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Why Does Everyone Advise Not Taking Travellers' Cheques??


Why Does Everyone Advise Not Taking Travellers' Cheques??

Old Jan 18th, 2003, 08:18 PM
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Why Does Everyone Advise Not Taking Travellers' Cheques??

On every trip we've taken, we have used travellers' cheques, first in francs and now Amex in Euros. We also had cash with us as small cafes and shops didn't always take the cheques or credit cards. Because we used them directly in stores or restaurants there was no fee. Or I took them into the big Amex office in Paris and cashed what I needed. I also overpaid my Visa so everytime I used it the charge came off immediately as if it was a debit card. I hate coming home and getting bills after my vacation. Just curious as to why so many of you say travellers' cheques are a nuisance.
Old Jan 18th, 2003, 08:37 PM
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We always take travelers checks, mostly because I like to be prepared for every contingency. We get ours, with no fee, through AAA, so if we don't use them, we just deposit them back into our bank account when we return. Or, if they're in foreign currency, we use them toward our hotel bill when checking out.

We were surely glad to have them along (in French Francs) on our first trip to Paris when neither of our ATM cards worked anywhere (our bank had just changed hands and I'm guessing the international network setup just hadn't been completed).

Many people rely entirely upon ATM and credit cards. Neither, though, is 100% reliable all of the time. Chances are, you won't encounter any problems, but if you do, the travelers checks are good to have (to wit: the ATM driver's strike in Paris a few years ago).

As for overpaying your credit card account, this must be done with care. Many, if you do it too far ahead, will issue a check for your credit balance.

Not everyone has a pocketful of credit cards. Others think nothing of the cost of cash advances on a credit card. And, there are obviously those who don't mind running up their credit card balances.

I'm with you, though. I'd rather be planning my next trip when I get home than paying off the last one.

Obviously, you have to do what makes the most sense to you when traveling.

Just because lots of folks report they've never had any problem with pickpockets, for example, doesn't mean you shouldn't follow all the prescribed precautions.
Old Jan 18th, 2003, 08:39 PM
John H
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Hi, Linda,

Most of us don't rely on travelers' checks due to the uniquity of ATMs. ATMs offer better exchange rates than you get when you buy travelers' checks (even if you do not pay the 1% purchase fee that used to be so commonplace). You get a "wholesale"/inter-bank exchange rate when you use ATMs -- it's the best exchange rate available to consumers. So, even if you pay an ATM fee to either your bank or the bank that owns the ATM, you usually come out well ahead on the exchange vis-a-vis using travelers' checks. (Most of us will withdraw a minimum of $300 or $500 at a time from an ATM to spread the ATM fees over a larger currency exchange, minimizing their impact on a % basis). And, as others have noted on this forum, travelers' checks -- even in local denominations -- are sometimes not accepted by merchants.

That said, money you get from an ATM clearly isn't protected if lost or stolen. So, having some back-up in travelers checks may still make some sense and give you peace of mind.

John H.
Old Jan 18th, 2003, 10:27 PM
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most fodorites recommend not using Tr Cks at all. But I usually take between 5% and 10% of my expected spending money in US$ travelers checks. I don't usually need them but twice in the past 8 years - maybe 14 trips - they were a godsend. Once I was on an island with only one bank and its ATM machine was on the blink. Whipped out $100 in travelers cks and exchanged them.

But except for this small emergency stash - I do not take other Tr Cks and haven't for years. ATMs are MUCH more convenient, and cheaper too. To pay extra (via the much worse exchange rate) for an instrument that is actually more inconvenient just doesn't make sense to me. Very few businesses accept them so you end up cashing them in a bank or post office with limited hours instead of using 24 hr per day ATMs.

the usage of tr cks is down over 50% in the last 5 years.
Old Jan 18th, 2003, 11:17 PM
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hi linda,

I posted to your message below about this. one thing I forgot to mention. even if you get your travelers cheques free thru AAA the exchange rate you have to pay on the checks for another denomination is much higher than the market rate of exchange from say getting your cash from an atm. the bank you purchase them at will quote you a rate 2-3 pts above the current market exchange or more.

as many have said here, each individual traveler must decide and act on what makes them feel safe. it not a vacation if all you are doing is worrying about your safety. I feel safe using the atms and visa's, with a little cash backup.

Old Jan 19th, 2003, 03:25 AM
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Be careful with ATM cards--some banks are starting to add an extra 2 to 5% exchange fee like most credit card companies do.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:27 AM
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I always take Travelers Checks. They have several benefits:

1. easy to cash: 24x7 Currency Exchange places are ubiquitous in Europe

2. easier than ATM cards to quickly replace in case of theft

3. often have no usage or purchase fees. Many banks now charge usage fees (in addition to conversion fees) for ATM cards. For example, Fleet Bank and Sovereign Bank now charge $5 each time one of their ATM cards is used outside the USA.

Before bringing your ATM card to Europe, find out from your bank what fees it charges. Many banks hide this usage fees in small print, and often provide no written notification at all.

