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Question about American Express travelers checks

Question about American Express travelers checks

Jun 14th, 2007, 08:16 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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<<< American Express Travellers Cheque Card >>>

AmEx's way of making money in the 21st Century
alanRow is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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<< AmEx's way of making money in the 21st Century >>

It's a service. They run a service business. Should financial services not make a profit?
rex is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 08:56 AM
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The Amex travel card will likely cost her even more than TCs since there are fees to load money on to it, fees to load more money if needed, fees to withdraw funds, and fees to close it out if she doesn't spend every last penny.

janisj is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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AmEx Travelers Checks are a terrible idea (you will get an awful rate of exchange - 7 to 8% above interbank rates )but the Trav Chec Card is an even worse idea (since they're holding your money, charging you for the card, giving you a terrible rate of exchange and then charging you to get the remaining money back).

The only sensible choices are to pay all you can with credit cards and pull cash for walking aournd money with your ATM card. These choices will get you rates rom 1 to 3% above interbank rates -a nd there should be no fees - unless your bank is extra greedy.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 11:13 AM
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Hi all,

Oh hey, I agree with you folks -- the AmEx Cheque Card is a rip-off coming & going. But since the OP's friend seems not to mind paying a fee and seems not to mind a bad exchange rate, I thought it would be an alternative. At least it would be more convenient than hunting down a change booth or open bank or arguing with a vendor.

Oh yes, I've been using ATMs happily since 1995.

swandav2000 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 11:15 AM
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in the end...might be cheaper for her to convert all of her US$ to GBP at bank before leaving, then just peel out the bills from money belt as required. It would be the cheapest, based on her parameters
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 12:51 PM
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Some posters indicate "it's her decision", however, you're right that it will spoil a trip to be constantly in search of an open Am Ex or bank..... 2 yrs ago in Paris my Mom-in-law insisted on taking US dollars and we spent way too much time searching for banks that were open AND that would accept the dollars (I'm not kidding - many said they wouldn't exchange) and further many would not accept if we had $100 bills -- and we're very "conservative looking" (i.e. not shady) people!! Save the hassle and convince her to use ATM - tell her you'll help her or even carry the stupid thing for her!
queener is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 01:13 PM
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If you cannot convince the person that travelers' checks are NOT the way to do it, then I suggest you let her stew in her own juice. If she cannot pay because she cannot cash one of those things, don't bail her out. She disregarded experienced advice so let her figure it out. If she feels uncomfortable enough, perhaps the sunshine of wisdom will begin to penetrate. She will not starve to death.

I have several American Experess checks in my passport case. I am not sure how many trans Atlantic crossings they have made, but it has got to be 6 or 8.
I bought them years ago and carry them as a doomsday defense.

The only time they felt like they MIGHT have been useful was on 9/12/2001 when I was in Europe and nobody knew what would happen next. US Airports were closed, etc. Would banks close, too?

Of the original set, I have cashed 2 of them in 9 years. The first time was in Zürich at the airport rail station. My train was leaving soon, I wanted to buy some items before boarding, the ATM machine was down and I did not have enough Swiss money. I used one of my checks at the teller window which, fortunately, was open.

I cashed a second one on that same trip in a small Swiss mountain town when my ATM card was the wrong kind. The bank was Cirrus and I was Plus, and Cirrus did not like Plus one bit. I could have driven on to another village and another bank, but we liked the goodies in the bakery across the street.

Both times the bank was open. Had it not been, I would have been flat out of luck. I doubt very much if the bakery would have cashed a US$ check.

One refusal like that might get the lesson home: Travelers' checks can be clumsy to use in Europe.

As for using as credit card for cash, all I can say is let the idiot do it. He or she obviously has more money than knowledge. I once told a friend of mine that ATMs were the way to go. Well my friend, who has a Ph. D., did not know the difference between a credit card and a debit/ATM card. He used his credit card all over Europe for paper money.
Then he blamed me for giving him bad advice. That was when I found out he did not know.

PS you absolutely cannot get an American Express check denominated in euros or pounds Sterling at no charge!! You will pay AT LEAST 5% over the bank wholesale rate of exchange. No fee? I would not call it a fee either if I could fleece someone out of 5% on a multi thousand dollar transaction.
Easy money.

bob_brown is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 02:01 PM
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Amex has closed many of their offices worldwide...we don't have any at all in Canada. Customers are told to cash them at bank branches instead. The banks here charge a service fee to do so and the exchange rates stink.

The last time I used travellers cheques was just after the Euros became legal tender. We took Euro dollar Amex cheques with us. No one wanted to cash them....hotels, restaurants, shops...etc. We were told it was because they had to pay a fee to their bank to deposit them.

The bank in Arles would not even change them for us. We had to resort to an exchange booth in Avignon and Arles where the service fee was unbelievable. I said never again.
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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Come on people - we don't like travellers cheques but frankly some of the information spewed here is downright wrong!

1)"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?"

If she buys TC in Pounds Sterling she will be charged nothing for cashing (exchanging) them at one of the (3?) AmEx offices in London. Inconvenient? yes. But no charge.

2) "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."

Garbage... as long as you have a record of the numbers you are covered.

3) "AmEx Travelers Checks are a terrible idea (you will get an awful rate of exchange - 7 to 8% above interbank rates )".
Simply not true - You may find that the exchange rate is better than you can get on your credit card - usually in the 1,5 - 3% range ... and you did say she can get them free.

