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Travelers Checks Versus Debit Cards

My first time overseas, I had to exchange cash in $200 of travelers checks to pay a mountaineering guide who hadn't heard of American Express. The bank charged me $8. During the same trip, I used my debit card at an ATM to get $200 from my checking account. Once home, I saw that the charge for this was one dollar, and that was the last time I used traveler's checks.

Debit And Credit Cards When Traveling

I usually carry a debit card and a credit card when I travel now. I keep them well-hidden in two separate places. If they are stolen, which has never happened yet, they have either zero liability, or a fifty dollar liability limit for any unauthorized charges. Ask your bank or credit card company about this.

When an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) won't take one of the cards for some reason - and this will happen - I use the other card, which usually works fine. Credit cards may be less trouble than debit cards. Your liability could be zero on your stolen debit card, but you probably won't have access to your account until the matter is sorted out.

Of course, on longer trips it's a hassle to pay the credit card bill on time, which isn't a problem with debit cards. Carry both, and on

longer trips you can wait until you're a few weeks from home to use the credit card. That way you'll get there before the bill does.

An important advantage credit and debit cards have over travelers checks, is that when you need the local currency, you'll almost always get a better exchange rate with your cards. Also, the cash you get from the local ATM will truly be accepted everywhere, something even American Express Travelers Checks can't promise.

I have nothing against American Express. Once, when I was robbed in Mexico, they quickly and curtiously replaced my stolen traveler's checks. Also, at times it is appropriate to carry money in several forms, including theirs. However, times change and ATMs are everywhere now, so my policy is : Travelers checks; don't leave home with them. You can take an American Express credit card instead.
About the Author

Steve Gillman hit the road at sixteen, and traveled the U.S. and Mexico alone at 17. Now 40, he travels with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. To read their stories, tips and travel information, visit: