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American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

Ventnor City, New...
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for Walt Disney World, Orlando
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American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

My wife will be in two Canal Zone resorts next month. We're trying to figure out the best thing for her to do regarding money.

We don't think she'll be able to do everything with plastic (VISA-branded debit card that we use for everything everywhere at all times). And she's not sure she wants to have mucho cash with her, either.

Wnat about travelers checks in U.S. dollars? This was my suggestion to her, that she can take travelers checks and then cash them at her hotel's front desk as needed for each day or whatever.

What do you all suggest??? Thanks in advance!

Florence, Oregon
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887 posts
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1. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

Traveler's checks are a major pain here: Many hotels will not cash them; you have to go to a bank or casino, and even there it's an ordeal. Why do you think she cannot use her debit card in the omnipresent ATMs? That's how those of us who live here get cash as needed. (It is a good idea, however, to notify your US bank in advance of your travel plans, so that they don't block your card "for your protection.")

Ventnor City, New...
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for Walt Disney World, Orlando
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4,341 posts
124 reviews
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2. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

I guess I wasn't expecting omnipresent ATMs.

Thanks for the heads-up, from one DE to another!

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
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for Panama City
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3. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

One other trick, if you carry another credir card,

if for some reason you can't use your debit card or lose it and need cash(and don't have a pin or don't want to pay the cc's company charges for a cash advance) you can go to a casino and buy chips on your CC. Buy $100 cash them in at the roulette table play a couple of spins and then cash out.

Florence, Oregon
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887 posts
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4. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

In PC, ATMs are everywhere. However, for safety's sake, it is a good idea to always use one that's *inside* a casino, grocery store, or bank.

Florence, Oregon
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887 posts
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5. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

CDY's suggestion will work, but it's hard to predict whether it would be cheaper.

Foreign transaction fees and ATM fees (two different things) are kind of a mystery in Panama: Many credit card companies impose a foreign transaction (or exchange) fee of 2-3% in Panama, even though our currency looks, smells, and acts like US$.

Some banks charge foreign transaction fees on their debit cards, plus an additional fee for using a machine outside the US.

The only way to know for sure is to call your bank beforehand and ask, "What are you going to charge me for transactions in Panama?" And again, be sure to let them know before you travel: Many will put a clamp on your card as soon as they see a transaction from Panama.

Florence, Oregon
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887 posts
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6. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

One more thing I should maybe clarify: The OP asked about Panama City only, and ATMs are indeed omnipresent there. In the rest of the country, however, that isn't always true. The big cities (David/Boquete, Santiago, Chitré, et. al.) will have them, but not the more remote places, and not the islands. E.g., there are no ATMs on Islas Contadora, Taboga, or Grande, and the two on Bocas are notorious for malfunctioning about 50% of the time.

LN
Panama City, Panama
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7. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

Beware, there are hardly any AMEX ATM's for cash advances; however. Use Visa, MC or debit cards.

Sarasota, Florida
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for Sarasota, Longboat Key
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4,186 posts
107 reviews
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8. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

One other things OP may not be aware of, you'll rarely ever see any Panamanian currency -- the Balboa. It's exchangeable with the US dollar on a one-for-one basis. Almost all trading is done in dollars -- at least in Panama City.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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17 reviews
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9. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

Do as you would as if traveling in the U.S., but plan ahead when going out of Panama City because ATM´s are less frequent, but still present. Call ahead as Exilio recommended, to try to avoid CC from being blocked, but I have to tell you that the last few times I´ve gone to Panama, even after calling the CC company, they STILL blocked the card after I used it, and STILL had to call them AGAIN. Don´t go out with all your cards, if you can leave all your cards except one in a safe in the hotel better. Remember to fotocopy your passport to take with you at all times.

Ventnor City, New...
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for Walt Disney World, Orlando
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10. Re: American travelers checks? Credit cards? Cash?

Thank you all for your VERY helpful comments and suggestions.

If there are any more thoughts out there, by all means keep them coming, but I truly appreciate all of you for taking the time to lend me a hand.

If any of you travel to Walt Disney World, I'll be there for you in the Orlando forum! :-)