How Do Travelers Checks Work? Check It Out Now!
Have you ever been in a foreign country, making an exciting purchase, and suddenly realize you’re out of local currency? Or, worse, you realize your wallet has been stolen! It can happen to the most seasoned traveler, wherever you are in the world.
If you just had travelers checks handy, this would not be a problem. While they were all the rage a decade or so ago, today’s traveler may not be as familiar with them. Here is a friendly guide to how travelers checks work.
Something to check off your list
Before you travel, be sure to put the travelers checks on the top of your list. These are usually issued through banks, so be sure to make a bank run as you prepare for your trip.
Why bring travelers checks when you can bring an assortment of modes of payment like cash, credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards.
Travelers checks can offer a little extra security, which is always welcome for a smooth, enjoyable trip. One of the most positive things about travelers checks is that they cannot be used when unsigned and can easily be cancelled and replaced if lost or stolen.
Checks can be issued in the local currency that you are traveling to. You do have to pay a conversion rate, but it is smaller and perhaps more stable than waiting to get to a money changer at your destination. The checks should be treated like local currency when accepted at shopping establishments.
Shop Without Dropping
Since the checks are already prepaid, it is impossible for them to bounce. If you stick to only using the checks when shopping, you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend and it could be easier to stick to a budget.
Buy Now, Shop Later
Travelers checks do not expire! You can purchase some when you have some extra money and save it for a future travel fund. Or, if you have some money left over, tuck it away for your next adventure (source).
Good As Cash
While credit and debit cards are the go-to nowadays, using these could come with extra fees and higher conversion rates. If you are wary of credit card scams and idetity theft, travelers checks are also a good alternative.
Many commenters on Trip Advisor have positive things to say about using travelers checks! However, since the use of travelers checks have been going out of style, here are some things to consider:
Less establishments now accept travelers checks, so you might encounter problems when trying to buy your souvenirs, especially in smaller stores. Your best bet is to have the checks converted to cash at a local bank.
The currencies available for travelers checks are US, Canadian, and Australian Dollars, Pound Sterling, Japanese Yen, Chinese Yuan, and the Euro (source). So, if you are traveling to a country that’s a bit more exotic, you will have to bring your travelers checks in a different currency and do an extra step, having them converted. Conversion rates will surely apply.
That said, travelers checks are very convenient to use in China with lower exchange rates and is a safe and reliable way to convert US dollars to Chinese Yuan (source).
Great, sign me up!
Once you’ve gotten your travelers checks, here comes the fun part – how to spend them! Here are some tips on using travelers checks:
Each check has its own unique serial number. The bank will also issue you a receipt (source). Keep the receipt safe and separate from the actual checks. Make a note of all the check’s serial numbers. You will need these to cancel and refund your checks in the unfortunate case that you lose the checks.
American Express is the leader in travelers check issuers. Though there are increasingly fewer establishments accepting these, American Express says there are still thousands of retailers worldwide that do. Their website has both a travelers check purchase locator and exchange locator so you can conveniently find out if the store you want to shop at will accept your checks.
Since travelers checks may only be used with the valid signature of the user, be sure to bring a valid ID with a visible signature. The sales attendants may be strict about checking if the signatures match, to ensure that the checks have not been stolen. Sign the checks in front of the attendant, only when you are about to pay.
Otherwise, travelers checks are good as cash and should be treated as such, so go ahead and shop to your heart’s content. The next time you travel, be sure to check out this convenient mode of payment!