traveler's checks vs: cash

May 22nd, 2006, 07:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 22
traveler's checks vs: cash

My 17 year old son is leaving for France
on Sunday and since he is unable to access
his account with his debit card (no clue,
bank says no, maybe because he is under 18?)
should he convert his $1300. savings into
traveler's checks or take the cash and get
Euros once he is in France?
sbianchi is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 07:35 AM
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If he cannot utilize the ATM's, traveler's checks are the best bet. Traveling with that much cash is not wise.
historytraveler is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 07:39 AM
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That's a lot of cash to be carrying around. I'd try to get a better explaination from the bank as to why the ATM won't work.

However, assuming it won't, then I'd get around $1000 in traveler's checks (U.S. dollar) and the rest in cash for an initial conversion to Euros. He should use some kind of neck pouch or money belt for sure!

BTW, how long's he going to be there?
alan64 is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 07:41 AM
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Hi Sb,

Since there is so little time, I suggest buying TCs in dollars.

He can exchange them at Post Offices in France.

If anything is left over, he can deposit them when he gets back.

Cash is not a good idea.

ira is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:12 AM
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I'd keep 300 in cash (to be converted if necessary, in small amounts, like at his arrival airport) and buy $1000 in travelers checks.

I'm not particularly over cautious but carry all funds in cash would be crazy imo.
suze is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:40 AM
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We have been finding it harder and more expensive to cash traveler's checks with every trip to Europe we make. About a year ago we gave them up completely and now carry more emergency cash than I feel comfortable with. (Divided between my husband and me, divided between [zipper travel] pockets, purses, etc. And we make use the the safes in most European hotel rooms. There are also various pouches you can wear under your clothes, strapped to your leg, etc.

We seldom use the cash but because of increasing problems using debit cards, we're wary. Have read several instances on this forum of people getting to Europe and discovering they can't use their debit cards for "security reasons." Which I suspect is the case with your son, not his age. He was just lucky to find it out before he left instead of after he arrived, as some people do. Banks seem often to make these changes but not let their customers know.

And guess what? We just discovered a debit card freeze a couple of weeks ago when we were in Greece. Card worked fine last May in Greece, in Amsterdam in Sept., and we think maybe Germany and Austria in Dec. But week before last our card was spit out with a message that the transaction was unauthorized and to contact our bank. My husband sent an e-mail to our daughter and asked her to get the e-mail address for his bank manager. (Which we will take with us now.) Would you believe that the bank manager was also not aware that VISA (which operates the debit card program) had shut off ATM withdrawals in Europe? She told us that we could go into a bank to get money - same fees as ATM withdrawals, not the more expensive VISA cash advances - but that's not always convenient. (Like at the airport on arrival.) And we could use it as a VISA credit card. Apparently she managed to get the debit function "unfrozen" but didn't communicate that to us too well in her e-mail, so we didn't realize it till we got home and talked to her in person. She claims if we call her before future trips (which we generally do anyway), she'll arrange it for us in the future. But we'll certainly never trust it again and moved a large amount of money from that money market account on our return. Had another card without a huge amount of money in the account, but enough, so we were okay. Still, who knows how long that one will work? Technology giveth - Internet, ATMs - and technology taketh away - viruses, spam, and card fraud. (Why is it that just when my husband and I have a little more time and money to travel, we suddenly have airline security and money access headaches?)

You might talk to your son's bank manager and see if his ATM access can be "fixed" for this trip as ours supposedly can be. Or if he can withdraw funds in a bank. But still, I guess it would be dangerous to trust it. So traveler's checks might be the best bet, but he should realize that he may have more trouble exchanging them and he will probably pay more than exchanging cash or using an ATM.
polly229 is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:44 AM
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I bet it has something to do with his debit card code. As I remember, there are certain letters or numbers that don't work abroad. Check again with the bank! And yes, if all else fails, bring travelers checks along with a small amount of cash.
Weadles is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:47 AM
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If you trust him, get a second ATM card for your account and have him use that one, after asking the bank if you can use that card in Europe..
Michael is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:49 AM
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Many banks consider any overseas activity suspicious unless a customer has apprised them of his travel plans; so they lock the account if any foreign transactions are attempted. Tell the bank about your travel before you go and make sure they are prepared to see the transactions.

