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Question about American Express travelers checks

Question about American Express travelers checks

Jun 13th, 2007, 09:15 PM
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Question about American Express travelers checks

I'll be traveling with four friends next year to London (we're school friends all turning 60 and this is our big celebration). They have done only a little traveling abroad; for one, it is her first time out of the U.S.

The question of money exchange came up. I travel a lot and I use my ATM card exclusively (a few travelers checks go with me for emergencies, but I've never needed them). Some of the ladies do not have ATM cards. One of the them wants to use travelers checks. I can tell you that we've had a lot of emails flying back and forth, but I have not been persuasive on the ATM option. I even sent them the link to Rick Steves' website where he explains the pros and cons of each method. My question is, if she is able to get American Express travelers checks at no charge, does anyone know how hefty a fee American Express would charge for exchanging the checks in London? Do they give a fair currency exchange rate? What about travelers checks that are not with American Express?

luvtotravel is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 09:27 PM
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Travelers checks are a bad choice even when they are "fee-free". However - I know from personal experience that if someone is dead set on using TCs it is probably best to just leave it. You can talk until you are blue in the face, she might not be convinced no matter that you are right.

The first time she gets left behind to find a place that will cash her checks she will understand.

Try to convince her - but in the end it is her choice.

But, for arguments - here goes: If she uses TC in US$ she will get them for free, but get a really bad exchange rate in London. And if she gets £ TCs she will pay an even worse exchange to buy them. Plus she will have to cash them during Amex office hours since almost no merchants take them and even many banks refuse them.
janisj is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 09:46 PM
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Wow. I am amazed. Only sixty and won't have a debit card. My MIL is eighty-four and can beat me at hand/eye coordination computer/video games. I'm only fifty, but my brother is fifty-eight and still actively coding programs for financial transactions with me, learning new software applications every week. We all have our different backgrounds, I guess.
icithecat is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 10:36 PM
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Tell her that in the UK she'll have to cash them during banking hours - typically 9:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Friday.

Outside of those hours, at weekends and on public holidays it's virtually impossible to exchange them.

Of course if she wants to spend a large portion of her time standing in a queue then that's her right.
alanRow is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 10:49 PM
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I am also strongly against the use of TCs in this modern age. I think you'll find her obstinance will be a hindrance to the group's travels. If she is unwilling to heed you're much travelled, worldly advice she is going to be baggage! Don't wait for her while she spends half the day trying to cash them. Meet her later after the rest of the group's had a ball!
worldinabag is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 11:39 PM
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Never had a problem with TCs anywhere in the world. They're safe, easy, and quick. Never queued, never had trouble finding a good rate (sometimes turned down rates I didn't like, but the difference is often to neglible to get fussy about), and have never had trouble persuading unlikely people (village grocers etc) to accept them at my suggested (always fair) rate.

I use cards too, but the foreign currency charges and exchange rates on these are horrendously greater than on TCs.
twoflower is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 11:47 PM
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twoflower you must live in a country like Canada which hates bank customers if you find TCs cheaper than a bank card
alanRow is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 12:29 AM
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More anecdotal information. Go to the source. Inquire at American Express what the costs are. One feature of AX TCs is that they can be replaced if lost or stolen. Chances are that your friend will do as well carrying US dollars and converting them as she needs pounds.
GSteed is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 12:41 AM
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I'm from New Zealand and live in Australia. I guess you could say both countries are a bit like Canada. We don't regard our banks as our friends, or even particularly well-intentioned or fair acquaintances if it comes to that!

I really don't understand the comments about queuing, or it being hard to find places that will accept them at any hour or in any institution, bank or non-bank. That simply hasn't been my experience. And I'm no Luddite (well, not entirely anyway!) - I work, I use new software packages, I devise my own programs, I use my mobile for texting as innovatively as my grandson does - but neither is my mind closed to the notion that perhaps not all technology is a step forward. But, just sometimes, ways of doing things can be like wines and people - the older ones just might, sometimes, be better. And, yes, I do expect I will be shot down in flames for saying that!
twoflower is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 12:53 AM
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"One feature of AX TCs is that they can be replaced if lost or stolen."

This true BUT make sure your friend reads the "fine print" as to the rules about replacement.

If in any way, shape, or form, the holder has been the least bit careless or negligent (as defined by the issuer) or has not safeguarded those cheques properly (conditions again defined by the issuer) they can be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
Dukey is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 01:08 AM
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luvtotravel, You know that there is a degree of consensus here that ATM and CC use, properly managed, offers the best foreign exchange terms. [twoflower, please note that I said "a degree of consensus"; I am sure you accept that you are in a minority on this one.]

The real issue is how far one should go in trying to persuade somebody else to make what you think is the best choice. You have given her information and you have made a recommendation. I suggest that you leave it at that. Later on she may say that she should have got an ATM card. Try not to say "I told you so".
Padraig is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 02:36 AM
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Hi L,

Y'all ain't going to change her mind.

I suggest that she get half in GBP and half in USD.

That way she can hedge changes in the USD/GBP rate and be able to deposit the left over $ when she gets home.

She also ought to buy about $100 in GBP before leaving, so she won't have to exchange a TC when you get to London.

Enjoy your visit.
ira is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 03:27 AM
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ATM/Debit cards ..... I'd recommend taking CREDIT cards.

Credit cards are more widely used to obtain cash from the ATM machines all over the place. Not sure if a lot of ATM machines will accept the ATM/Debit cards if they are not Visa or Mastercard.

As for TCs we stopped using them long ago.

Commission fees bite you hard when cashing TCs in Europe .

BlueSea is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 03:55 AM
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<<< Credit cards are more widely used to obtain cash from the ATM machines all over the place. >>>

Sorry but that idea makes using TCs look sensible.

Use CC's to buy things with but only get cash if there's no other option as you'll get charged a cash advance fee and start accruing interest instantly
alanRow is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 05:08 AM
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I'm sorry, but I too am one of the "old-timers" (only in my 50's) who uses travelers checks. I do not use an ATM at home, so don't want to try it overseas. I take travelers checks with me to exchange into foreign currency at a bank at my destination. I'll exchange enough for a week at a time and have never had to wait in a long line to do so. I use my credit card to purchase anything over the equivalent of $20, but like having local currency for small items. I don't care if I get a little worse exchange rate - in terms of the cost of the overall trip, it's really not a big deal.
mjnbrown is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 05:32 AM
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How about being the bank for her? Get yourself GBP before you go. Everytime she wants to cash one of her $100 USD travelers' checks, give her 40 GBP for it. You can deposit when you get back home. Seems like fair compensation for your service to her.


Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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BlueSea: What ARE you talking about. Using a credit card to get cash is plain nuts - unless it is an emergency. And you yourself posted on a thread just yesterday to use an ATM card to get cash???

For the two of you who use travelers checks - up until about 18 months ago I would have said TCs were OK as long as you understood the higher costs incurred. But more and more banks are refusing to exchange them, and most merchants are giving up too. So you either have to go to Brueau de Change and pay through the nose - or hit AMEX during business hours. Some merchants do take them - in the UK Harrods and some M&S will. But the vast majority will not. And I think the old standby - the GPO - no longer cashes them
janisj is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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ATMs are the way to go. CCs to be used for larger items (like hotel bills), TCs area last choice, for emergency use only.

I think people here have re-iterated here...ATMs are convenient (all over the place), time insensitive (24 hrs a day) and give a reasnoable (in some cases very good) rate of exchange. Can a TC/CC do all three? If not, why would chose a lesser option?

As a resolution...either you tell her that you won't traipse around and wait when she wants to cash TCs....(bit mean, but holiday tensions are not something I would want ot live over again)

or, if she trusts you, deposit her $$ into your checking account and do withdrawals for her when she needs $$
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 07:08 AM
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Two years ago I took traveller's checks to London thinking it would be no problem to cash them. Boy, was I wrong. Most banks told me to go to a postal service. Lines were long and it was very time consuming. Your group will lose a lot of precious time waiting for your friend to find the few places that do cash traveller's cheques.

For a successful trip, find other alternatives to traveller's cheques.
kleeblatt is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 07:17 AM
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Hi luvtotravel,

How about a compromise? Why not ask her to consider an American Express Travellers Cheque Card. She loads it before she leaves and then uses it to access ATMs while travelling. It's not linked to her bank account, and it's refundable in 24 hours if lost or stolen. Here's the info:


Good luck!

swandav2000 is offline  

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