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Judy Jun 1st, 2002 10:11 AM

travelers checks
Have always used travelers checks in US currency but am wondering would it be better to get them in local (British pounds in this case) instead? If anyone has any ideas, please let me know and also what size would be best. We normally get US checks in $100's but would 100 pounds be OK? Thanks--

Sue Jun 1st, 2002 10:34 AM

Get them in US currency for use in an emergency. But use ATMs and credit cards where possible because you get a much better exchange rate. Check with your bank to see if there is a charge for ATM use (my CU allows 4 free uses a month; $1 charge after that).

sylvia Jun 1st, 2002 10:40 AM

Just get a few for emergencies. There's an ATM on practically every street corner in the UK.

wes fowler Jun 1st, 2002 12:53 PM

Judy,<BR>By all means use your ATM card or credit cards in order to achieve the most favorable exchange rates. Don't be swayed by "free" travelers checks issued by banks or AAA. While there is no charge for the checks themselves, the exchange rate you'll receive is far less than favorable. Buy a minimal amount of checks in dollar denominations rather than in pounds. If you don't use them you can always redeposit them into your bank account.

janis Jun 1st, 2002 02:00 PM

Take a FEW $ travelers checks to cover for dire emergencies (but you most likely won't need them). Don't bother getting &pound; travelers checks. They are not more convenient since a lot of places don't accept them and you end up having to exchange them in a bank anyway. And they will cost you a lot more to get in the States than the usual free $ ones. <BR><BR>Use your ATM card to get cash - you will get a much better exchange rate.

Patrick Jun 1st, 2002 07:41 PM

Although I no longer use travelers checks and rely totally on credit card and ATM's I disagree with most. If I were to get some Travelers Checks for emergencies, then I wouldn't want to have them in US dollars. In an "emergency" I'd be at the total mercy of the restaurant, shop, or hotel and subject to their outrageous rate of exchange for what they'd want to give me in Euro for my US travelers checks. Or maybe they wouldn't want the US ones at all. If any place takes travelers checks, I guarantee you they will be more likely to take one in their currency than in US dollars.<BR>And forget the idea of having them in US dollars so you aren't "stuck" with them in foreign currency to bring home. All you have to do is put all you have left on your final hotel bill in Europe. If you have 200 Euro of traveler's checks left and you put them on your hotel bill, you will get the full value of 200 Euro on your bill. End of problem.

sarah Jun 2nd, 2002 07:03 PM

I phoned my Visa bank to ask about withdrawal fees in Europe. They said it was $2.50 for each withdrawal. However, they suggested I bring some travellers cheques "just in case" because I might not be allowed (by their British bank) to withdraw more often than every 3 days! I find it hard to believe that! Any experiences?

xxx Jun 2nd, 2002 07:05 PM

Yes, the answer is simple. First of all you need a new bank. If yours charges anything more than $1.00 for using a foreign ATM to access your account, and then doesn't allow you to withdraw from your account in less than three days, you really need to do some bank shopping.

Amy Jun 2nd, 2002 07:14 PM

In 1995 I studied in Cambridge for two months during the summer and I was on a student loan. My loan money did not come in before I departed and therefore I was forced to use my VISA check card for everything, including tutition. It worked out very well, I never had any problems and do not remember any high charges for withdrawls at the ATMS. I did use American Express for cashing some of the travelers checks I did bring and for currency exchange. American Express is always a good card to have when traveling.<BR><BR>

Ann Jun 3rd, 2002 11:35 AM

First off--don't listen to Patrick, since he thinks you'll be spending euros instead of pounds in the UK.<BR><BR>Secondly, travelers' checks are not as widely accepted in the UK as they are in the US. For example, not all restaurants or even hotels accept them, and most shops do not. About the only place you can be assured of cashing a travelers' check is at a bank.<BR><BR>Thirdly, while ATMs are your best bet, it's not a bad idea to have a back-up. In your case, I think US$ travelers' checks would be fine. You would only use them in case of emergency, and since it's likely you'd have to go to the bank anyway, you might as well not bothered exchanging them to pounds, because you may not need them.

Daniel Jun 3rd, 2002 11:41 AM

Europeans don´t use travelers checks anymore. In Portugal I think you pay l0 ?/$ commision to the bank for each transaction.

