American‌ ‌Express‌ ‌traveler’s‌ ‌checks:‌ ‌all‌ ‌you‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌know

Gabriela Peratello

Traveler’s checks have been around for over 100 years, allowing people to prepay for their travel money before departure. Get your American Express traveler’s checks at home, then exchange them for the currency you need at your destination. In some locations it’s even possible to spend traveler’s checks like cash, in hotels and with merchants.

Traveler’s checks offer a safe and convenient option for some tourists. However, in recent years alternatives to traveler’s checks have meant that there are fewer places to exchange or redeem them — especially outside of the US.

This guide covers everything about American Express traveler’s checks, and also introduces a few alternatives like Wise and the Wise Multi-currency Account, so you can choose the best ones for you.

📑 Table of Contents

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What are American Express traveler’s checks?

American Express traveler’s checks¹ are paper checks which you can buy upfront in your chosen currency and then either redeem or exchange when you travel. You could buy traveler’s checks in USD and then exchange them at a bank in London for British pounds, for example. Or lock in the exchange rate before you travel by buying GBP traveler’s checks before you leave home, and redeem them for cash upon arrival in London.

Traveler’s checks have advanced security and individual serial numbers which means you can get a replacement if your check is lost or stolen. That gives some peace of mind when you’re away from home, and is far safer than carrying large amounts of cash while you travel.

Traveler’s checks were extremely popular as a way of accessing convenient and safe travel money all over the world. However, as new solutions and technology have appeared, traveler’s checks are somewhat less common now. That can lead to some issues in getting your checks converted, and may also result in higher than expected fees. More on that later,

Where can you get the American Express traveler’s check?

Buy your AmEx traveler’s checks from your bank, credit union or an American Express travel office². You’ll need to double check availability, fees and exchange rates with your bank or credit union before you head out.

Getting a traveler’s check online

It’s not usually possible to get traveler’s checks online. The only common exception is if you’re an AmEx reward card holder and earn reward points on your credit card spending which you can convert to traveler’s checks. Take a look at your specific card to see if this is an option for you.

What documents do I need to use my AmEx traveler’s checks?

When you redeem or cash your American Express traveler’s checks you’ll need to present some documents for security. Exactly what you need will depend on where you are, and what the AmEx partner’s process is. However, expect to be required to show:

  • Your government issued photo ID — a passport is ideal
  • The original receipt or proof of purchase for the checks

Where can you use your American Express traveler’s check?

The way you can use your traveler’s checks will depend on where you’re headed. In some countries AmEx traveler’s checks are common — and so many banks, exchange services, hotels and merchants are likely to accept them. In other regions, traveler’s checks are an unusual sight — so finding a place to cash or exchange them may be tricky.

American Express has a helpful locator tool on their website³, which shows all known locations which will accept or cash traveler’s checks. Take a look at this for your destination before you travel.

Here’s a rundown of where you may be able to use your traveler’s checks based on some key destinations:

Destination country or regionType of traveler’s check to chooseWhere you may use your checks
    American Express traveler’s checks are widely accepted by banks, exchange services and even tourist facing merchants such as hotels
UKGBP or your home currency
    Redeem or exchange your traveler’s checks at select exchange services — this is most common at airports, in large tourist cities and in department stores where many tourists shop
EuropeEUR or your home currency
    Varies widely by destination. If you’re headed to Paris, France, you’ll likely be able to exchange at a range of currency exchange outlets. Outside of the capital, there may be only one or two locations per city.
    Some countries have no known exchange options — the Netherlands has zero coverage, while Norway has one known location in the entire country
AustraliaAUD or your home currency
    Redeem or exchange your traveler’s checks at select exchange services — this is most common in large cities
💡 Looking for a more flexible way to pay when you’re on vacation? Get a Wise Multi-currency Account and card, to top up in dollars, switch to the currency you need, and spend wherever you see the MasterCard logo. More on that a little later.

Learn more about Wise

How does the AmEx traveler’s check work?

Buy your American Express traveler’s checks before you head off on vacation, and then spend and cash them when you arrive. Here’s how:

Buying your AmEx traveler’s checks:

  • Use the American Express locator tool to see if traveler’s checks are widely accepted in your destination
  • If they are you’ll need to decide which currency to choose — USD or the destination country’s currency
  • Decide where to buy your traveler’s checks — fees and exchange rates vary depending on the location, so check in advance
  • When you get your traveler’s checks you’ll need to sign them in the upper left corner straight away
  • Write down the serial numbers of all your checks and keep this separate to your checks
  • Retain the original purchase receipt

Using your AmEx traveler’s checks:

  • Use the American Express locator tool to find the nearest place you can exchange or spend your checks
  • Double check the location can accept or exchange traveler’s checks before you head out, and ask what the fees and exchange rate will be
  • Take along your checks, proof of ID and original purchase receipt — depending on where you are, these may be required to access your cash
  • When it’s time to redeem your check you’ll need to countersign the check in front of the staff at the merchant or exchange service
  • The merchant or exchange service will validate your check, ensure the signatures match and exchange your check for currency

American Express traveler’s checks features

Let’s take a look at the most important features of AmEx traveler’s checks.

