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

Travelers checks: Are they still used today?

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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

Updated July 23rd, 2018
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12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable
0% for the first 18 months from account opening (then 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable)
$0
An 18-month 0% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
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Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
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16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
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24.74% variable
$39
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
23.9% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With this card you get a 23.9% Variable APR.
17.49% to 25.49% variable
Up to $75 annual fee for the first year (up 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.
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$0
Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
14.99% to 24.99% variable
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
$0
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$0
Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
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Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
14.74% to 24.74% variable
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Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
16.74% to 25.49% variable
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17.74% to 24.74% variable
$95
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
14.74%, 20.74% or 24.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 20.74% or 24.74% variable)
$0
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16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
$0
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16.74% to 24.74% variable
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
16.74% to 25.49% variable
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$0
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
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Kevin Joey Chen

Kevin Chen is a world-travelin', copy-writin', Game of Thrones-watchin' credit cards writer for finder.com. When he's not crunching the numbers on bonus points and comparing APRs, you can find him flying around the world in search of the perfect beer.

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