Patrick Jun 3rd, 2002 12:37 PM

All right, Ann, you got me. I have been seeing such messages so often lately, I forgot by the time I read all the answers that the original question specified UK and not Euro territory. But my post still stands the same. I say you are better having TC's in pounds if you are in London than having them in US dollars. <BR>I agree that TC's are difficult to cash -- no one wants them. But if they are for emergencies, then you can't rely on a bank being open. The emergency is much more likely to happen on a Saturday or Sunday or in the evening. Once you find a place willing to cash a TC in that emergency -- I assure you, you will be better off getting the face value in local currency, rather than depending upon what exchange rate they might want to give you for a US dollar one.<BR>And I still get how putting the balance of any unused ones on your final hotel bill (and getting their full value for them if you were smart enough to get them in "local currency") is a "bother". It makes more sense to me than bringing home the unused ones, even if they are in US dollars.

Christina Jun 3rd, 2002 02:23 PM

I wouldn't get them in Euros, either, I think that's a very bad idea. I use them sometimes and others who advise on this subject don't, apparently, so maybe the advice of users could be more realistic than hypothetical. I don't want to pay my hotel bill in travelers checks, it's that simple. I want all major charges on my CC to get FF miles, and for recordkeeping purposes. Also, I might not have enough to pay my hotel bill with them in full, and I don't want charges split between various payment methods. Because I do keep some for emergencies, if I travel again shortly to a different country, I can just keep them and use them in the new place if they are US$. Also, what if you're traveling around to seveeral countries with various currencies? It really does make more sense IMO to keep them in US$(or your native currency).<BR><BR>The idea of an emergency is no more likely to happen on a weekend or night than weekday IMO, I don't understand that position. An emergency means you lose your card or your card is damaged and doesn't work, or ATMs are all down or something like that; usually it's not an emergency meaning you have to have cash within the next 10 minutes or else, but that you realize you need a different source of money than an ATM for a day or two. Often this may be because you are in a town or place without ATMs, for example. At times there have been strikes or reasons ATMs are out of money. I can't imagine what kind of emergency would occur that you had no notice of and couldn't plan at all for how to cash a TC. Nobody should get down to where they have zero local cash on them.<BR><BR>MOst places won't accept TCs anyway, as Ann says, regardless of what they are in, so you will have to cash them somewhere. I just think it's a bad idea to get them in Euros, for example (or anything other than your currency) unless you really don't care about the cost because you pay a lot in the exchange rate when you get them, you will probably pay to cash them (even in euro) and you may then pay to convert them back to US$.<BR><BR>I've never heard of a bank limiting you to one withdrawal every 3 days, that seems ridiculous. I really would change banks (altho a dollar limit is usual).

Susan Jun 3rd, 2002 07:51 PM

I agree with Christina. Although banks are only open less than 1/4th the time in a week, I always plan my emergencies to coincide with when the banks are open.<BR><BR>Once I paid nearly half of my final hotel bill with my left over traveler's checks and charged the other half. The bookwork to that nearly killed me. It was sooooooo confusing.<BR><BR>And who cares if a bank charges you a high rate to exchange travelers cheques in US dollars? I'd rather trust a foreign bank for their rate, than to trust my own bank for buying them in a foreign currency to begin with.<BR><BR>And I agree about charging on my credit card to get my FF miles. Of course, any money I spend buying travelers cheques won't count for that. So there is big difference -- if I use them on my hotel bill I won't get credit for them. But if I cash them in when I get back home I will!

xxx Jun 4th, 2002 05:11 AM

Susan, are you for real? Those were some of the dumbest statements I've ever read! How do you get points for cashing in Traveler's Checks?

trying Jun 4th, 2002 06:24 AM

I don't know who would expect a UK merchant(other than a bank, AMEX, or a change window) to honor US$ traveler's checks. Though I'm sure some merchants do, it is surely at a terrible exchange rate. In the UK I have not found money changers as prevalent as in other countries, and have typically ended up at AM Ex, who does not give a good rate, even on their own checks (or is that Cheques?!). Thomas cook gave a slightly better rate in Bath on their checks versus AM Ex on their checks, though Thomas Cook can be very bad in train stations, etc. So, I would recommend an ATM card in the UK, but wouldn't rule out traveler's checks completely (at least on the continent).

yyy Jun 4th, 2002 07:12 AM

xxx, Susan was being rather stupidly sarcastic about Christina's post. Personally, I totally agree with Christina, but even if you don't, that's no reason to be nasty.