4)"PS you absolutely cannot get an American Express check denominated in euros or pounds Sterling at no charge!!"
Not so...Unless Bob is talking about the exchange rate which of course you would expect to pay a 1.5-3% premium.

Best advice...GSteed..
"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."

AmEx traditionally have made their money not by charging outlandish exchange fees but by float. I can get TC at my bank at a better rate than cash.(2%)
robjame is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 03:54 PM
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I would add to Bob Brown's comments, make it plenty clear in advance that no way you will stand around waiting while she's in line waiting to cash TCs or trying to figure out where she can do that. I wouldn't sacrifice precious vacation time for that under any circumstances, except one in which I was a tour guide and was being paid for it - which I've been.If I traveled for pleasure with someone who needed to take the time to get TCs cashed and it took more than 5 minutes, I'd be on my merry way. Let her catch up when she's got her money problems sorted out.
StCirq is online now  
Jun 14th, 2007, 04:03 PM
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robjame: "If she buys TC in Pounds Sterling she will be charged nothing for cashing (exchanging) them"

Maybe Canada is different - but Stateside, buying Sterling Amex TC's costs approx 7%-8% over the rate I get w/ ATM card.

I do agree w/ you that the warnings about "negligence" were silly. They will be replaced in just about any circumstance except really "iffy" situations.

Anecdotal - I took two friends on a 3 week golf holiday to Scotland and one of the guys insisted on using TC's. It was a TOTAL pain - in Edinburgh he entirely missed visiting St Giles Cathedral, Mary Kings Close and the whole of the lower Royal Mile w/ us while he tried to find a bank to exchange his TCs. Met up w/ us as we exited Holyrood.
janisj is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 10:34 PM
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My goodness, I didn't expect to receive so many responses.

My friend is a smart, kind woman, and it's just not in me to let her "learn the hard way." I'm going to do whatever I can to educate her, though. She is not an idiot as someone mentioned -- just an inexperienced traveler.

I will pass on the majority of your comments and hope she will take your suggestions to heart. My thanks to you all.
luvtotravel is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 02:53 AM
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As far as I know, banks in Europe just don't handle paper transactions on a regular basis like it is done in the US. The typical transaction by a European is either EC Maestro debit card or direct EFT. Personal checks are just not done, and I would assume traveler's checks would go even more "against the grain". Why do you think the typical business there won't take TC's? Its because their own banks give them a hassle and charge fees.
I always laugh when I see a TV ad for a certain seller of TCs inferring their product is accepted everywhere.
platzman is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 04:44 AM
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I went to Barcelona a couple of years ago with a crowd from work 10 of us. One person insisted on talking TC. A fair bit of time was wasted on the first day, a Friday with her trying to find somewhere to exchange them.
crazychick is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 06:06 AM
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I always take TCs in my native currency when I travel, for emergency backup. I haven't had much problem exchanging them in some major cities (Paris and London are the easiest I know of), although they are harder to cash in some other places nowadays.

But I really don't think London will be a problem. I also was in London just a couple years ago and there were tons of bureaux de change around without even searching them out. It wasn't difficult at all. I stayed at Millenium Bailey's in Kensington and there were a couple just across the street, and I saw others fairly frequently. You do not have to go to a bank to cash TCs, and the rates at these bureaux de change were not that bad. I wouldn't use them for my prime currency needs, but it wasn't that horrendous in London, as I recall. I don't go to Amex to cash them, wouldn't waste my time and don't care to do that, but if someone does or is near one, that would work. I don't use them for my prime needs, anyway, as I said, but I've never noticed Amex giving any better rates than any private service, and there are always long lines at Amex for all the folks who haven't traveled much and think you must go to Amex to cash them or something.

I would have guessed the markup in London at private exchange bureaus was around 5-7 pct from what I noticed. As I said, that was for USD checks, I don't ever get TCs in foreign currency because the markup to get them is higher than that, and because I only have them for emergency, I don't usually use them that much. So having them in USD means I either can just use them at home as cash or use them for my next trip regardless of where it is (and they have come in very handy in Mexico).
Christina is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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robjame...I work for American Express...the travel division. They would be very grateful how well you have defended their honour.

I'm afraid on my last trip I found the rate of exchange used by Amex the credit card was almost 2 percent more than mastercard. Employee or not...I won't use that card when traveling outside of Canada again (except for car rentals to get the included CDW coverage).

A little off topic I know....
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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< I found the rate of exchange used by Amex the credit card was almost 2 percent more than mastercard.>>

Wow c4T - please share more details with us Canucks.
The rest of us were under the impression that all Canadian CC were pegged at 2.5% over the exchange rate. This is what AmEx charges - 2.5%.
Please where are you getting a MC for .5%. I'm switching from my RBC Visa!!!
(I never use AmEx card abroad - too inconvenient.)
robjame is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 10:13 AM
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robjame...why is it inconvenient to use your AmEx? Is it any different than using Visa? A fellow Canuck wants to know!
tropicalkerry is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 10:42 AM
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Mainly, just too many places that only take Visa or MC.
My Visa (RBC Avion) has a chip as do European Visas and seems like Europeans are more familiar with these - insert into machine rather than swipe.
robjame is offline  

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