Before we start talking about exchanging your travellers cheques into cash, let's start at the beginning.
What exactly is a travellers cheque? According to the Oxford dictionary, it is defined as "a cheque for a fixed amount that may be cashed or used for payments abroad after endorsement by the holder's signature". Traveller's cheques used to be available in several currencies such as US dollars, Canadian dollars, pounds sterling, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan and Euros.
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They were seen as a safer alternative to carrying physical cash around and at one point in time, very popular amongst tourists. Restaurants, bars, shops and most businesses would happily accept them as a travellers cheque could never "bounce". The issuer will unconditionally guarantee payment of the face amount. For reference only, the organization that produces a traveller's cheque is known as the issuer. The bank or financial institution that sells the travellers cheques is the agent of the issuer and the traveller who buys the cheque is the purchaser. The shop or restaurant you go into and use the cheque is known as the merchant.
The most well known issuers of travellers cheques were Thomas Cook, Bank of America and American Express. However, since the 1990s there has been a great decline in their use as cash, pre paid cards, ATMs, multi currency cards and credit cards have taken over when spending money abroad.
Now it is very difficult to use travellers cheques abroad. In fact most businesses will not accept them and they have indeed become an obsolete.
Even though these cheques can no longer be used in shops when you go on your next holiday, they have no expiry date and there are still some ways that you can cash them in but just expect a poor exchange rate when you do exchange them for cash.
1) Your local Post Office
Luckily, you can still walk down your high street and into your local Post office to exchange your travellers cheques into cash. The exchange rate you do this at will probably be poor and there may even be associated fees but this is at least a quick and simple solution. Remember to take your proof of ID with you, this could be your photographic driver's licence or passport.
2) Visit your local bank
A few banks still allow account holders to deposit Travellers Cheques to their personal bank account and so it may be worth checking with your bank first to see if you can exchange your travellers cheques with them directly and they deposit the GBP equivalent directly into your current account. Once again, if you go in person to your local bank branch will be asked to present photographic ID that includes your signature for sign off of these cheques.
3) Go online
It is also worth visiting the issuer's website directly to get guidance on redeeming your travellers cheques.
For example, if your travellers cheque has American Express logo on them, you can click on this link American Express Travelers Cheques. The page provides you with your nearest location to exchange your Travellers cheques in person and also provides an option to redeem them online.
Alternatively, if your travellers cheques are issued by Travelex, Thomas Cook, Mastercard or Interpayment Visa you can use their encashment form found here encashment-form-newv5.pdf (travelex.co.uk)
Generally speaking, exchanging your travellers cheques into cash requires you to print out and complete a form from the issuer. You will be asked to complete the details of the currency denominations of your travellers cheques and also to keep a record of their respective serial numbers. Additionally, since this process is done online and not over the counter in front of a clerk, they will request a copy of your proof of identification which also includes your signature. This can be a photograph drivers license or a passport. For larger amounts they may even request a proof of address - so a recent utility bill or bank statement.
Make sure you have the above at hand when filling these forms out to make things quicker for you
What are the alternatives to taking travellers cheques?
Travel money is a very easy and cheap way to spend money abroad. To find the best exchange rate, simply go online and compare exchange rates and any associated fees that foreign exchange providers are offering.
Some foreign exchange companies may say no commission and no fees on top but may in fact hide their fees within the exchange rate. So, instead of purchasing your travel money at the real exchange rate, you may be offered something away from that rate and this is the spread which incorporates their fees.
Other companies are easier to buy travel money online from as they are transparent. The Currency Club for example, offers the real exchange rate on any currency you buy regardless of the amount. An upfront fee is then charged on top, this amount is quoted as a percentage but you can also see the value in pounds and pence and this is then included in the total amount you must pay for your foreign currency. The fees fall with the more travel money you order and this company will deliver the travel money directly to your home, fully insured by 1pm using with you selecting the day that suits you best.
Credit cards (pre paid and others)
There has been a significant increase in travellers using their cards abroad. Of course a pre paid currency card helps travellers to budget, as you top up only the amount you wish to spend. Additionally, like travellers cheques they can be a safer option in the event that your card is stolen.
However, the problem arises when you visit a place that does not accept cards. In which case you are at the mercy of taking cash out of ATMs when abroad and this can work out to be very expensive.
Not only may you get charged withdrawal fees each time, but the exchange rate may also be very poor since ATMs are also charging you for the convenience of having cash on tap!
The safest and most sensible solution is to always have some travel money and perhaps one other alternative. This way, it's easier to stick to a budget and it means you will not need to waste your time or money visiting ATMs when abroad.
Buy Traveller Cheques
As an alternative to cash, we offer the best currency exchange rates on travellers cheques. They are safest ways to carry money around. In the event that the travellers cheques are lost or stolen you can report this and receive a replacement immediately.
Make sure you sign each travellers cheque when you receive them from us and keep the serial numbers in a safe place before you travel so you are protected in the event that your cheques are lost or stolen. When you want to make a purchase or exchange them for cash, just sign the travellers cheque in the designated area in the presence of the acceptor, along with your passport (you may be required to show your passport when you decide to use them).
Then you're good to go!