Travellers Checks - still widely accepted?
Don't know if this is the right place for this question ... but "how to carry your money" seems more like a "gear" question than any of the other categories ... if it's in the wrong place I'm sure one of the mods will put it/me right.
I'm not too far off leaving for my trip to California now (Los Angeles - coast road to San Francisco - Yosemite & Sequoia - Los Angeles) ... so close even that I'm considering sorting out my vacation money.
Last time I travelled to the US (admittedly more than a decade ago) travellers checks were generally accepted everywhere by retailers and restaurants and the like.
Whilst researching the places I'm likely to get to, I've seen a few restaurants that have a PDF version of their menu on their webiste, and on at least one I've seen "no personal or travellers checks accepted". Here in the UK hardly anywhere would accept travellers checks (cheques over here) anyway, and fewer places nowadays will accept personal checks (too risky).
My question is ... How common is this? ... likelihood is that if I find myself in such a place I'd just use my credit card, but, if this is more common nowadays, then it will barely be worth bringing any travellers checks!!??!
All help appreciated.
This question comes up fairly frequently. For all intents and purposes there is virtually no advantage of purchasing travelers checks for use in the USA or anywhere else. If you use a bank debit card or credit card, you will usually get a better exchange rate and will save money (even with the service fee) than if you purchase travelers checks.
Personally I wouldn't get them at all.
I agree, I think you'll probably have a hard time even finding a place to use them. Other than hotels, I think you'd probably have to go to a bank to cash them most of the time.
They really are outdated. When I traveled to Belize a couple years ago, I brought a small amount of money in travelers cheques. I did it specifically because there are only a handful of International ATMs in the entire country, and US dollars are accepted everywhere (since their exchange rate is tied directly to the dollar). Even there, I wound up using them at hotels just to get rid of them, and didn't really feel like I needed them.
Thank you Mark and Michael for your good advice. As you say, since the checks are likely to be difficult to use, it won't be worthwhile or sensible to buy lots, if any.
As it happens I would be able to get them at a very good rate, probably better than debit/credit card rates ... but from what you are saying I'd then either not be able to spend them or may have to pay to have them cashed ... making them a false economy.
I guess I'll just have to live with the 2.75% "exchange rate adjustment" that my credit and debit card companies now apply to all transactions and 1.5% "transacting fee" that my bank will add to any ATM withdrawals ... that means a 4.25% surcharge on any cash withdrawals I make outside UK (and that's before any charges made by the bank I'm withdrawing from), so you can see how I may be able to find better exchange rates (especially if buying in bulk) here at home before I leave.
But, I suppose I knew this trip wasn't going to be cheap.
I have never used travellers cheques anywhere that I have been and never had an issue getting cash from an ATM or paying for goods with plastic. Actually there is the strange situation in France where the petrol pumps are often automated and the only way you can buy gas is to use a French debit card but the locals are reasonably used to visitors asking them to fill up on their card in return for cash... other than that you'll have no issues anywhere.
The Nationwide and Post Office credit cards are great if you are UK based. You might not have time to get one before your trip but, if you do, get it sorted NOW. They offer the best exchange rate and do not charge any commission. Work out far cheaper than buying cash at the airport or even taking it from the ATM...
I'll second the idea of getting a Nationwide debit and/or credit card.
They now charge a small fee for use outside Europe, but it's still a lot cheaper than any other provider.
I have a separate Nationwide current account that I use for ATM withdrawals when I'm abroad.
Yes, forgot about the (recently introduced) charge on the credit card. But this is just 0.84% so still a far better deal than offered by Travelex or whoever. The Nationwide debit card is free of all charges from Nationwide when used to take money from an ATM but watch for the local bank who often (in the US and Canada, at least) insist on adding rip off charges.
Good Advice ... Once Again!
Yep ... I took out a Post Office credit card a while ago and am fully planning on using it a lot during this trip. I found out how expensive my other credit cards were to use on a trip to france last winter!
The main reason for the question was for cash and cash equivalents ... last time I was in the US, travellers checks were widely accepted and a good way to keep topped up with cash for the next day's "small purchases" was to pay for dinner with a high denomination check and get change in cash ... but that was before the card industry worked hard on anti-fraud measures and all the fraudsters moved to ripping people off with fake checks, which I believe is why more and more retailers won't take checks ... I didn't realise this had changed in time to go and open a Nationwide account :-(
As mentioned in a previous post, at the moment if your buying (online) in bulk, with some travel cash at the same time, you can get cash and travellers checks at the same good rate ... so if they were still generally accepted, it might have been sensible to get some ... but they're not, so I won't.
A couple of hundred bucks from Travelex or from the first ATM upon arrival is usually enough to keep me sorted for two or three weeks with everything else going on the credit card.
I still get a mixture of cash and travellers' cheques (which have been accepted wherever I've offered them - restaurants and hotels) but the 21st century equivalent of the travellers cheque is - I'm told - the currency card (or "cash passport").
You stick a load of dollars on the card ahead of your trip and can then "withdraw" them by using the card as a debit card. The only downside (as far as I can see) is that they still charge a fee to withdraw your own cash but if you use it to buy goods (e.g. food, gas or a bed for the night) it's the cheapest way to pay. Plus you get a slightly better exchange rate than you would if you were to simply buy cash.