Travellers cheques used to be a popular way to take money abroad without having to carry a lot of cash with you. Their popularity has declined as the number of alternative options has increased, but some people still like to use them. What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Travellers cheques work like regular bank cheques in that you can use them to buy things or in exchange for money. You buy cheques for a pre-set amount in a choice of currencies before you go abroad. You can use them to pay for something directly or exchange them for their face value in cash at a bank or bureau de change. Each cheque must be signed when you get it; you will countersign it when you use it as an ID check.
Travellers cheques are a safe way to carry money around. If you lose them or they are stolen, you can order a replacement. They also have multiple uses. You can swap them for local currency, or you can use them to pay for shopping, restaurant meals and hotels. They save having to carry lots of cash or credit cards around with you. They also don't have an expiry date, so, if you have any left over after a holiday, you can use them the next time you go abroad.
Travellers cheques are not as widely accepted as they used to be. This varies from country to country and may limit how useful they are. In some regions, retailers may impose a minimum spend; in others, you may only be able to exchange them for cash. They may also add to your overall spending. You may pay commission when you buy them, especially if you order sterling cheques. If you exchange them for local currency, there will be extra commission and exchange fees; some countries also impose limits on how much you can exchange at once. If you lose your cheques, but haven't written down your serial numbers, it can be harder to replace them.
It is more common to use cashpoints to withdraw money on holiday now so many people don't need to take travellers cheques with them. Alternative card-based solutions have also become more widely available. You can buy travellers cheque cards, travel currency cards, or use prepaid debit and credit cards. All of these options have fees and costs.
Remember to sign each cheque as soon as it is issued to prevent fraud if you lose it. Keep a note of each serial number in case you need replacements. Do not keep your list of serial numbers in the same place as your cheques. Check with the company that supplied your cheques to see what you need to show to prove identity when you use them. You need to show a photo ID such as a passport and, in some regions, you must also show your original purchase receipt or agreement.