While traveler’s checks are not as common these days as they were in the past, they are still available — and still offer a credible option for some people headed overseas. Visa traveler’s checks are issued through select banking partners across several countries — and can be cashed or redeemed overseas with eligible banks or merchants.
This guide covers all you need to know about Visa traveler’s checks, as well as offering a few travel money alternatives such as the Wise Multi-currency Account and card, for comparison.
|📑 Table of Contents|
Visa traveler’s checks are issued via participating banks, including¹:
- Banco do Brasil
- Chase Manhattan
- Interpayment Services Ltd
|How long are travelers checks good for?|
|One of the key features of traveler's checks is that they don’t usually have any form of expiration date. That means you can hold on to unused checks for your next trip, or redeem or deposit them into your regular bank account if you’d prefer faster access to the money.|
Traveler’s checks became popular as a secure and convenient way for people headed overseas to access foreign currency services. Let’s take a look at some of the key features of Visa traveler’s checks.
Visa traveler’s checks have several security features which makes them hard to forge. That means they’re a trusted product in countries where traveler’s checks are familiar.
Security measures include specific paper, a watermark, raised textures and a holographic thread². On top of this, the way traveler’s checks are used makes them inherently safe. You’ll sign your checks when you get them and then countersign in front of the merchant to allow signature verification. The merchant or bank can also contact the issuing bank to check the validity of checks if required.
If your traveler’s check is stolen or lost you must contact the issuing bank immediately. The numbers you need are on the reverse side of the Purchase Agreement you received when you bought the checks in the first place.
When you call the issuing bank to report the loss of your checks you’ll also need to request your refund. You’ll be asked for:
- The serial numbers of the lost checks
- Details of where and when the checks were purchased
- Information about which bank issued the traveler’s checks in the first place
- Details of the loss
💡 Tips and tricks to keep your money safe when you travel:
There will be a fee when you buy your traveler’s checks — but this will depend on the issuing bank you’re using. There is also likely to be an exchange cost — either at the time of purchase, or later when you convert your USD check to the local currency in your destination country. The exchange cost is usually in the form of a markup added to the mid-market exchange rate. That can make it a little tricky to work out the real fee you’re paying when you use or cash your checks.
Find out the exchange rate that’s being used by your issuing bank if you’re buying traveler’s checks in a foreign currency — or the rate being used by the bank you choose to exchange at if you’ve bought USD checks. Compare this to the mid-market exchange rate for your currency which you’ll find on Google — if there’s a difference, that’s probably a markup.
Make sure you know in advance the full costs, so you can decide if Visa traveler’s checks are right for you.
If you’re a business owner you need to know how to verify Visa traveler’s checks before you accept them. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines available from Visa directly, which cover the security features you should look out for, as well as the key steps to keep your business safe. In basic terms you’ll have to³:
- Examine the checks to ensure they’re genuine
- Watch the customer sign the check
- Compare the 2 signatures — the original and the one the customer adds in front of you at the point of purchase
If your Visa traveler’s checks are lost or stolen, you’ll need to contact the issuer. The number you need is on the back of the Purchase Agreement Form — or can be found online on the Visa website⁴.
If you have problems connecting with the issuer, call Visa directly on 1-303-967-1052, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traveler’s checks do have drawbacks when it comes to fees and convenience. They’re not universally accepted so you’ll need to check if they’re still common in your destination before you travel.
To help you decide which travel money solution is best for you, check out these alternatives:
Multi-currency cards can be loaded with USD which you convert to the currency — or currencies — you need, all before you depart. You’ll know the applicable exchange rate right away, and can hold and manage many different currencies all in one place.
To learn more about multi-currency cards, check out the Wise international account and card. You’ll be able to open a Wise account online for free, with no minimum balance or monthly fee to pay — and you’ll get a linked debit card you can use in 200+ countries for spending and withdrawals.
|🚀 Here’s what you should know|
Carrying some cash when you travel is convenient, and means you have money as soon as you arrive at your destination. However, carrying too much cash is just risky.
Most travelers choose to take a smaller amount of local cash or USD for exchange, in addition to other travel money solutions like cards or traveler’s checks.
Prepaid cards have some overlap with multi-currency cards — but can be more limited as you may not be able to use a range of foreign currencies with the same card. Many providers offer prepaid travel cards, which you top up in advance and can then use to spend and make withdrawals in your destination. Check out the fees and rates before you choose a prepaid card — including exchange rate markups, ATM fees and account inactivity costs.
Last but not least you can use your regular bank or credit card when you travel. This is convenient but does usually mean you incur a foreign transaction fee of around 3% on all spending. It’s also worth considering the security implications. If your normal bank card is stolen, lost or cloned when you’re away, that can leave you vulnerable to significant losses, while you should be enjoying your vacation. If you’re headed somewhere new, or where card theft is a common issue, you’ll want to be extra careful.
Using a range of ways to pay when you travel is the most sensible choice for most people. Taking some local cash, your Wise card and a credit card for emergencies — for example — means you have flexibility and know you’ll always be able to pay, no matter what happens. Use this guide as a starting point to arrange your travel spending in the most convenient way for you — and have a wonderful trip.
|💬 Still curious about traveler’s checks? Check these articles out!|
- Visa USA - Consumer travelers cheques
- Visa USA - Visa TC acceptance guidelines
- Visa USA - Small business travelers cheques
- Visa USA - Travelers cheques contact
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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