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travelers checks

Hello,
I know traveler's Checks seem to be of a different era. I will be traveling to Hungary, Croatia, Italy, and France and want to know if any one else has used Traveler's Checks recently. I would be buying and cashing Euro denominated checks. Before you think I am totally crazy, I can buy a 100 Euro check for today for $132.00 (USD). If there is no charge for cashing it or using to buy housing, then I can "lock-in" an exchange rate. I asked the apartment manager where we will be staying in Budapest if they took Euro traveler's checks and the response was , "no, cash only". I also am aware that Traveler's Checks are being counterfeited, so, at least in the USA, stores have a scanner to distinguish between good and bad checks (they hope). wayne iNWI

Posted by
21204 posts

I don't how we could be more blunt with you -- NO TRAVELERS CHECKS -- PERIOD. You may (??) be able to cash at some banks or money exchanges but there will be a substantial fee. You would be better off bring US cash than TCs. And you have to use local currency unless you like being short changed with bad exchange rates.

Posted by
821 posts

Hi, I am not crazy, I have traveled to Eastern Europe many times before. I am curious about the traveler's checks because I would love to lock-in the exchange rate as of now. I guess I didn't make my self clear. Of course I have used ATMs in Hungary, Bulgaria, etc but you are the whims of bank fees and currency fluxuations. Plus, if you haven't noticed, at a wave of a hand credit cards can change fees. 1%, 2%, 3% for currency charge and you can't be certain what rate you will get. I am no currency speculator, but have looked at the last 12 months, and IF you can get Euros for $1.30 or less you beat the average price for 2010. Today the exchange rate is 1.291. Buying actual Euros carries an enormous fee at the big banks where I live. They want more than 10% And yes, Croatia and Hungary are on their own currency but when I have settled hotel bills in Budapest, they want Euros. Why? Maybe to insulate themselves from currency fluxuations. wayne iNWI

Posted by
21204 posts

This is not making a lot of sense. Even if you lock in a good exchange rate now with TCs but no one will cash them or charge a fee to do so. How have you gained anything? You are never at the whim of credit cards fees IF you know the fees charged by your credit card companies. Credit card fees are not random and don't change overnight. Since I use only credit and debit cards that do not charge any currency conversion fees, the only thing that changes is the exchange rate. And with my cards I know I will get an exchange rate within one percent or less of the interbank rate. Cannot do any better than that. Now if trying to hedge against a $1.40 Euro next summer, that is a whole different ball game played by people a whole lot smarter than I am. And sometimes they lose.

Posted by
2876 posts

You probably know this already, but neither Hungary nor Croatia is on the euro. Instead of travelers checks, nowadays most people obtain cash at local ATM's using their U.S.-based debit cards. They then use cash for smaller purchases. For larger bills such as hotels or rental cars, most people use their U.S.-based credit cards. Travelers checks are disappearing from the scene.

Posted by
2862 posts

It's very unlikely that you can trade Euro TCs straight across for goods and services, except perhaps at a few high-end hotels and boutiques that cater to luxury travellers. Even if you do find someone to accept them the exchange rate you get will not be a very good one. The cost of doing business with 'foreign' TCs is too high for the average business owner. If you take TCs with you it will most likely be necessary for you to exchange them at a bank, and there will be a poor exchange rate involved and perhaps a transaction fee, not to mention the inconvenience you will experience of having to locate a bank that offers that service. Most world travellers these days now use ATM cards for cash withdrawls. European banks don't charge an ATM transaction fee so what you pay will be whatever your bank charges. ATMs are everywhere now. Just be sure you notify your bank and VISA or Mastercard that you will be using your ATM card while you're travelling so they don't freeze your account from suspicion of fraud/theft.

Posted by
2862 posts

The currency exchange rate and transaction fees you'll encounter will more than likely offset any advantage you will have gained by buying EU TCs in advance. Since you're probably going to use your TC approach, I'd like to know how that works out for you. I hope you'll give us an update after your trip.

Posted by
2788 posts

Do you have a "Plan B" if you purchase those TCs and can not find a place to cash them, or if all the banks want 5% fee? I go to Europe every summer and ALWAYS use one of two debit cards at ATMs, one of which has no mark-up (a credit union) and another (an emergency back-up) that has 1% to 3% mark-up depending on the amount withdrawn from CHECKING accounts. Many folks here use Capital One debit cards that apparently have no mark-up. Good luck.

Posted by
2862 posts

Charles Schwab also does not charge for ATM use.

