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ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Reno, Nevada
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102 posts
4 reviews
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ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Have found difficult to buy travelers checks in our town. Should we be switching to ATMS where we are going instead? Usually take currency in the country we are traveling to, and that requires weeks notice, and have to find a bank that will do it.

Please pros and cons.

Bethann

Oakville, Canada
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3,457 posts
24 reviews
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1. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

It seems that in more & more countries, travelers cheques are getting more difficult to cash. What we have been doing is to take a small amount of cash for when we first arrive and then just use our ATM. We find this method quite convenient.

Charlotte, NC
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2. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Actually, in Europe especially, I started again taking travellers checks. I got them at no extra charge through Wachovia, but have not tested this again now that Wachovia Bank is Wells Fargo... ATM's/Cashpoints/Bankomats are very common in Europe, but as they (the banks) started charging quite high fees, I got much better rate with travellers checks. I carry both & use both... In fact carrying USD is the worse in Central Europe; not a good rate of exchange... I do not see any point of getting foreign currencies in the USA. All airports abroad have several ATM's. Instructions are in English & several other currencies. Sometimes the sequence is different: In some countries: you may get your card back first, then money, then receipt; just make sure you get all 3! Just make sure you know your pin; after 3 attempts, the card gets "swallowed" by the machine.... I am not joking, I saw it happened.. Fortunately, the card is then invalid & nobody else can use it...

San Diego
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for San Diego
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3. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Sophie08etc. WHERE in Europe were you able to use your Traveler's Checks?? NOone I know uses them anywhere because they are not accepted as cash.

It is true that most people now get money from an ATM BUT I have found it helpful to buy some euros(perhaps 200 or so ) to have when I arrive just in case. You MUST inform your credit card issuer and your ATM issuer that you are traveling so they won't be blocked. YES there are fees , but most(all in Italy) are from YOUR own bank, so if you are concerned look around on line for banks that charge few fees. My husband just considers the fees part of the price of traveling and so he doesn't want to open new accounts just to save a bit of money. Everyone is different!!

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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4. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Travellers cheques are handy to take as a backup. But so often anymore you must go into a bank to exchange them, they are too difficult to use for daily expenses. ATM's are the way to go, IMO, and the charges really do not amount to *that* much when compared to the grand total of most people's trips.

If possible, do get some local currency ahead of time . . . just on the off-chance that the airport ATM's are out of commission!

Sydney, Australia
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for Train Travel
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5. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Travellers' cheques are now seldom accepted in western Europe. If you can find a bank that will cash them, there have been reports of fees as high as 20%.

If you exchange cash, the exchange rate will be discounted enough to amount to a fee of 6% to 10%. Sometimes more (I paid 19.2% at a currency exchange in central Rome on a small transaction.)

If you get cash from an ATM, the typical total fee is 3% or less.

Williamsburg...
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for Williamsburg
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6. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

A caution - at least where I've been in England. The keypads on the ATMs have only numbers, not letters, so know what your PIN is in numbers.

Banks, Oregon
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7. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

I would add my agreement to the others who recommended ATMs plus a small amount of country-appropriate currency. I have even had a difficult time using travelers checks in southwestern U.S.---and I'm just from Oregon! So many times, in the smaller towns, the local merchants (often younger clerks) do not understand the different between personal checks and travelers checks. So now I don't even bother getting travelers checks anymore.

Banks, Oregon
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8. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

oops-I meant "difference between" not different. I should have proof-read before submitting :)

Sheffield
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143 reviews
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9. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

For travel in Europe, ATMs are the way to go. Shop around at home for the best bank account that charges you least for cash withdrawal - some absorb VISA's charges, some pass them on and some even add to them.

And PINs - we use four figure number only PINs so speak to your bank about that too.

Tell your bank where and when you are going as some are rather zealous about blocking cards used overseas.

There are ATMs in the arrivals halls at most airports but if you are worried, bring a couple of hundred dollars' worth of local currency in small denominations for taxis, tips and so forth.

Here in the UK, we natives use ATMs all the time - personal cheques/checks are a dying breed

Vancouver, Canada
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for Vancouver
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10. Re: ATMS VS Travelers checks & foreign currency

Bethann

For foreign ATMs, I have found the following works: if you have 4 letters for your PIN, memorize the 4 equivalent numbers. Use a foreign ATM with a logo that matches one on the back of your bank card. A no-logo bank will charge an additional fee for the transaction. Avoid using a credit card, as a withdrawal will be counted as a "cash advance" and charged interest from the moment of withdrawal. To counter this, deposit money to your credit card in advance, so that you use up that balance while you are away. It does take some keeping track though, which may be the last thing you want to do while on vacation. Check with your bank about what charges they will ding you with - sometimes a flat fee sometimes otherwise.

Cash: I have finally learned that getting enough foreign currency in small bills/coins before I arrive on foreign soil has served me well. I am free to buy a can of Coke etc. from a vending machine right up to giving the cab driver exactly the amount I wish. (I have been taken for $60 for a $42 cab ride due to "no change.")

I agree with telling your bank the dates you will be away. They will put a Travel Watch on your card and you can then be confident that your card will not be blocked. I do that for all my important cards as well, because theft of my wallet is entirely possible.

Everyone has their own system, but thought I'd share my own experience in case it gives some pointers that are useful for you.