Sad Tale of Euro Travelers checks

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Jan 1st, 2004, 02:55 PM
  #1
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Sad Tale of Euro Travelers checks

My husband buys travelers checks from AAA before our journeys. (Even tho we rarely use them when convenient ATMS are about.)This Fall he decided to be clever and bought them in Euro denominations rather than dollars.
#1 Most of this trip was spent on a HAL cruise and they only deal in US currency.
#2 He deposited the unused checks in our local Citibank. Statement arrived last week: a charge of $10 (ten dollars) for each 50 Euro check .... totalling over $300 !!
Anybody else have such an experience??
(PS Only time checks came in handy was for a day or two in Rome after he had his wallet lifted and before we got our AMEX replacement card -
Grandma is offline  
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Jan 1st, 2004, 03:00 PM
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I guess I don't understand why he bought euro checks when you were traveling where they couldn't be used.

While I don't believe in TC's at all anymore, I'm one of the few that feel that if you are going to euruope (or the euro countries) then it makes more sense to take TCs in euro than in dollars. The reason for this is that you will get full face value for the checks, not rely on some horrible exchange rate cashing a US dollar check at a hotel, restaurant, or store which sets their own rates -- and that's where your "emergencies" will probably happen. I'd rather rely on the exchange rate at home at AAA or wherever you're buying them in euro, rather than in the foreign country where you are totally left at their mercy of how much they'll want to give you for them. The left over checks problem really shouldn't exist. You should plan enough ahead and put any unused ones for full value on your last hotel room.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 03:08 PM
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Other that telling him "I told you so", about all you can do is make sure he reads suggestions on this forum before you venture overseas next time.

I disagree w/ Patrick on $ vs. euro. Since most folks only need TCs for the rare emergency backup, I think it is MUCH more sensible to take a few in US$. Most trips one never needs to exchange them (remember they are just for back up). So you leave the States with $TCs and arrive back home with most of the same $TCs. No loss on exchange and usable as currency in the States. For the few that may need to be cashed - stick to $.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 03:10 PM
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BTW - even if you had not been aboard a cruis ship, TCs are not very practical in either $ OR euro -- most places you cannot spend euro TCs like cash. You usually first have to go to a bank to exchange them for euro currency.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 03:15 PM
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I can't say "I told you so"..because I didn't do my homework on Holland America -we've never done a cruise before.)Since we mainly travel in Euro countries I'm with Patrick on Euros/face value. But given our little snafu... I think we are being ripped off by Citibank. Anybody have a better bank?
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Jan 1st, 2004, 03:31 PM
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Grandma - the point is that in general NEITHER US$ or euro TCs is a good idea. And any bank will charge you to convert/deposit euro into a stateside account (another reason to stick w/ $).
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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:01 PM
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Those who don't do their homework usually don't pass the course.
I think you eat your loss, get smart, and don't repeat the same exercise.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:07 PM
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Okey dokey.... I just hope I've given the equivalent of a Public Service Message. -
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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:07 PM
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Just curious, does AAA give a good or bad exchange rate on the USD to Euro TC exchange?
If bad, it's another hit besides your bank's Euro to USD bad rate.
Grandma it was nice to share your costly mistake here , it will probably help someone else from repeating it.
Regards, Walter


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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:23 PM
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Good Question. I should get El Husband to follow up. Main reason he went to bank (a block away) rather than back to AAA was that he picked up pneumonia on our trip. (But I still think 20% is usury.)
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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:26 PM
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Grandma, thanks for sharing your bad experience with us re: Citibank and TCs.

Did you have an occassion to withdraw money from a non-Citibank ATM on your trip? Would you remember if it was the standard $1.50/transaction?

Thanks.

Lil
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Jan 1st, 2004, 04:45 PM
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Grandma, was the fee you paid for the conversion from euros back to dollars, or because they were travelers checks?
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Jan 1st, 2004, 06:32 PM
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I was assuming that Grandma meant there was a separate charge of $10 each for cashing the checks, right? What was the rate they gave you for the checks themselves? In other words how many dollars did you get for each 50 euro TC?

And suddenly the math clicked in. You had over 1500 worth of euro TC's left over? I can't imagine buying that many to start with under any circumstances. You need to get an ATM card before your next trip. Having maybe $ 100 or so in TC's could make some sense (although I'll never do it), but 1500 euro???
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Jan 1st, 2004, 07:06 PM
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I don't have any info to back this up, but on a Celebrity cruise across the Atlantic (Barcelona to Ft.Lauderdale), the pursers office did accept Euros, British Pounds and US$s for any payment on your account. I would think that on a purely European cruise the same would apply.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 07:09 PM
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Get American Express TCs in dollar denominations (if you use them at all... which I don't anymore). Every good size European city has an American Express office that will change them for Euros without charging a commission.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 07:20 PM
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There is no fee in the US for cashing travelers checks if they are in USD -- I've done it many times with leftovers I have from trips at my bank, or I just use them at stores. The fee was because they were in euro. I always recommend strongly that people take TCs in USD and not euro and then they don't cost you anything because they are free in USD from AAA.