Posted by
2568 posts

Wayner, you don't want to listen to what people are saying. you mention credit cards changing their fees for ATM usage .. at the Wave of a hand. I don't think so. There ARE banks that are highway robbers for ATM use abroad. Wells Fargo/Wachovia = 3% PLUS $5 fee per transaction. To get $300 worth of Euros = $9+5!! By contrast, TD Bank: NO % fee, NO transaction fee for up to 10 withdrawals a month.. SO find best bank deal & open an account JUST for your trip. A no-brainer. How do you find the best deal? Here's a website http://www.flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange#Schedule_of_Foreign_Transaction_Fees_By_Bank_for_Debit_and_Credit_Cards TD seems the only conventional bank w decent deal, and is not in Wisconsin. However, Credit Unions ALSO give no-fee, no % ATM use abroad; mine does! The general public now can join credit unions you have a great one right in Stevens point! IMPORTANT RULES (1) Notify your bank u will withdraw abroad or they will "Freeze" your account. (2) Ask them to raise withdrawal limit to $1000 so u won't have to use ATM as often (3) WATCH while bank guy puts this info in the computer. (4) Both u & wife have ATM cards on account. (5) have ATM cards for your "regular" bank account, just in case of some "glitch." Forget the TCs I've been doing the above for 8 years now and have tracked the cost & it's the cheapest method.

Posted by
12353 posts

Wayne, Travelling in 1970s and 1980s in Western and Central Europe, I used Am. Ex. traveller's checks in $20 and $50 denominations. Usually, I cashed them at banks in West Germany and Austria, of course, the rate of commission (Provision, Gebühl) was the highest at Deutsche Bank and Dresdener Bank, which stands to reason since historically they were 2 of Germany's four largest banks, when compared with cashing the check at a Volksbank or Landesparkasse. Banks did give the best exchange rate (Wechselkurs), but then you had to consider the commission rate. With the proliferation of debit and credit cards, I only carry Am. Ex TC as a very last emergency resort. The last time I used an Am. Ex. TC was in June 2001, crossed into Pilsen (CZ) for a day trip from Nürnberg, cashed a check of $50 at the Pilsen train station's exchange counter (Wechselstube). Whether they would accept that now, I wouldn't know, have no recent experience. When I got to Budapest last summer, I didn't cash a TC into florints since I was only going to be in strictly tourist areas where signs appear in German and English...those places accept Euro and US credit cards...no problem. I was not going to exchange Euro cash for florints. Spoke German in Budapest, very nice, and lovely city. In the case of that apt. manager you should have florint cash on hand. I always pay in cash, even though the US credit cards, are accepted, to my Pension in Berlin as a favour to the proprietor, even though there would be no surcharge for me by handing over a credit card, but SHE would be hit with the surcharge!

Posted by
821 posts

Thanks so far, But you are missing my question and that is my fault for not being clearer. Let me make this a very simple question. Has anyone cashed a Travelers Check, in local currency (Pounds in England, Euros in France, Forints in Hungary), not in US Dollars, in Europe recently? Where did they accept them and was there a charge for cashing or taking the check in stead paying using cash? Don't worry, I have a credit card with no fees, I know how and will use ATMs with a bank card that doesn't charge fees. Most of you are missing my point. I want to lock-in the current exchange rate. I can do that at low cost using my Credit Union's Euro denominated American express Traveler's Checks. So please no more advise about the "modern" world of ATMs or Credit Cards, I am up to speed about them. It has been so long since I used a Traveler's Check that I want to know if they are cashable. Euro checks in Euroland. My Credit Union will take them back, no charge if I don't use them, But they will convert back to USDollars at the rate of my converting. wayne again

Posted by
2862 posts

Currency exchange businesses have gone the way of the dinosaurs. As I stated earlier, it's very unlikely that you can trade Euro TCs straight across for goods and services, except perhaps at a few high-end hotels and boutiques that cater to luxury travellers. If you take TCs with you it will most likely be necessary for you to exchange them at a bank, and there will be a poor exchange rate involved and perhaps a transaction fee, not to mention the inconvenience you will experience from having to locate a bank that offers that service.

Posted by
4361 posts

Wayne, there was a post very recently (I can't find it right now...still looking) and the poster stated that the banks she tried wouldn't cash travelers checks - and that the banks said that they didn't even 'carry' money (cash) anymore!!! Many others report significant fees to cash them - IF they'll cash them. And that's only for small amounts, and probably not what you have in mind if you have rent to pay. Nothing new... I guess you can look into just buying Euro from your credit union, if you're interested in today's exchange rate. NOTE Is my page the only one with the weird 'scroll bar' format for this post only?!?

Posted by
1758 posts

I also have that scroll bar Elaine for this post only.

Posted by
2862 posts

It's there because of the overly-long link in Janet's post above.