Travellers' cheques are a waste of time. Virtually no one will accept them today, and those places that are still willing to accept them will generally not give you face value for the cheques (unless you take them directly to the institution that issued them, i.e., Amex for Amex cheques). They were already obsolete twenty years ago; they are history today.

Get the card to work in an ATM instead. If your bank can't figure out how to do this or won't do it, change banks.
AnthonyGA is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:51 AM
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Hi SB,

>he is unable to access
his account with his debit card

See if the bank can give him an ATM-only card.

ira is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:52 AM
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Not sure if it has to do with age, but perhaps. My neice just came home from a year in Copenhagen and used her debit card all the time. She is older that your son but still overdrew her account on more than one occasion. The back notified her dad and he put the money in her account. I think you should talk with the bank and find out the reason and see if something could be done about his debit card. I still think it would be a good idea for him to have some money either in cash or travelers checks anyway. It would be difficult for him to be so far away and not have access to any money.
crefloors is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 08:59 AM
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Some cards are "verify always" cards that will not work unless the issuing bank can be contacted directly to clear the transaction. These cards are often issued to young adults and others who are on somewhat precarious financial ground. They may not work abroad because of the technical difficulty in contacting the issuing bank directly to clear the transaction.
AnthonyGA is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 09:07 AM
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We have taken many students, often under 18, on trips to Europe and never had a problem of them getting an ATM card. Usually, the parent will set up the new checking account and have their name on the account along with the child. Never a problem. Well, at least one or two kids out of 45 will have a problem with their ATM card, but that is a different topic.
gforaker is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 10:25 AM
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You might look into the Visa TravelMoney card, which is a prepaid Visa specifically designed for use overseas. I haven't used one, but it looks like it might be a good option. Thank you for the post -- it reminds me to call my bank to make sure they know I'm traveling!
emvic is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 10:31 AM
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Travelers checks still work just fine. You simply need to go to a bank to cash them, rather then trying to spend directly at businesses, restaurants, or shops. And know there are some fees involved.
suze is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 12:20 PM
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American Express has several kiosks at Charles de Gaulle airport where travelers checks could be turned into cash. If the travelers check route is taken out of necessity, check with the lodging provider to see if it will accept them, and probably better to purchase euro rather than U.S. dollar ones. Yes, they can be cashed at banks, but the process is time consuming and not all banks will do it. Look for a sign that reads "change" outside the bank and muster your patience.
Dave_in_Paris is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 12:22 PM
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Not normally recommended because it's an expensive route, but the pre-loaded Travel Card as mentioned above is made for this kind of situation.
suze is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 12:51 PM
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I second or third the motion to avoid traveler's checks. I went to 4 banks in Rome attempting to cash them (after my ATM card failed--because the card lacked the Interlink symbol--yet it worked fine in France). The 4th bank finally cashed them when they saw me crying. I think attempting to get him a different ATM card (plus a credit card as back up) and $300 in Euros before he leaves is the best idea. You can order Euros at your bank before the trip, so he won't have to hassle with converting dollars when he gets there.
susan001 is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 01:19 PM
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We were unable to get ATM cards for any of our childrens' accounts while they were minors. I don't know if this was a legal requirement, or just the policy of two banks. They wouldn't do it even if an adult was conamed on the account. I was quite unhappy about it, because I wanted to get them some experience before they left the nest.

My wife opened an account with the child's money, got the ATM card, and "loaned" it to the child. We had no problems.

clevelandbrown is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 01:31 PM
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I completely agree with those who have advised NOT to use travelers checks in Europe. They are not as easy to cash as some have suggested. Banks are not always open or conveniently located when you need money. ATMs work all the time. If your bank won't let your son use a debit card, I agree that you should let him use yours; either open an account in your name and give him the card, or just get another card for your current account. As stated earlier, do notify your bank that there will be overseas charges on the card or they may freeze it. I had a nightmare on my hands three years ago in Europe trying to cash travelers checks. I wasted a lot of time, spent a lot of money with transaction and conversion fees, and spent four days trying to find a location to cash them. Since then, I've relied on ATMs and cash. DON'T use travelers checks. If you can't work out the ATM situation, your only other option is for him to take cash, split it up in different locations on his body and tell him to be careful. Again, please believe me when I say travelers checks are not the way to go. I hope it works out for you both.
lucy_d is offline  

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