Going abroad often means carrying lots of money. In our country we do not usually carry large amount of cash and consequently the risk of a serious loss or theft is much higher abroad than at home.
Traveler checks are a way to protect yourself against this financial loss. Details :
What is a traveler check ?
A traveler check or traveler’s check is a preprinted, fixed-amount check that is accepted in many banks and exchange offices worldwide.
The advantage over carrying cash is that you are covered in case of loss or theft.
Just like bank notes, the value is written on the traveler check ($10 or $50 etc).
These checks are paid in advance when you buy them. They are issued in a currency you choose for the amount you desire.
When you are abroad you can exchange these checks for local money at a less interesting rate than if you bring cash. That's how the issuer of the check makes money.
Today American Express remains the main company issuing Traveller checks.
You can order traveler checks in the following currencies: euro, pound sterling, yen, U.S. dollar and Canadian dollar.
Normal procedure of buying and selling a traveler check
You start by ordering traveler checks from the Internet or from a currency exchange / money changer. You choose the currency and the amount you desire.
Once you have paid for the amount expected, you'll get the famous traveler's checks, which look a bit like bank notes. Well you're ready to go abroad!
Once you are abroad, you will want to convert these Traveller checks into the local currency. To do this, go to a bank or currency exchange.
The American Express network is very widespread and the vast majority of money changers accept traveler's checks. The operator will ask for identification to verify that the name on the traveler is the same as your ID.
Once validated you sign the traveler check, give it to the operator and he will give you bank notes in local currency.
Warning! Banks and exchange offices will not accept your traveler's checks if they are already previously signed! It is essential to sign these checks only when the banker confirms that your ID is valid .
Otherwise the traveler check is no longer usable and you lose the amount shown on it!
Procedure in case of loss or theft
The goal of carrying traveler's checks is to be repaid in the event of theft or loss.
- 1. You will first need to retrieve the identification numbers of your lost or stolen checks. If you do not have these numbers you will not be refunded! That is why it is essential to copy these identification numbers somewhere else.
- 2. You then call the Traveler’s Checks American Express service center to report the loss and request a refund.
- 3. In some cases, you may have to go to the police station to file a declaration of loss or theft.
- 4. With your documents you can now go to a local money changer to get new traveler's checks or a refund of the amount stolen. You can also ask for a new delivery of traveler checks at your place but not surprisingly this is not very helpful when you are abroad !
Buy only American Express traveller cheques
There are several firms that issue traveller cheques but their products are not widely accepted. I have received a complaint from someone that has bought traveller cheque from another firm (I won't say the name for legal reasons) and she couldn't change them back.
In conlusion traveler checks allow you to cancel the financial loss due to theft or loss when you are abroad. However, using these traveler checks does not come without a cost when changing them back to cash. Besides the procedure to claim your money in case of theft or loss is quite a burden.
Nowadays, they are rather deprecated. Indeed travelling with cash and a few credit/debit cards stored in different locations is much more convenient. I personally do not use them anymore. It is just a pain to manage and brings little value in the end.