Posted by
821 posts

Hi this wayne again. I appreciate the attempts by people to help, and there has been some help, so thank you. Here is where I think I haven't been able to explain what I am doing. I am buying traveler's checks that are in Euros. SO it is a in Euros, there will be NO currency changing involved once I have the TC in my hand. The recipient will be getting 100 Euros. or 20 Euros. NOT 100USD. Now TC's maybe dinosaurs. And nobody takes them, not even banks. But I will not be trying to cash TC that are in the form of USDs. Thanks for the help wayne iNWI

Posted by
8293 posts

Well, good luck with that. The last time I used Travellers' Cheques was in the UK some years ago. The cheques were in sterling and Barclay's Bank in Winchester charged me £5 cash a £50 TC. That was it for me. You are about to have a learning experience.

Posted by
2862 posts

"there will be NO currency changing involved once I have the TC in my hand......" Unless you're in a country where the Euro is not the local currency, right? And it's been established that Hungary and Croatia do not use the Euro as their currency, is that also not correct? So unless you're only patronizing businesses that accept Euro instead of Florints or Kunas you will have to take your Euro TCs somewhere to change them, which is going to cost you a transaction fee at a poor exchange rate. It's for these transactions that we're trying to warn you away from TCs, not for the hotel in Budapest that will accept them. You seem to have it all under control. Have a great time.

Posted by
12353 posts

Wayner, You asked about why do establishments in Budapest accept Euro when that's not the national currency. It is for the convenience of the Euro carrying tourists in Budapest, overwhelmingly German and Austrian, that these establishments want to do business with. If I were going to Budapest now, which I might do again since I will be in Germany and Austria this summer anyway, I would go with Euro cash and stick to the typical tourist areas. I am sure they won't reject payment in Euro, especially those restaurants and shops posting signs saying "welcome" in German and English. For Budapest I would not convert my Euro cash into Florints. Know where a large bank is in Budapest or the Thomas Cooke office in case the shops and restaurants don't accept your Euro denominated checks. That's more "iffy." I think that a favourable rate on the Euro would be lost on the commission charged by the bank. American Ex, didn't charge a commission but then its exchange rate was lower. If you're going to Vienna after Hungary or Croatia, the Am. Ex, building is still located at the same address as it always was...on Kärntnerstraße...if you need a place to cash your left-over checks and want to avoid a bank. I saw it last summer.

Posted by
988 posts

Wayne - I just returned from Germany and Budapest. My mother took Travellers Checks - she is 82 and that is what she is used to. She purchased them in 100E denominations. She only had to cash out one time, were were in Regensberg, we walked into a bank, they directed her to some special window- we left about 5 minutes later, she had her Euros. She tells me there was no fee and there certainly weren't any hassles. Passport was required. Did we get lucky and just stumble into the "right" bank? Maybe. Is it that easy at all banks ? I couldn't tell you - we only cashed that one time. In Budapest in the tourist areas - the merchants take Euros. A small bakery and the Subway accepted Euros but had to return change in forints. We hired a local driver - they accepted only Euros. Hungary is switching to the euro next year, maybe they want to start stockpiling them - I don't know why - but it made it easier for me.

Posted by
4361 posts

Wayne, so I can finish beating this to death LOL it can be very difficult to find a bank willing to break a large Euro bill (even only €50) so the travelers checks can be that much more difficult...You may not have any problems cashing them, but the ever-growing tide is against them. Just be aware, and have a back-up plan if you get turned away. Denny, I've been called 'Elaine' before (I wish I had a dollar for every time - sigh), "Aline', 'Ellen', 'Ailene', 'Arleen', 'Ilene', 'Allene', etc......so that's OK ;-) Thank Heavens I don't use my maiden name here...oy. Thanks, Lee - that's it! I've never had a long link wrap around like that before...

Posted by
12353 posts

Wayne - From the countries you listed above, I assume you'll be arriving at Budapest's Keleti pu station, a very large station for trains coming in from Austria and Germany. I would be surprised if there were no Thomas Cook counter or an exchange counter (Wechselstube) inside the station where your Euro denominated check can be cashed. If you're staying only a couple of days in Budapest and only visiting the tourist districts, I would pay in Euro. You know they won't turn it down! Between a large bank and an exchange counter at the station, you normally can expect the Wechselstube to charge less commission for the check cashing.

Posted by
254 posts

The first time I went to London, 2005. A person in our group brought travelers cheques and the only place that would take them was the Barclay's Bank. She would have to find a bank and the go there to get cash but with a heavy surcharge. Traveler's checks are a thing of the past. My bank allows me to use my ATM card overseas with no charge and if I am charged in Europe, they rebate it back to me when I return. I have taken 4 trips to Europe (England, France, Italy) and never had a problem and don't anticipate one in April when I go to Greece.