Travelers checks: Are they still used today? | finder.com
Travelers checks: Are they still used today?

Travelers checks: Are they still used today?

If you’re planning a trip, you might have thought about using travelers checks while on your adventure. These are checks that you purchase at the bank and use like cash — with safety their main benefit.

Once you’ve purchased travelers checks, you sign them. You can exchange the checks for cash at merchants that accept them, but you need to provide ID and match the signature. Unlike cash or personal checks, if you lose a travelers check, the issuer can cancel uncashed checks and issue you new ones.

Today you have fewer opportunities to use travelers checks: They are no longer widely accepted at stores and hotels either in the US or worldwide. Still, they could be helpful in a few specific situations.

Using and buying travelers checks

Years ago, many businesses accepted travelers checks — and they were as good as cash.

That’s not true these days: Take a travelers check to a store, and you’ll probably get a puzzled look. Their acceptance is declining, bowing to newer, more convenient options like credit and debit cards. Worse, many banks won’t even accept them.

If you take travelers checks on a trip, don’t plan on using them as currency. And know exactly where you’ll cash them once you get to your destination.

Where to get a travelers check

Over the years, many consumers have had difficulty using and cashing travelers checks. Now, many banks — including giants like Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America — no longer offer travelers checks.

But travelers checks aren’t yet obsolete. You can still find them from such companies as American Express, AAA and Visa. Typically, when buying them, you’ll pay a 1% to 2% fee on the amount of your checks.

How to buy a travelers check

  1. Go to a bank or visit the website of a travelers check issuer.
  2. Select the amount of currency to purchase. If you’re buying a foreign currency, check the exchange rate.
  3. Submit payment to the issuing bank or company.
  4. Pay any applicable fees.
  5. Make a note of the serial numbers on your travelers checks, and sign each one.

How to cash a travelers check

  1. Go to a bank or currency exchange that accepts travelers checks.
  2. Countersign your check in front of the clerk. Usually, the signature line is the lower right corner of the check.
  3. Show your photo ID to the clerk.
  4. Receive your cash.

How travelers checks can be useful

Travelers checks aren’t as popular as they once were. However, you’ll find a instances where it might be helpful to carry them.

1. You’re going to a place where there aren’t many ATMs

One reason travelers checks aren’t used much anymore is because ATMs are widespread. Instead of walking into a bank to exchange a check, you can insert your card and get cash in seconds.

Of course, that’s an issue if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have many ATMs. In that case, travelers checks could be useful. Just make sure there’s a bank or currency exchange that will cash your checks.

2. Safety is a big concern.

If you’re worried about credit card fraud, using plastic can be an unsavory option. For example, you may be worried that ATMs are tampered with or not affiliated with a bank.

Travelers checks may make you less susceptible to fraud. To cash your check, you must produce a signature that matches the one you used when you got the check. This makes it extremely likely that the person cashing your check will be you — and you only.

3. You want a fallback option.

If nothing else, travelers checks can be useful backup. If you happen to lose your cards or your money is stolen, you can cash a check.

What to do if your travelers check is lost or stolen

If you lose your travelers check or they’re stolen, you’re not out of luck. As long as you comply with your issuer’s terms, your travelers check will be replaced.

Here’s what to do:

  • Call the customer service phone number provided by your issuer.
  • Provide proof that the check is yours — submit the check number, proof of purchase and your identification.
  • If required by your issuer, report your stolen check to the police along with evidence.

After you’ve reported your missing check, your provider will void it and issue you a new check.

Alternatives to travelers checks

The times are a-changin’. Here are three options today considered superior to travelers checks.

Credit cards

Credit cards can be incredibly convenient if they’re widely accepted at your destination.

On the downside, many card providers charge foreign transaction fees, which are typically 1% to 3%. You can avoid these fees by getting a card with no foreign transaction fees.

Though they’re useful for purchases, credit cards are almost always poor options at ATMs. Most of them have cash advance fees and charge higher APRs for cash withdrawals.
Find a credit card with no foreign transaction fees

Debit cards

Debit cards are just as convenient as credit cards, and they don’t have cash advance interest. However, they usually have foreign transaction fees. Many card providers also charge you a fee if you use an out-of-network ATM.

Fortunately, you can apply for debit card services that are light on fees:

  • The Charles Schwab High-Yield Investor Checking Account charges no foreign transaction or ATM fees. If you’re assessed a fee at an out-of-network ATM, Charles Schwab reimburses you.
  • Capital One 360 charges no foreign transaction or ATM fees. However, it won’t reimburse you if an ATM company charges a fee.
  • Discover Cashback Checking charges no fees when you use an Allpoint or MoneyPass ATM. It also comes with no foreign transaction fees. However, you won’t be reimbursed if an ATM company charges a fee.

The best debit card for traveling overseas.

Prepaid cards

A prepaid card can be a solid option for traveling: Simply load the card with funds, then use it as a credit or debit card.

Many prepaid cards have activation fees and cash withdrawal fees. They may also come with foreign transaction fees.

Compare the best prepaid cards.

Compare credit cards

Rates last updated April 23rd, 2018
Name Product APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Intro APR for Balance Transfer Annual fee Product Description
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card
24.24% variable
$39
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
16.49% variable
0% Intro APR for for the first 15 billing cycles (with whichever is greater: $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
23.9% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
With this card you get a 23.9% variable APR.
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®
10.49% variable
$0
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
17.24%, 21.24% or 24.24% variable
0% Intro APR for 12 months (with whichever is greater: $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Credit One Bank® Visa® with Free Credit Score Tracking
19.15% - 25.24% Variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®
19.15% - 25.24% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Give your credit a boost with credit line increase opportunities, a fee may apply.
The First Access VISA® Credit Card
29.99% variable
$75.00 for first year. After that, $48.00 annually.
Access credit even if you have poor or limited credit history.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
9.50% variable
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Free Credit Score Tracking
19.15% - 25.24% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Rewards
11.50% variable
$0
Excellent Credit Required - Applicants that do not have excellent credit will not be approved

Compare up to 4 providers

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Kevin Joey Chen

Kevin is a world-travelin', copy-writin', Game of Thrones-watchin' writer for finder.com. His mission: To bring you the coolest, most helpful content on the planet.

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US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.24
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
The First Access VISA® Credit Card
The First Access VISA® Credit Card

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
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