Although somewhat old-fashioned in the era of credit and debit cards, travelers checks provide some features and functionality that are not possible with a plastic card. Stolen travelers checks are tough for criminals to use, and the checks are easy to replace. They are easy to use, but are not accepted everywhere. To ensure you are never stuck without money on the road, consider carrying a mix of funding sources including travelers checks, cash and credit cards.
Each travelers check has an individual serial number. Take the time to write down the serial numbers of your checks before beginning your trip. Pack the list in a secure part of your luggage separate from the actual checks. If a check is stolen, call or visit the issuing bank for replacements. Sign the upper left corner of all your travelers checks before your trip, and countersign at the lower left as you use them. This prevents thieves from using your checks unless they are also excellent forgers. Unlike a debit card, travelers checks are not tied to your bank account or financial data. In the event they are lost or stolen, they will not allow anyone to access your financial information.
Travelers checks are issued by a number of banks and credit unions as well as American Express. Account holders often qualify for free or very low-cost travelers checks. Many issuing banks are international, and branch offices may be available in your destination city. If you are traveling with a companion, checks for two allow you to pool travel funds without sharing bank information. Either party can purchase and use checks for two.
Travelers checks are typically sold in a range of currencies. The exchange rates are often highly competitive, and using travelers checks allows you to lock in a rate. While ATM withdrawals are subject to fluctuating economies, your travelers checks are worth their face value in whatever currency you choose.
Travelers checks are not as widely accepted as they once were, as merchants increasingly turn to credit and debit options. In rural parts of some countries, cash is still king. Travelers checks do not provide points or cash-back rewards, and they are bulky to carry when compared to cards.