angelique Jun 4th, 2002 08:56 AM

Patrick or someone,<BR><BR>I am going to Portugal and Spain this month and had planned on using Travelers Checks to pay for my hotel stay. I planned on doing this cause my boyfriend and I were going dutch on paying for hotels..and didn't want to have to have the troubles of trying to figure out who owes who...<BR><BR>So what do you suggest..I know how much the hotels cost already should I have the travelers checks in Euro dollars or in US dollars to pay them...I'm confused...can I get travellers checks in Euro dollars...Which is best if I'm just paying for hotels ...everything else I planned on using my atm for.<BR><BR>Please respond to me on my email address if possible .Thanks

Patrick Jun 4th, 2002 09:12 AM

Angelique: in your case I'd really say get the TC's in Euro (note, they are not called Euro dollars!). <BR> <BR>If you have ever looked at the little currency exchange rate board in most hotels, you would know that if you gave them a TC for $100 US, they'd probably only give you about 100 Euro credit for it. But if you gave them a 100 Euro TC they will credit the full 100 Euro, which should have cost you something like $92 US depending upon where you bought them at home. I'm not sure about you, but that extra 8% or so sure adds up on all the hotel bills.<BR>You might want to confirm with your hotels that they will take traveler's checks. Although many wouldn't want to cash them for you, I doubt (but I'm not sure) that they would charge you for paying your bill with them. But certainly you will get a better rate paying your bill in Euro checks rather than US checks.<BR><BR>Incidentally, we often travel with others and go "Dutch". One of us keeps a little notebook (part of a journal actually) and we take turns paying for meals or whatever. We record them, and near the end of the trip do a tally. If one person has paid more than their share, another person pays for the final things. When going home, we simply subtract our totals from each other's and pay the other person the difference. It is much easier than balancing every day. In the case of hotels, just take turns paying, keep a simple record and adjust at the end. You will also save money paying your hotels with a credit card, or even with ATM cash than with the travelers checks.<BR><BR>I'm not sure how I became so involved in this discussion about Traveler's Checks, since I still maintain that it is best not to take any. The last time part of our group tried to cash them in London, we could only find two banks that didn't charge a fee, and those banks were hard to find. Otherwise most banks charged a 5 pound fee to cash even a single 50 pound check -- wow 10% on top of the loss that was sustained buying them originally. And the rate to cash the US dollar ones at a bank was simply astoundingly horrendous!

angelique Jun 5th, 2002 07:52 AM

Thank You Patrick.

muumi Jun 7th, 2002 04:03 PM

I used travelers cheques a LOT in the UK last year. I never even considered getting $$ cheques. The bank (Royal BanK of Canada I think) gave us a very good rate on British pound cheques. I got 20s and 50s. 100s would be way too big for most places to cash.<BR><BR>They were very readily accepted everywhere in Scotland. Any Bank of Scotland would cash them cheerfully. In one store in Orkney, they didn't even accept VISA but travelers cheques were fine.<BR><BR>In England it was quite another matter. None of the English banks wanted to cash them (so I went to Bank of Scotland branches which were more security conscious, but just as nice as in Scotland). However, any tourist destination (St Pauls cathedral, Kensington Palace, gift shops) will take pounds sterling travellers cheques and give you change. This is why you don't want to have 100s -- they won't have enough cash in the till! I ended up using the VISA card more in England, such as to pay for family passes on the Underground. <BR><BR>I would definitely take pounds sterling travelers cheques to Scotland again. They were by far the most convenient means of carrying money. I like being able to negotiate the exchange rate at the beginning of the trip rather than rely on VISA's fluctuating rates, and also, having physical cheques allowed us to divide our money up according to days of the trip and track our spending rather accurately!

Sara Jun 8th, 2002 12:27 PM

In reply to Patrick, a friend has just come back from Spain and to change Euro T/Chqs everywhere was charging 2-4% so they wouldn't give you 100 for 100 Euros.

Patrick Jun 8th, 2002 01:20 PM

That is interesting news. Does that mean they also charge that percent to cash US dollar TC's? If so that means they'd charge you 2 to 4 % on top of the exchange rate that is probably 4 to 6 percent off the standard exchange rate. That means up to 10% cost for cashing traveler's checks? Another good reason why I never buy them myself any more.<BR><BR>But one minor question. You said they charge that fee for cashing TC's? Are you sure that if you paid a hotel bill with them they wouldn't give you full value?

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