Travelers Checks a Thing of the Past?

travelers check

While wrapping up the little things before my trip next week I decided to head to the bank today and get my travelers checks. What should have been a short trip took me half a day because no one had any significant amount or higher denominations of travelers checks.

I heard the same story everywhere I went, ” People don’t seem to use travelers checks much anymore”. I found that statement quite odd. I know things have become easier with the prevalence of ATM’s and bank cards and of course travelers checks aren’t always the best option depending on your destination, but I can’t imagine why travelers checks would be the lesser choice.

While it’s true there are a few bank cards out there they charge no fee for ATM use and even a few cards that don’t charge a foreign currency conversion fee…they are very few. Most bank and credit cards charge a nice 5% conversion fee on top of an already high foreign ATM usage fee. While travelers checks still only cost you 1% of the face value and are usually very close to cash when exchanging money.

Granted, some destinations make it tough to use travelers checks. You may need to find banks and they may only let you cash in $200 a day. For destinations such as Thailand travelers checks are Ideal. With exchange booths everywhere and open late to accomodate every type of tourist I can’t imagine not using them.

They say cash is king and from my experience a lot more travelers are taking cash but the downside can be very bad if you lose that cash or get it stolen. ATM cards are great and I always take one as a back up but with fee’s upwards of $6.00 per transaction for my card it’s not the best choice for the whole holiday. Travelers checks are easy to use and replaceable if lost or stolen. It may take you a few more minutes at the exchange booth or bank but the piece of mind is worth it’s weight in gold.

How do you handle your finances on holiday and do you think travelers checks will one day be a thing of the past?

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Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-03-18 00:08:17

Talen this is an interesting one. During my worldwide travels I have used TC’s but I am not a great fan. Mainly because of the charges levied at purchase and cashing.

I think they are a good back up and of course they are 100% secure even if lost most TC companies replace very quickly.

I tend to use ATM’s now but of course the charges can mount up if you make a lot of withdrawals.

Here I get funds from the UK each month and my bank charges £25 for the transfer. However if I used my UK cash card and made one withdrawal each month it would be cheaper-then I would have a wad of cash to keep of course!

Mikes last blog post..Koa Thongchai Thailand

Comment by martin in bulgariaNo Gravatar
2009-03-18 10:56:49

I use a UK bank where using ATMs abroad is free I purpsoely joined them before moving abroad solely because of this. So much more cohnvenience than travllers cheques, like you say as a back up fine.

martin in bulgarias last blog post..Two Tonics in One

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-03-19 05:52:35

Absolutely spot on advice for any newbie about to hit Thailand. I take the exact combination as you do, traveler cheques with a cash card back up. I also have my credit card for any unexpected heavier expenses. The traveler cheques give a decent on the spot exchange rate for a small fee…don’t leave home without them.

Martyns last blog post..The Buffalo Gang

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-03-19 21:25:04

I have a feeling most banks, even those that have not charged conversion fees in the past, will be changing the way they do business and adding fees soon enough.

For now I’ll stick with the travelers checks and the bank card back up. Maybe one day banks will be less greedy but I doubt it.

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