Using Travelers Cheques and Cards in New York City

American advertisement for American Express Travelers cheques 1958
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Traveler's cheques are often most useful for use as an emergency fund. Most travelers will get the best rates and most convenience from using ATMs to access money during their visit to New York City. Finding places that will accept traveler's cheques as payment and/or convert them into cash at a branch seems like an unnecessary hassle for most visitors.

Travelers Cheques

  • Travelers' cheques issued in American dollars are accepted at many large stores, restaurants, hotels, and more.
  • You can convert your American Express Travelers Cheques into cash with no fee at any American Express Travel Office.
  • Traveler's cheques issued in other currencies will need to be exchanged for cash -- you can't spend them directly at stores and restaurants.
  • You will need to present a photo ID (passport, driver's license, etc.) when paying with a traveler's cheque.
  • Traveler's cheques offer protection against loss or theft.
  • Popular sources of traveler's cheques:
    • American Express Travelers Cheques - Can be issued for a single user or for two users.
    • AAA Travelers Cheques - Both members and non-members can purchase these travelers' cheques, but members get better rates.

Preloaded Travel Cards

  • This is a newer option that is probably a better choice for most travelers who are looking for security, as well as convenience. You'll get the benefit of the preferable exchange rates available for ATM/credit card use, but some have the security and opportunity for replacement/recovery of funds that traveler's cheques allow.
  • There is typically a charge for issuing the card, as well as a minimum deposit. The issuer also normally charges for cash withdrawals at ATMs, much like your regular bank might. You can usually use them as you would a normal debit card without additional fees, which makes that a good way for travelers to use them if they want to avoid high ATM fees that can eat away at your balance quickly.
  • Preloaded travel cards are available from American Express, Thomas Cook, AAA, and Visa.
  • Make sure your card has a "zero liability" clause that protects the funds should the card be lost or stolen.

Tips for International Visitors

  • Cheques issued in US Dollars will be more convenient to use once you arrive in the United States.
  • If you choose a pre-loaded card, find out if there is a currency conversion fee charged by the issuing bank if you make charges in foreign funds. If you have a card like that it might be a good way to keep some money safe if you need it for an emergency, but it might not be an ideal way to keep funds to spend throughout your trip.