I don't agree with any of the reasons Patrick gives and think getting them in euro is a very bad idea. I just don't agree with any of that logic. For one thing, you don't usually get them at face value even in Europe, because places often charge a fee to cash any TC, even one in euro. Also, there is an upfront fee to get them in euro in the US which is generally higher than the fee even in Europe to cash ones in USD. I know because I've done it fairly frequently, even last year. AAA charges a high fee compared to what you'll pay in Europe to cash ones in USD -- I don't recall exactly what it is, but I think perhaps about 7-10 pct. Also, if you are ever at the mercy of any particular exchange rate it is only when you buy them from AAA, not cashing them when you have a choice of where to cash them. I don't cash them at hotels or restaurants, that's a bad idea, also.

I do take TCs on trips as backup and find them quite useful. I get them free from AAA so they cost me nothing, because I take them in USD (my native currency). It costs me nothing to use leftovers back in the US. Also, they can be used for other countries that don't use the euro. I think there are some countries and places they can cost more to cash them, but in the ones where I've used them, there is a fairly competitive foreign exchange market and there isn't that big a commission/fee to exchange them (Czech Republic and France are both pretty good).

I have used them several times when my ATM card didn't work. For those who don't want to use them, you can usually get by, of course, but I don't find them nearly as onerous as others do and usually get fairly good rates. I never get them in anything but USD, however.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 07:20 PM
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This is a sad tale indeed, and one that argues for checking this board before traveling.
Obviously, when one sets sail on a cruise one should check ahead of time what kind of currency one will need and what facilities there are for changing traveler's checks (and what fees are involved), using ATM cards, etc.
Doesn't surprise me that he was charged a high fee to convert the checks back to dollars. Pretty standard, unfortunately.
Um, if you'd been reading this board before departure I think you would have sensed that traveler's checks are a thing of the past, that they are not accepted in many locations, and that you may be charged a fee to use them.
Personally, I haven't carried a traveler's checques for more than a decade.They have been completely outplaced by the ATM machine, which is a godsend in any country you're in, and I've used them from France to England to Italy to Morocco.
An ATM debit card is really the best way to deal with mopey while traveling in Europe. You get the best exchange rate and can always communicate with your bank if there is a problem. Traveler's checks are really archaic. Many places don't take them, and if they do you get a bad exchange rate. And if you change them at a bank, you'll likely pay a comission.
Myself, I'd call Citibank and at least make a lot of noise about the $10 "commission" for each $50 euro check. It's fun to call these companies and make a stink, and sometimes they actually respond and back down and reduce your fees. Give it a shot and good luck.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 07:48 PM
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I guess I haven't been able to explain myself very well, and probably I should give up as I don't even believe in Traveler's Checks anyway but. . .

I was regarding having a traveler's check or two for "emergencies". That means you probably won't have the luxury of going to a bank or an AmEx office, because most "emergencies" will happen at off hours -- like the restaurant that refuses to take a credit card and you suddenly realize you don't have enough cash. Or you're driving in the country, get a flat tire and have to buy one at a place that doesn't take credit cards. Believe it or not, most restaurants WILL take a Traveler's Check in such an emergency. And most hotels you're staying at will cash one for you in an emergency. And here's the important part. A hotel may give you only 60 euros for a $100 US check (not the current 80 it should be worth). Have you ever looked at the hotel exchange rates posted behind the desk? And most restuarants would either refuse to take the check if it is in US dollars, but they WILL take it if in euro. And what's more if the check is for 100 euro, they will give you 100 euro credit for it. Again, what I'm saying is that at home you have the time and luxury of shopping and buying the checks at a decent rate. Sure there will be a charge to buy them in euro, but I'd rather have that charge than being at the total mercy of a shopkeeper in Rome or Paris in an emergency!!!

And again I don't buy that idea about having them as leftovers. You should never have so many of them that you can't plunk down the entire lot on your final hotel bill, or one of your last meals. If they are in euro you will get full value for them. On the other hand if they are in dollars, yes you will want to take them home because you'd get very little exchange value for them at a hotel.

Now here's my comment about American Express office cashing dollar checks for euro without a fee. AIN'T TRUE!!! I took a $100 AmEx check to the Geneva AmEx office and tried to cash it. I actually wanted the money in the dollars since I was returning home the next day. What they would do is cash it converting it to Swiss Francs then exchange those francs to dollars. The end result was that I'd get about $60 for the traveler's check -- or a 40% charge. Of course, they say it isn't a FEE, but they just give you a very, very bad exchange rate, in my case they were converting twice, both at very, very bad rates.
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Jan 1st, 2004, 08:30 PM
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i have not read all the replys, but i would add that if you had taken them back to AAA they would have converted them back to us dollars at the prevailing rate...
i would have thought that citibank would have informed you of the fee when he made the deposit...i would complain to a bank officer...
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Jan 1st, 2004, 09:14 PM
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Regardless of whether you choose to get the TC in US dollars or euros--each has its pros and cons--, the best thing might be (as Patrick pointed out) would be to get them only in small amounts--not the bulk of your money.

Lil
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