Does AAA still offer travelers checks?

Gabriela Peratello
27.09.21
4 minute read

The American Automobile association — AAA — is a well known federation of locally managed automobile clubs throughout North America. If you’re one of the 60 million members, you may remember the traveler’s checks the AAA used to issue. These days, the AAA has replaced traveler’s checks with a prepaid travel card which offers more flexibility for members — but does come with some fees and limits you should know about.

This guide walks through the AAA traveler’s check replacement card, and a few other alternatives for comparison, including the Wise Multi-currency Account and card. Get your free Wise international account online to hold, send and spend foreign currencies using the real exchange rate every time.

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Does AAA still offer traveler’s checks?

Although AAA used to issue AmEx traveler’s checks, these days the AAA travel money product is a prepaid card which you can load with dollars for spending at home and abroad. We’ll cover more about that in just a moment.

What should you do if you have unused AAA traveler’s checks?

If you were issued American Express traveler’s checks through AAA, they can usually be used indefinitely¹. There’s no expiry date — so you can either spend or redeem them with an eligible partner service, or redeem them with AmEx directly². It’s useful to know that if you want to redeem unused traveler’s checks with American Express directly, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility criteria, and could face a wait of 30 days or more.

AAA replacement to traveler’s checks: the MemberPay Visa prepaid card

When the AAA stopped issuing traveler’s checks they launched a new Visa prepaid card³ which can be used both in the US and when members travel abroad. A card offers more convenience than traveler’s checks, which have become less common of late, and can be tricky to redeem in certain countries. Let’s take a look at the features and fees of the MemberPay Visa Prepaid card from AAA.

AAA MemberPay Visa prepaid card features

  • Add money to your card online, using direct deposit or in cash at partner locations
  • Use your card to spend or make withdrawals in the US and abroad
  • Spend only what you load — making it a smart way to budget and avoid credit and overdraft charges
  • Keep your card funds separately to your primary checking or saving account for security
  • Manage your money online and in the AAA app
  • Monitor multiple cards at once, so you can see different balances at a glance

Safety and security

Using a prepaid card can offer security — especially when you travel or shop online with retailers you don’t know. Because your card isn’t linked to any of your regular bank or credit card accounts, even if it’s lost, stolen, or cloned, there’s no chance that thieves can access your primary source of funds.

Your card uses chip technology to keep your money safe, and is covered by Visa’s Zero Liability policy which means that you won’t pay if your card is subject to unauthorized transactions.

Fees and currency exchange

As with any financial product it’s important to understand the fees and charges associated with the AAA MemberPay prepaid Visa. Here’s a rundown — get the full details online before you buy:

Service/fee typeAAA MemberPay cost⁴
Purchase fee
    Up to 9.95 USD for primary card, and 4.95 USD for secondary cards — varies by purchase location
Add money fee
  • Direct deposit/ACH: free
  • In club reload: 4.95 USD
  • Online reload: 9.95 USD
  • Cash reload: fees vary by location, 3.95 USD for Visa ReadyLink, Western Union or MoneyGram locations, and 4.95 USD for GreenDot locations
Get cash
    In network ATM: free
  • Out of network ATM: 2.50 USD
  • Over the counter withdrawal: 3 USD
Foreign transaction fee
    3% when any purchase or withdrawal is made in a currency other than US dollars
Inactivity fee
    3 USD/month after 181 days of inactivity
Card replacement fee
    2.50 USD
💰 Want to spend internationally without foreign transaction fees? Get Wise
    The AAA prepaid card comes with a 3% fee every time you spend in a foreign currency — this can push up costs when you travel or shop online with international retailers. Avoid foreign transaction fees with a Wise Multi-currency Account and card.
    Open a Wise international account online for free, with no minimum balance, no service charge and no inactivity fee. Hold 50+ currencies, and get a linked MasterCard debit card to spend all over the world. Top up in dollars and convert to the currency you need using the mid-market exchange rate and low transparent conversion change. It’s free to spend any currency you hold - so no foreign transaction fee to worry about.

AAA support

Contact AAA support by email, phone or mail⁵:

Alternatives to AAA MemberPay Visa prepaid card

Need to sort out your travel money? Let’s look at some alternative ways to pay when you travel, to help you decide if the AAA prepaid card is for you.

Multi-currency cards

A multi-currency prepaid card allows you to hold a range of different currencies, and spend using your linked debit card wherever in the world you are. It’s secure, flexible — and if you pick the right card, cheaper than using traveler’s checks or alternative card products.

  • Open your Wise account online for free
  • Top up in dollars and convert to the currency you need online and in the Wise app — you can hold, send and spend 50+ currencies in the same account
  • Currency conversion uses the real exchange rate with low transparent fees
  • The Wise card is accepted in 200+ countries — wherever you see the MasterCard logo

Start saving with Wise

Cash

Carrying cash while you travel — either in the destination currency or in USD to exchange on arrival — is still an option, but it does come with some issues. Carrying cash can make you a target for thieves — especially in an unfamiliar country. And spending your precious vacation looking for a fair currency exchange service can mean wasted hours you could be using to relax.

Carrying some cash may be a good fall back plan — but probably not one to rely on for the bulk of your travel money.

International credit or debit cards

You can also choose to use your regular credit or debit card when you travel — a convenient and familiar option. Before you decide to rely on your card, check the issuing network is accepted in your destination. Discover cards, for example, don’t have as high global acceptance rates as Visa and MasterCard. You’ll also want to check the foreign transaction fees used — it’s common for credit and debit cards — like the AAA prepaid card, to add a 3% or so fee when you spend or make withdrawals abroad.


So AAA traveler’s checks are no longer an option — but there are plenty of other smart choices out there for people heading abroad. Check out a range of products to find the right one for you, and don’t forget to look at the Wise Multi-currency Account and card for cheap, convenient spending all over the world.


💬 Still curious about traveler’s checks? Check these articles out!

Sources:

  1. American Express - Traveler’s cheques
  2. American Express - TC portal
  3. AAA Prepaid Cards - Member pay
  4. AAA Prepaid Cards - Cardholder agreement
  5. AAA Prepaid Cards - Contact us

Sources checked on 09.24.2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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