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Although Travelers Checks are falling out of vogue with the rise of Money Cards and ATMs, travelers checks are still a very useful and somewhat expected form of currency while traveling. The travelers checks act as form of currency that spends like cash but have some of the safety features of checks. With a little preparation, stolen checks are easily replaced with little hassle but an increasing number of overseas merchants are no longer accepting them.
Benefits of Travelers Checks
Purchasing Your Travelers Checks
You can visit your local bank to purchase travelers checks and most sell American Express and Visa travelers checks. These two types of travelers checks are the most popular. You will be charged around a 1-2% fee of your check amounts. You can consider the fee to be your insurance if your travelers checks are lost or stolen while traveling. Travelers checks are commonly sold in multiples of $20 but other amounts may be available.
Most people sign the checks in front of the bank teller when they first receive their checks. Having a signed check will protect you if you checks are lost or stolen and make sure that the signature on your travelers checks matches the signature on your ID or passport. You may find a vendor or bank that will be very particular about the signature!
Traveling With Your Travelers Checks
Before you leave, separate your travelers checks from your proof of payment stub and make some copies to stash with your back up credit card numbers and other safety precautions, and I would leave a copy with a friend or relative at home. This stub will be inside the travelers check envelope, and is proof that you purchased the checks. Keep this stub separately from your travelers checks because if both are stolen, you don’t have a receipt and won’t be able to get your checks back!
If you do not have travelers checks in the currency of the country you are visiting, when you purchase something from a store with a check, the vendor will need to subtract the amount of your US travelers check from the local currency total. Don’t expect to get a good conversion rate or to even experience correct math. For that reason alone, it is suggested to purchase travelers checks in the currency of your destination. When you are ordering your cash currency from your bank for your trip, you can also order travelers checks in the same currency if they do not have them on hand.
The hardest part of using travelers check is finding out if the establishment even accepts travelers checks. After determining the amount of travelers checks to use, sign your travelers checks in front of the vendor during checkout. After comparing the two signatures with your identification, they will accept your payment. If you’re due change, it will be returned in the local currency. Taking them to a local bank to exchange them into cash is typically the easiest, least expensive and least stressful way to use your checks internationally. Personally, I only travel with travelers checks for exchange at a local bank.
Your hotel room and checked bag is not a good place for your travelers checks but they could be a good place to hold your stubs and a great place to hold backup copies. Like your cash, be sure to keep them in underclothing travel accessories or in your wallet that is placed in your front pocket.
What to Do When Your Travelers Checks are Lost or Stolen
First contact the number on the back of your proof of payment stub with the 1-800 number. American Express and Visa offer 2 hour assistance for the Travelers Checks. Simply enough, within 24 hours of reporting your checks compromised, you should receive your new travelers checks, and the old ones are voided.
Author: Rebecca Huber, Group Tour Director and Digital Marketing for Joy Tour & Travel. Rebecca has traveled around the world as a backpacker, traveler and student ambassador. She loves writing about travel and loves traveling even more.