How Much Do Traveler’s Checks Cost?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 13, 2018

Although the wide use of debit cards and ATMs have made the use of traveler’s checks decline, they are still quite popular for those who do a lot of traveling abroad.  According to the Federal Reserve data, about $3.3 billion in nonbank traveler’s checks were in circulation, down from $9.2 billion in 1997.

Traveler’s checks are safer than carrying cash because they require identification before they can be cashed or used as payment.  While ATMs may be more convenient since they are faster and are usually in service 24 hours a day, the fees of an ATM can be more expensive than the fees of a traveler’s check.

How much do traveler’s checks cost?

Traveler’s checks can be purchased through companies, such as American Express and Visa, or they can be purchased at your personal bank.  Most banks charge 1-3% for each check you purchase.

Because traveler’s checks can be used as cash, you usually purchase them in different denominations.  For example, if you wish to carry $500, it would be best to carry separate traveler’s checks in $100, $50, $20, or $10 amounts that add to a total of $500.  No matter how you split up the amounts, however, the charge for $500 worth of traveler’s checks will be between $5-$10.

For example, Wells Fargo offers traveler’s cheques through American Express.  They will charge based on a number of checks required.  Additional fees, such as an express delivery fee, can apply if they are required within 24 to 48 hours.

Traveler’s checks overview

To put it in simple terms:  A traveler’s check is a form of monopoly money the whole world agreed to accept.

To redeem these checks while traveling, you will need to find a local bank, American Express office or a larger shop/hotel that’s able to convert your check to local currency.

Traveler’s checks are refundable if they are lost or stolen.  Be sure to read the fine print before purchasing one as all carriers are going to vary.

Checks will never expire and can be used at any time.

Countries will be able to exchange them for the local currency.

Common denominations range from $25 to $100.

Where to buy traveler’s checks

AAA Office

American Express

Local bank

Mastercard

Travelex

Visa

What are the extra costs?

While some companies offer free replacement services in case of lost or stolen checks, others charge for this type of “insurance.”  This insurance charge can be anything from $10 to $50 or a percentage of your total amount in checks.  Some companies return this as a deposit if the service is not needed.

Express delivery fees can apply with various banks.  For example, American Express charges $20 to ship overnight.

Tips to know:

If a traveler’s check is lost or stolen, most issuers will replace it free of charge.  This is a big advantage over having cash.

Get checks issued in dollar amounts rather than to a specific currency. This way, you can use them in various countries while traveling.

Always get checks that are less than $100 to play it on the safe side.  Consider getting checks that range anywhere from $20 to $100.

Get checks that are branded with major names such as American Express, Visa and MasterCard.  This will ensure you that it’s going to be accepted everywhere.

Prior to traveling, check the country’s exchange rate to see how much money you will need.

Some vacation destinations may have no banks, and even if they do, the rates may be too high.  Research your destination to see where you will be able to exchange these checks for a fair rate.

Do traveler’s checks expire?  No.  These checks will not lose its value or expire.

How can I save money?

Many banks, especially credit unions, now offer free traveler’s checks for its members.  There may be some regulation as to what type of account you have, but this is not always the case.  Check with your bank to see what their traveler’s check policy is.

If you are going to be traveling often, switching to a bank that offers this service for free may be your best option.

Consider sticking to your ATM card.  Traveler’s checks are slowly becoming a thing of the past.  While many companies will still accept them, most will accept your credit card with a Visa logo on it.

Always try to exchange your check at a local bank to get the best exchange rate.  Hotels and stores will often offer the worst exchange rate.


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