Safety and Security

A key selling point of traveler’s checks is that they’re far more secure than using cash. Each check has its own serial number, which makes it uniquely identifiable — and allows it to be replaced if lost or stolen. Checks have advanced features to stop them being forged, much like banknotes do. And merchant and exchange staff are trained to check the signature and identification of the person redeeming the check to make sure it’s legitimate.

What should you do if your traveler's check gets stolen or lost?

If your American Express traveler’s check is stolen or lost, you’ll need to report it to AmEx, giving them the serial number or numbers. You may also need original proof of purchase and your ID documents to get a check replaced.

AmEx has a 24/7 service, with different numbers depending on where in the world you are⁴.

Fees and exchange rate

There may be fees when you buy and redeem your traveler’s checks. There may also be additional costs rolled into the exchange rate used when you either buy a foreign currency check, or exchange a USD check to a foreign currency on arrival.

Fees and exchange rates vary by destination and depending on where you’re using your checks. Ask for details from the bank, exchange service or merchant in advance so you know what to expect.

Want the best available exchange rate every time? Meet Wise
    It’s common for banks and currency exchange services to add a markup or margin to the exchange rates offered to customers. This is an extra fee, but it’s hard to spot and can push up the price of currency exchange without you even realising it.
    Not all currency specialists use exchange rate markups. Wise offers the real mid-market exchange rate every time. That’s the same as the rate you’ll find on Google or when you use an online currency converter. You just pay a low, transparent fee — no surprises and no sneaky extra costs.

🚀Get the mid-market rate

American Express support

If your traveler’s checks are lost or stolen, get in touch with AmEx right away. There are different numbers to call depending on where in the world you are.

From the US call toll free on 1-800-221-7282. For any other location, get the best number to call from the American Express customer service webpage⁴.

Advantages and disadvantages of American Express traveler’s checks

✅ Pros❎ Cons
  • Safer than carrying cash
  • Can be replaced if you lose them
  • Buy in your destination currency to lock in exchange rate
  • Coverage varies by country and region
  • Fees may apply when you buy and redeem checks

There are plenty of alternatives to traveler’s checks, which we’ll run through shortly. However, there are some reasons why you may still consider traveler’s checks as a form of travel money.

Traveler’s checks can be useful in places where ATM networks are unreliable or coverage isn’t great. Traveler’s checks are less attractive to thieves and can be a good fall back plan in case your primary means of payment is lost or stolen.

That said, traveler’s checks are unfamiliar in some countries — and have very restricted use in many others. Check before you go, so there are no surprises.

American Express traveler’s checks alternatives

Let’s take a look at some smart alternatives you can use instead of — or as well as — traveler’s checks.

Multi-currency cards

Multi-currency cards are often linked to an international online account to allow you to manage your currencies and your spending from your computer or mobile device. Top up your account in dollars and then convert to the currency you need to lock in the exchange rate. You can then use the card to make withdrawals or spend wherever you are in the world.

Want a low cost, smart and simple multi-currency card? Meet Wise

The Wise Multi-currency Account is a great option if you want a flexible way to spend internationally. Open a free online Wise account online, top up and convert your money using the mid-market exchange rate with no markups. That can be far cheaper than using a standard currency exchange service, and far more convenient than needing to cash traveler’s checks as you go.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Hold 50+ currencies in your account, exchange online or in the Wise app
  • Open your Wise account for free with no minimum balance and no monthly fee to worry about
  • Wise cards are accepted in 200+ countries, anywhere you see the MasterCard symbol
  • Spend in any currency you hold for free — including when you shop online with international retailers
  • Make ATM withdrawals when you need cash — at home or abroad

Create your free Wise account


It used to be pretty standard to carry cash when traveling — either in USD or the destination currency. However, this isn’t the safest option, and if you’re carrying dollars you still need to exchange them when you arrive at your destination — nobody’s favorite vacation activity.

Having some cash on hand is usually a good plan. But carrying all your travel spending in cash is usually not the smartest option out there.

Prepaid cards

Get a prepaid travel card from your bank or any of a range of currency exchange stores and similar operators. You’ll be able to pay in dollars, to have funds loaded onto your card in the currency you need when you travel. Often you can only load one currency onto your card, which may pose a problem if you’re planning on traveling to several places.

Prepaid cards do have some of the same advantages as multi-currency cards, but may come with higher fees, including monthly service charges and inactivity costs.

Credit or debit cards

Using your credit or debit cards when you travel is convenient and allows you to make withdrawals and spend wherever you like. Using credit and debit cards overseas is common and convenient.

There are a couple of things to consider if you want to use your card abroad — many card companies add a foreign transaction fee which may be around 3% — pushing up the costs. You may also be exposed if your cards are lost or stolen when you’re abroad as it’s harder to get replacements or to manage your account if you’re not able to easily contact the issuing bank.

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

Whether or not traveler’s checks work for you depends a lot on where you’re going and how you like to arrange your travel money. Relying entirely on traveler’s checks is not likely to be a good idea, due to fees and sparse coverage in some regions. But having them as a fall back, alongside some alternatives could be an option for some travelers. Use this guide as a starting point to help you decide what’s best for you — and happy travels!


  1. American Express - Traveler’s cheques
  2. American Express - Purchase traveler’s cheque
  3. American Express - Traveler’s cheques locator
  4. American Express - Traveler’s cheques customer service

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 Wise Payments 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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