I always buy my travelers checks in USA currency, and then recycle the unused checks, bringing them on my next vacation. This eliminates extra conversion fees.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:38 AM
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Joyce, why should people be concerned with an extra fee or even a couple percent charge for ATM or credit cards? You don't seem to care that when you convert US travelers checks to euro, it usually costs you something like 5 or 6 percent -- standard at exchange booths, shops, or hotels. Even exchanging US checks at a bank in Europe will not give you anywhere near the rate of exchange you'd get if you were charging or using an ATM. Fees are minor compared to those exchange rates.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:46 AM
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Because you don't always pay 5-6% for using TCs, and using ATMs is sometimes much more than a couple of percent charge. It all depends on where you exchange the TCs and what your bank charges for ATM use overseas. Usually ATM gives a better rate, but not always. Usually ATMs are available, but not always. I use credit cards and ATM cash as much as possible, but TCs have bailed me out many times over the years. I always carry a few as back up. If I don't need them, fine, I just use them when I return home.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:48 AM
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We took euro travelers' checks to Ireland last year and no place accepted them. We had to find a bank everytime we needed more cash.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:58 AM
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To xx: There is ALWAYS a conversion fee, regardless of whether you use ATM cards or Travelers Checks.

What I object to is paying both a conversion fee AND a usage fee. It is ridiculous to pay both fees when you have the option of paying only one.

If you are going to pay a $5 usage fee, you may as well leave the ATM card at home and use your credit card instead for cash. ATM machines accept credit cards, and charge a cash-advance fee, which is also usually about $5, also in addition to conversion fees.

If your bank charges no ATM usage fee, then the ATM card is worth taking to Europe. Even then I would also take Travelers Checks as backups in case of theft.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 08:09 AM
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I don't advise against taking them and find them convenient at times and useful for certain purposes. They aren't as necessary as pre-ATM, of course, but I don't find them that inconvenient. I would never take them in a foreign currency, however, and would never try to use them as local currency (unless desperate, I suppose), because that isn't why I take them. I don't frequent places that take travelers checks directly and wouldn't want to do that anyway, because it's too touristy to me. YOu lose money by buying them in a foreign currency, anyway (AAA does not give bank rate).

However, it is not always true that you lose more using them than an ATM card or that you pay 6 pct. I have used them a lot and I know it is not always true; I have gotten as good a rate using them as an ATM card or credit card (ie, about 2-3 pct "cost"), so Bill above is correct. I do in Paris and I have in Prague, also, because I know where to go to exchange them at a good rate (which is not a bank). France in general has good rates on TCs, I've found, even outside Paris. People just don't always use them in the best manner, trying to use them directly or exchanging around major tourist attractions or areas is not the best way.

Different people obviously have different habits and customs about using money and what they find palatable or convenient, I think this is a personal thing in many ways, sometimes explainable and sometimes not, it's just subjective. Some people on Fodors have advised to use a credit card in ATMs, and that isn't good advice, for example. I myself wouldn't find them very convenient if I had to go to the AMEX office in Paris to cash them (which doesn't have the best rates anyway, BTW). I personally am not crazy about using ATMs in foreign countries for security reasons (I don't like using one on the street in public, especially around tourist or busy areas) and because of potential problems with losing the card. I usually have had some problems with ATMs on my trips also and at least once on a trip have had to use the TCs (no ATMs, ATMs broken, etc).

I would never overpay my credit card as that is giving an interest-free loan to VISA. That doesn't make any sense to me, but paying a bill when it is due doesn't bother me or cause me any problems.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 08:32 AM
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Hi Linda,

Years ago travelers checks were necessary. We became conditioned to using them.

As credit/debit cards and ATM machines have proliferated in use and acceptance travelers checks have diminished in use.

I continue to take them on trips as a safety net for the unforeseen, albeit not to the extent I would have 20 years ago.

That safety net came in handy on an 8 week sojourn to Europe in 2001 - when my cards and my wifes cards were damaged and became unuseable.

I for one would never advise one not to take travellers cheques - just the opposite.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 12:25 PM
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Agree with John. Always take a few thousand dollars in TC for backup. I think the cost of using the atm or tc to be roughly the same. I am actually thinking of using my credit cards less on my next trip as it seems that I am more carefree in my spending when I use the credit cards. This may not apply towards the end of a trip when I am trying to wind down my local currency.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 12:44 PM
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I always carry travellers checks as an emergency backup. I email myself the serial numbers and denominations just in case everything gets lost or stolen - easy enough to head into a cyber cafe and recover the info.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 01:26 PM
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Was in Europe this summer and this was the first time that I did not take/use TC's as backup. What I do strongly recommend is that you have your ATM access tied to two cards...a bank card and a credit card and do not carry them together. I was pickpocketed in Naples but only lost my bank card, hence I was still able to access the ATM through my credit card. My experience is that ATM is cheaper in the long run for Europe because of the exchange that is charged. This may not be true in non EU countries if they have a 'black market' exchange rate for US cash/traveller's cheques.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 08:47 AM
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Keep in mind that not all small towns have an ATM or a place to exchange TCs, so if you are going off the beaten path, have plenty of cash for what you plan to do.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 09:30 AM
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I still have $200 worth of American Express checks I bought in 1991 and have never used. American Express loves me! The checks have been on about 20+ foreign trips and the ATM always won out. Now my wife is getting used to packing these slips of paper. Next trip I swear I am going to cash them.........naaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 10:45 AM
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Depends on where and why you intend to use them. If you just want to have a recoverable form of currency to cash at a local bank, they are fine. However, I think they are a pain in the rear for paying for hotels, restaurants, whatever. I use a credit card for practically everything. Having to go to the bank every day or every few days to cash travellers checks is only mildly inconvenient, but using a credit card obviates the need.

I think advising NOT to take travellers checks is a form of arrogance or goofy superiority. There's no reason not to take any form of payment possible . . . to be ready for any contingency.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 11:07 AM
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We were in France this past October and used mainly TC. We bought Euro denominated TC at our bank, no fee and found that they were excepted at 95% of the places with no fee.

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