gatwick or Heathrow. Not sure how the AMEX gift cards work, think just like ATM so you could buy him a $250 gift card to use for purchases at thousands of stores, restaurants, etc. Need 4 digit PIN number to use ATMs in Europe. By the way $250 won't go very far in today's UK - everythings much more expensive than here - $10/day is a paltry sum there.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:56 AM
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It would be very wise to get him an ATM card. If you do, be sure he knows the numbers of the code and not just the letters. This is because most keypads there do not have letters. The first time my mother used her ATM card in the UK she only knew the code by letters, so we had a heck of a time figuring out which letters correspond with which numbers.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 10:07 AM
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I agree with getting him an ATM card tied to your checking account to use.

I do NOT agree with "limiting the amount of money" he can withdraw. Simply TELL HIM your expectations as to the amount you expect he will not exceed (who knows what might happen in an emergency and you aren't available for consultation). If you cannot trust him to do this then I hardly think you can trust him to go away in the first place.

Forget TCs, forget exchange kiosks run by banks or otherwise...in this age of electronic banking they are rapidly becoming more and more inconvenient. After all, when you need cash HERE do you go inside and deal with the teller or stay outside and deal with the machine?
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 10:18 AM
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I would get him some BP ahead of time, so that when he lands after an all-night flight in a strange place he will at least have enough for a cup of coffee and transportation into town without worrying about finding an ATM machine. Sure they're prevalent, but if he's never used one before the moment he lands in London isn't the best time to learn.
DEFINITELY get him an ATM card and have him use it at home before he leaves to make sure it's working properly (my daughter went to London two years ago with a brand new ATM card that didn't work for the first 4 days until we had gone back and forth with our bank here to sort it out).
If it makes you feel better, give him one or two traveler's checks as an absolutely emergency backup, but they really are dinosaurs these days. ANd I wouldn't have him walking around with a whole lot of U.S. dollars, either. The ATM card is the way to go.
I hope he can make it through 2 weeks in the UK on $250. With the current exchange rate, that won't go very far, so I'd be prepared to hear from him that he needs to withdraw a bit more than you've allotted.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 10:51 AM
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I don't know what kind of arrangement has been made with the hosts, but I think everyone is correct that $250 will not go far in 2 weeks. Even before the dollar sunk it would have been a challenge to spend 2 weeks in the UK on $250, even if all of his boarding and meals are free. Please re-consider and allow him more money as necessary.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 11:14 AM
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Agree that $250 is nowhere near enough spending money for two weeks. For $10 he can;t even get a McBurger and Coke - or into the movies - never mind what the tourist attractions will charge. (I knowm many of the museums are free - but entry to any of the major tourist attractions - Tower of London etc - will definitely be more than $10 - even for a student.)

Also, be sure he has his school ID with him so he can get student discounts for everything - this will help the money go a little bit further.

Agree that an ATM card is the way to go - especially if you're ending him with such a modest sum - he won;t want to be broke for most of the trip.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 11:19 AM
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$250 is not enough. It costs 7.50gbp just to get into Westminster Abbey. You can get travellers checques in pounds but I would advise cash or debit card.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 11:24 AM
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Just returned from UK, and many shops/restaurants have signs that say they DO NOT ACCEPT TRAVELER'S CHECKS. That is because the vendor has to pay a fee to get them redeemed, too. ATM card your best option, or one of the new, reloadable "temporary" debit cards would probably be best for a young person so he (or thieves) won't have access to your bank account.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 11:41 AM
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You could also buy a cash card from someplace like AAA. It works basically like a phone card: you put into it as much as you want, and your son can make withdrawals at many places.

No TC's in England!!! They are not easy to use.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 12:22 PM
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First choice, get him at ATM card hooked to a checking account (yours or his).

I would also get him some GBP from your bank at home (there will be a fee and a not so favorable rate of exchange) but he will be set upon arrival.

And a small amount of U.S. dollars (to either bring back home or exchange if needed at a bank).

No... shops and restaurants do not usually take TC's. You would most likely have to go to a bank to cash them (so there would be fees but it can be done, just don't expect you will spend them directly).

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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 12:46 PM
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absolutely an ATM card. If that doesn't work for you then one of the cash cards you can buy from AAA or AMEX (but they have pretty high fees - tho' less than travelers checks)

BUT if you do get him some travelers checks (as either a back up to the ATM or for the full amount) do not get £ TCs, just go to AAA or your bank/credit union and buy fee-free US$ TCs. Since he can't use TCs almost anywhere and has to go to a bank or post office to cash them anyway - don't spend the extra to get £ travelers checks in the States. Then if he doesn't use all of them you don't lose out double on the exchange rates and he can cash them for $ back home.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 12:57 PM
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My concern with getting him an ATM card that's linked to your primary checking account is what would happen if the card was lost or stolen? It would be better if you could get an ATM card from a separate account (either yours or his) with a limited amount of funds (but more than $250) and one which you aren't personally using everyday. It's not a matter of not trusting your son, but rather you don't want thieves to have direct access to your primary account.

If that's not possible, then I would suggest looking into the prepaid travel cards like the one Amex issues. They're more expensive though because there are fees involved for issuing the card and for withdrawals.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 01:07 PM
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You better take a reality check on the cost of food in Europe. To buy one pound will cost at least $1.95 and a pizza is about £4 - 6 depending on where you are.

$250 is chicken feed. If you don't want to trust him with an ATM card, what do you propose he do in case of an emergency? Like going to the hospital with food poisoning or appendicitis? Not likely, but it happens.

Shops do not want traveler's checks.
They don't even take them readily with fees!!
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 09:58 PM
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Thanks for all the great advice, I picked a wonderful forum to ask my question. I opened a SEPARATE checking account at Bank of America, who has an alliance with Barclays, so there will be no transaction fees, plenty of ATMs, and hopefully the best rate of exchange. My son's living expenses will be ZERO while staying with friends, so this is just FUN money. We can always add money to the account from home if needed. We do our banking at a local credit union who's ATM alliances are strictly parochial - and we haven't even used an ATM for over 15 years. We pay cash for purchases, and pay bills online, so this will be a FAMILY learning experience. Thanks again for the helpful advice! Happy trails.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 09:04 AM
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Another option is to get him a pre-paid credit card - you put in the amount of money beforehand, it works like a regular credit card, but it's not tied to your bank account. My bank advertises them and they seem like a great idea. It true that travelers checks are not very economical but if you must use them, get them in British pounds here in the U.S. - it will eiminate one of the levels of fees & hassles. Best way to use them is to pay hotel bills or at large department stores. Also getting a few pounds in cash ahead of time will be a big help for that first day in Britain.
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