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Travellers Cheques – Are They Worth It?

2012 October 4
by Duncan

Travellers’ cheques used to be the big thing in travelling. But in an increasingly plastic and digital lead world – Are they still worth it? In a nutshell, they were pre-printed, fixed-amount cheques which were intended to let the individual signing it offer an unconditional payment to another person (usually a vendor). For the most part they were used by individuals on holiday instead of cash, with countless businesses such a restaurants accepting them as “currency.” If a traveller’s cheque happened to be stolen or lost then they were able to be replaced by the bank or other financial institution that issued them. Sadly, they have declined in use over the years, but are they still worth considering?

Worldwide Participation

The main disadvantage of travellers’ cheques is that they require worldwide participation from merchants and business owners. If they won’t accept them then they are practically just useless pieces of paper lying at the bottom of a suitcase. There are not as many vendors accepting them at the moment as there used to be. Only the major tourist destinations will have people who accept these cheques, which can make purchasing goods and services difficult.


The good news is that since theft is most common in the main tourist destinations travellers’ cheques are still useful in these areas. Merchants who accept them still do exist, which is always good news for travellers. ID is always required when cashing these cheques, so thieves have no interest in them as they can’t convert them into anything useful.

You will expect traveller’s cheques to be accepted in many older establishments or large chain restaurants that are more willing to accept the risk. It’s unlikely however that some back alley noodle restaurant in China will be so accommodating.


One other area worth considering is the cost for acquiring a cheque. If you pop into your local Post Office or Foreign Exchange Bureau you may be charged a small commission for the purchase or receive a lower interest rate on the exchange. UK money site Moneysavingexpert found that for a £1,000 spend you actually lose out on 97 EUR when using traveller’s cheques when compared the best travel credit cards. So in this situation you are losing out a great deal by using this payment method.

To put it simply, these cheques just aren’t worth it anymore when credit cards come into the equation. Credit cards are good at preventing theft since the thieves still need to be able to know the necessary PIN numbers to access any money. They are favoured more by business owners and they are generally accepted in many more places. If you stick to the big names like VISA and Mastercard, you can’t go wrong.

With this in mind, there are better options than the travellers’ cheque, and that’s what makes them a largely obsolete tool when it comes to travelling in the modern world.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. October 24, 2012

    I still personally carry some travellers cheques with me while backpacking for anti-theft reasons. It’s easy enough for a credit card to be lost, stolen or eaten by a machine. I use them mostly for back-up purposes.

    • Duncan permalink*
      November 1, 2012

      Good point Samuel! What sort of money are we talking ? A few hundred?

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