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If I have ATM & credit cards & US dollars, do I need to purchase traveler checks before I travel?

If I have ATM & credit cards & US dollars, do I need to purchase traveler checks before I travel?

Old May 8th, 2002, 07:44 AM
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If I have ATM & credit cards & US dollars, do I need to purchase traveler checks before I travel?

We are traveling to Italy later this month. I have read numerous threads about the advantages of debit cards, credit cards, ATMs, etc., all that can be used to make purchases and/or obtain Euros at ATMs. Is it necessary to purchase any traveler checks before leaving home and paying a 1-2% sales commssion just to exchange them for Euros immediately upon arrival at the airport in Italy? Why not take US dollars and ATM cards to purchase Euros? Comments please about the need for travel checks, thanks.
Old May 8th, 2002, 07:57 AM
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i would suggest that you take a small amt in travelers checks in case you hit the rare ATM machine that doesnt function properly-actually , i believe the availability of ATM machines is putting the tarveler check companies out of business or at least really hurting them . in conclusion , Atm card and credit cards will serve you better than travelers checks
Old May 8th, 2002, 08:19 AM
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There are ATMs everywhere in Italy, even in the smallest villages. The rates that you get are better that on credit cards. Get 100 euros at the airport in the U.S. before leaving. The exchange rates are better than in Europe. That should be enough to get you to the nearest ATM over there.
Old May 8th, 2002, 08:24 AM
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Recently lived in London for a year and did alot of traveling to the main land. I never brought any local currency with me. I found that all the airports had ATM machines and we would withdraw the local currency on arrival.
Old May 8th, 2002, 08:25 AM
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Don't take travellers' cheques for any reason other than safety-backup, in case the ATM or credit cards are stolen or eaten by the machines or some such.

We found very few European merchants willing to take them (fear of counterfeiting, I'm told -- couldn't use them for train tickets, etc. either), and it was clear that we'd have to go to American Express to negotiate them. I didn't even have any confidence a bank would take them.
Old May 8th, 2002, 08:29 AM
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If you do decide to take some traveler's checks as a backup, take them in US dollars, since you probably won't use them and will just redeposit them when you get home, so you don't pay the currency-conversion fees (or rate manipulations on "free" ones) twice.
Old May 8th, 2002, 08:36 AM
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Forget about Traveller's Cheques: not only are ATM's everywhere but the TC's are a real pain to cash...

We spent more time hanging around outside Italian banks on a recent trip waiting for the other couple we were travelling with.They had brought ONLY TC's to cash.

I thought my husband was going to blow his top or get arrested for bank robbery as we loitered outside yet another Banca de Napoli.

Italian banks have odd hours, surly, suspicious staff and take FOREVER to cash a TC...complete waste of time versus our quick hitting up of the ATM every few days and in every sleepy village.
Old May 8th, 2002, 09:24 AM
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If you have $US, no need for traveler's checks - xching $ and TC's are done at the same places. TCs often carry a surcharge for exchanging ($1 per check, 5% on total, some such nonsense) unless you exchange them at the company who issued them (like Amex at Amex).

Personally, I've run into situations where either my bank was off line (batching's done around midnight your bank's time, so that can be early a.m. in Europe, just about the time you're trying to use the ATM) or the card service (Visa, Mastercharge) was having problems. Consequently, I have two different banks, and two different credit card companies (one Visa, one MC) so SOMETHING will work.

Haven't taken TCs or $US to Europe in 10 years. What I *DO* take is about $US150 equivalent in the currency of choice (yippee! now it's EUROS!) so I don't have to deal with money-getting at the airport (after 10+ hours on an airplane, I'm not to be trusted with math).
Old May 8th, 2002, 09:36 AM
Bob Brown
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Hi Harry. The strategy I have followed so far quite successfully is to rely on my ATM card for currency, use my credit card where I can, and keep a few US dollar traveler's checks as a last resort backup.
One word of caution, however. Check with your credit card issuer and see if the institution hits you with an extra 2% conversion fee. Some of the larger banks, like Bank of America, now add on that pure profit surcharge. I switched to a card from AAA that is issued by
MBNA because I was told it does not add on the 2%. Visa or Master Card has added 1% for years onto the wholesale bank exchange rate. Hence I thought the extra 2% was simply a profit grabbing policy that I do not support on principal.

The only two times I have cashed a traveler's check caught me a little by surprise. Once in the airport in Zürich the ATM near the train platforms was down, my train was leaving in a few minutes, and I wanted to make a purchase at a store that did not accept credit cards. The bank window was open, so a traveler's check to the rescue. Once, in 1998, I was in Switzerland well up in the hills. I needed some Swiss currency, but the ATM at the little branch bank only took Master Card denominated debit cards.
Again, a traveler's check bailed me out.
Usually my standard ATM card works, but once or twice my debit card was the only plastic that would get results.

Old May 8th, 2002, 06:07 PM
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>>>Usually my standard ATM card works, but once or twice my debit card was the only plastic that would get results.

Hi Bob,

I'm a bit confused. I thought an ATM card WAS a debit card!

To the original poster: The first and last time I took traveler's checks I discovered that they are a much larger pain than they're worth. I do carry a spare credit card and debit card just in case but have never had to use them. Most places refuse traveler's checks so you have to go to a bank. Long queues and only bank hours. Oh, and high commission fees. I'll never take traveler's checks again to Europe!

Old May 8th, 2002, 06:17 PM
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Haven't taken TCs in more than 10 years. I use my ATM debit card, bring a couple hundred dollars worth of euros with me, and have a couple hundred dollars in American currency as well for a complete emergency. Even my own bank in France charges me a commission to cash traveler's checks, so I gave up on that years ago - other banks would probably have charged me even more. Some will say they are good for a backup, but in the past 10 years I have never been in a situation where I said to myself "Darn! If only I'd had traveler's checks." And way back when, when I used to take them, I'd invariably come home with them unused because no one would take them, even if they were in the local currency, without charging a fee, and most times they wouldn't take them at all. As far as I'm concerned, they are a thing of the past or a currency of absolutely last resort, when you've exhausted every other option. I figure it's easier to call home, ask for more money to be deposited to my checking account if I'm in some terrible bind, and continue to use the debit card.
Old May 8th, 2002, 07:09 PM
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I don't take any traveler's checks and probably never will again. I rely totally on ATM's and credit cards and have never had a problem.
But if I were taking traveler's checks for some strange reason, I would not follow the advice of some and take them in US dollars. I would get about $100 worth in Euro for emergencies. The idea of not being able to use them when you come home just doesn't make sense to me. If you have them left at the last hotel you stay at, just put the entire lot against your bill (at full face value) and pay the balance on your credit card. Why would anyone return home with unspent traveler's checks when you can apply them to the hotel. In the event I needed any for an "emergency" in Europe, I'd much rather have them in Euro than in dollars, so they'd be more readily accepted and not at some horrible inflated exchange rate.
Old May 8th, 2002, 09:29 PM
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Harry first of all I wish you a safe and wonderful trip to Italy. I think Bob has an excellent strategy. Let me tell you a story that happened to me when I was in Florianopolis, Brazil. Well the first thing I learned is that your ATM card or Check Debit Card (the kind that is combo as an ATM/ Visa or MC) may not work in the country in which you are visiting. I had the misfortune as to being almost to the South Pole (okay an exaggeration here) and both my cards were having problems. I called my bank and even though I had called before my trip to alert them of my travel plans(always a great idea) they put a fraud alert on my account. On top of that my ATM card was not working at the Brazilian banks. Long story short I had brought Travelers Checks as a backup just in case and boy was I EVER glad that I had them. In the end it only took a day to get things straightened out and everything went fine. Do not put your faith in all things plastic! I know that my case is sort of extreme but it is better safe than sorry. For me the cost of the travelers checks was more than worth it. It got me out of a huge jam.
Old May 8th, 2002, 11:33 PM
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Old May 9th, 2002, 04:18 AM
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Elizabeth, he ain't going to Brazil!!!
Harry, save your time and money.
Old May 9th, 2002, 04:43 AM
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I think your US$ would be enough of a backup if ATM's don't work with your card. On top of that, you still have your credit card, so there's always the option of a cash advance from the machine.

We had very little problems in south italy with our cirrus-maestro card ... in Capri to be exact. The ATM either couldn't connect to my bank or there was something wrong with it... but it wasn't the card.. cause I could take money in once I got to Sorrento. But cash-advance on VISA worked.

I don't think you need TCs. I've never had them, even when going to turkey. ATMs there frequently run out of money.
Old May 9th, 2002, 05:12 AM
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What is the ATM card to bring to the C. Rep., Amsterdam,Prague and Paris. Mine has a $5.00 fee everytime u use it. If that common.
Old May 9th, 2002, 05:17 AM
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Yikes, no $5 is NOT a common fee for using overseas ATMs, though you're not the first to mention it. That fee is charged by your US bank, so it doesn't matter which country you're using it in. My bank didn't charge anything -- so ask around and find a bank that isn't taking advantage of you.
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