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Travellers Cheques – Yes They Still Exist, But Do They Have Any Advantages?

in Travel Money

I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes- you can still get travellers cheques! In the age of electronic finance and money management it does seem a little strange that travellers cheques are still commonly used but clearly plenty of people still prefer them so let’s have a look.

How do travellers cheques work?

Like travel cash you buy travellers cheques from foreign exchange brokers like American Express or Travelex. Instead of getting cash for your sterling you get cheques to the equivalent value in foreign currency.

You sign the cheques so nobody else can use them. Also make a note of the serial numbers in case you lose your cheques.

When you need cash during your holiday you’ll have to find somewhere to cash the cheques for you. Hotel receptions are the best bet for getting them exchanged for free or you might be able to find a local branch of the foreign exchange provider you brought through. Other foreign exchange brokers or banks will usually cash them but may well charge a fee.

Sounds like a lot of work. What are the benefits?

Travellers cheques where certainly revolutionary before widespread access to cash machines because they meant you didn’t need to take all your travel cash as cash, which is safer as travellers cheques have basically no cash value if they get stolen and they can be easily replaced at no extra cost, so no need for travel insurance claims. Actually financially they also work out pretty good as long as you can get someone to cash them for free. You may even save money over using a currency card because there’s no ATM access fees.

The other fringe benefit of using travellers cheques is they can help you to budget. Say you only want to spend €50/ day you could cash a €50 travellers cheque each morning for that days budget. You can’t really do this affordably with most cash cards because you’ll get charged each time you use the cash machine.

So why aren’t we raving about them? In some places travellers cheques can be more hassle than they’re worth. If your hotel won’t cash them you’ll have to try and find somewhere in town that will and risk getting ripped off on fees. We’re also pretty sure they won’t be around in a few years so don’t want to flog a dying horse to strongly.

Our tips for using travellers cheques

Email your hotel before you buy your cheques and ask if they will cash them for you and if so is there a fee. Assuming they’ll do it for free travelllers cheques are a good option.

If your hotel don’t cash travellers cheques or want to charge you a fee check for local agents in the resort you’re travelling to who can cash them for free. You can do this through the travelex website or enquire at one of their local offices.

If you’re sure you’ll be able to cash your travellers cheques easily and for free you can buy them at the same time as your travel cash in a single transaction. Just ask for some of the money in currency and the rest in cheques. It you order online the same should apply.

As with travel cash you should try to buy your cheques when the exchange rate is favourable and do not pay commission on your exchange.

Write down your serial numbers for each cheque you’re given and also email them to yourself so you’ll have them handy should you lose the cheques or they get stolen.

Make sure you can exchange any unused cheques back into sterling free of charge (or as they don’t expire you can always keep them for your next trip).

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