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Traveler’s checks: Are they still used today?

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If you’re planning a trip, you might have thought about using traveler’s 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 traveler’s 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 traveler’s check, the issuer can cancel uncashed checks and issue you new ones.

Today you have fewer opportunities to use traveler’s 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.

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Compare credit cards for travel

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
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Citi Premier® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, flights and hotels and 1x points on everything else
$95
Earn 60,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021)
6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
$450
Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 or more within your first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021). Rates & fees
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Compare up to 4 providers

Using and buying traveler’s checks

Years ago, many businesses accepted traveler’s checks — and they were as good as cash.

That’s not true these days: Take a traveler’s 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 traveler’s 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 traveler’s check

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

But traveler’s 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 traveler’s check

  1. Go to a bank or visit the website of a traveler’s 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 traveler’s checks, and sign each one.

How to cash a traveler’s check

  1. Go to a bank or currency exchange that accepts traveler’s 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 traveler’s checks can be useful

traveler’s 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 traveler’s 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, traveler’s 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.

traveler’s 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, traveler’s 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 traveler’s check is lost or stolen

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

The times are a-changin’. Here are three options today considered superior to traveler’s 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.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    IvanDecember 22, 2018

    Hey, I have traveler’s cheque issued by Thomas Cook Agency, how can I withdraw it?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaDecember 22, 2018Staff

      Hi Ivan,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      To encash your traveler’s check, you would need to find a bank or currency exchange that accepts your check. Once you found one, you need to present your check, present valid ID and sign the needed document.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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