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Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

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Indiana
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Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

We will be arriving in London on Sunday for our first trip outside US. Our travel agent said not to mess with traveler's checks...charge everything and go to ATM for daily withdraws of cash. When I mentioned this at my bank, they said it would be very unwise to be dependent on only electronic means...they recommended traveler's checks. Now I'm not sure who to listen to. If I get traveler's checks, do I get them in $ and exchange them when we arrive or get the traveler's checks here in pounds? Will it be cheaper one way or the other? My other question is how much should I take out in traveler's checks? Providing my credit card doesn't get demagnitaized or something, I should be able to pay for most everything by credit card, right? I'm thinking I would just need cash for tipping and maybe cabs. Any advise would be much appreciated.

C. Johnson

UK
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1. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

Your travel agent is correct, just make sure you have more than one credit card in case of emergencies such as loss, or some other eventuality,and leave it in your room safe when you go out.

Travellers cheques are a PITA (sometimes you need passport to cash them, not everywhere takes them, not a good exchange rate) and IME you'll get a better exchange rate from a credit card than TCs in any case. I wonder if your bank was influenced by the commission they'd get on the TC's, by any chance? :-)

And yes, you can buy just about everything on credit cards, you will in most cases only need cash for small purchases,a nd as you say cabs. Even many cabs now take them, but not all so its usually easier to use cash, which you can get out of an ATM. For getting cash out, your debit card (do you call that a bank card?) is usually a better bet, check there isnt a per transaction cost (but you really shouldn't need to be getting cash every day if you are mostly using credit cards). You could always bring $$ to change into cash if needed, that way no exchange loss rate compared to buying too many pounds.

Perth, Western...
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2. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

I can't remember when last we used traveler's cheques. We've just been to Europe and UK and used credit cards.My husband and I had 2 credit cards each as well a debit card on our savings account. We put our credit cards in credit although some banks warn against this (probably they would rather you spend their money and pay interest). We informed our banks before we left that we would using the cards overseas. We also changed our PINs, which were names into numbers, as on the previous ocassion overseas, we found most ATMs only had digits and no letters on them. Some banks charge much more than others for cash withdrawals from an ATM, so that is worth looking into before you leave. Of course, this is Aussie banks and maybe US banks don't charge?

USA
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3. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

Good advice above. For more info on money matters see www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/moneytip.htm

Bingley, United...
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for Edinburgh
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4. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

Travellers cheques are virtually useless in the UK - you have to exchange them at a bank or a money exchanger. You cannot use them as money.

The only use of them these days is as emergency money.

Otherwise use CC's to purchase singificant value goods & debit cards to get money to pay for everything else

Remember to inform your bank / CC company that you are going abroad and to know what your PIN's are as numbers as European keypads don't generally have letters on them

Yalesville...
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5. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

I ALWAYS used to get a few pounds in the US before going to the UK, not any more.

ATM's and credit cards will do you fine.

Do take more than one credit card, just in case and let your CC company know you are traveling abroad, good business practice.

ATM's in London are almost as ubiquitous as pubs, no worries getting some ready cash.

Traveler's checks are getting to be like dinosaurs, extinct!

Have fun.

Poppa

Indiana
9 posts
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6. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

Thanks to all of you for your good advice. With so many in complete agreement that traveler's checks are not necessary, I feel much more at ease about leaving home without them. All your tips have been very helpful and much appreciated by this first-time traveler.

Thanks so much.

C. Johnson

Greenwich (London)
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7. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

<<< The only use of them these days is as emergency money. >>>

Agreed. The only time I use them now is when I'm travelling roughish in the less electronic countries, when I have a coupel of hundred dollars worth of insured ones stuffed down my sock.

Ohio
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8. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

My mother-in-law insisted on taking traveler's checks with us when we went to London. She cashed in about $150 worth as soon as we got to Gatwick. She got a horrible exchange rate compared to what I got at the ATM at Gatwick.

I have never had a problem using my ATM and credit cards in London. Just make sure and let your CC companies know when and where you'll be traveling so they know to expect "unusual" activity on your account.

Dunfermline, United...
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9. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

We've only ever used TC's when in the US as they are a convenient and safe way to carry cash and they are widely accepted in restaurants, shops etc. However, I think the US is the only country where tis is so.

As previous posters have said, TC's are useless in the UK as you have to change them at a bank.

In Europe, we have found nowhere would accept even Euro TC's so we used to get ripped off by the banks, until we found out some shops were happy to take them off us at a better rate. In Portugal, one shopkeeper said he would rather accept Sterling TC's than Euro TC's!

USA
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10. Re: Spending in UK - Traveler's Checks vs Credit Card vs ATM

I carry enough travelers checks to cover my London expenses, but I do not use them. The checks would only be used if my ATM card and credit card did not work. I remember a French strike that kept the cash machines from being refilled. I get no fee US dollar checks before I leave and deposit them back into my checking account when I return. I am probably being a little overly cautious.