Changing travellers cheques out side of major cities?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Changing travellers cheques out side of major cities?

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1. Posted by rorone (Budding Member 40 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi fellow members,

I was wondering about changing travellers Chq,s outside of major cities and towns.. Is it practical, as i dont want to be carrying the equivelant of USD200 on me in local currency at one time..

Also im planning to stay for 6 mths and i was thinking of bringing half of my funds in TC and half on a Debit card.. how safe is it to carry TC around on you with all the general safety requirements taken into consideration?

I brought 3 months worth of funds in TC to Asia before and had no problem, but im just concerned that SA will be a little less user friendly in terms of safety and means in which to change TC...Any ideas?


Ror :)

2. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I can't comment on South American countries, but I do know that we had problems in Panama concerning travelers cheques, even in Panama City. We ended up coming home with all of our TCs and used credit cards when able to pay for lodging/food, and for a cash advance.

Our problem was the TC issuer. Our bank switched from American Express to Visa TCs. We ultimately spent most of one day traveling around Panama City to find a bank that would accept them - none found. American Express had cornered the Panamanian market. We were surprised as we hadn't had a problem in the Caribbean using Visa issued cheques. I do take that back - one larger hotel cashed $100 in travelers cheques from their petty cash box. Otherwise, we were out of luck.

I do hope that SA countries accept a wider range of cheques.

3. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Don't bring TC; I've never met anyone who cashed them without any trouble. They seem to be just a source of frustration; debit card and credit card is the way to go, as they're pretty much accepted everywhere. ATMs abound, and the number of shops where you can use your debit card is growing rapidly.

If you want safety, open an extra account for your travels, and email home for someone to periodically transfer money from your normal to your travel account. Doesn't get any safer :)

4. Posted by findemundo (Full Member 127 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I couldn't agree with bentivogli more. I spent a year in South America, used my ATM card to draw money in each country in local currency. Good rates, and you can count on getting real (not counterfeit) money from ATMs.

Bonus feature in Argentina, and of course, Ecuador, is you can draw out US dollars as well. This is useful because some tour operators, for example, give you a better price if you pay with USD. Always good to keep $50 in some deep unused or hidden poocket in your backpack "just in case." I was able to "refill" my stash at ATMs.

I also agree with bentivogli on having someone refill your account at home. OR, what I did to keep myself on a budget, I set up recurring payments from a savings account into my checking account each month. Kept my spending in check :)

Finally, Internet banking rocks - you can check accounts online and even the smallest, poorest towns in S. America have Internet cafes.

5. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Feels good when people agree with you :)

One thing I forgot; obsessively hold on to your tickets of each transaction! Although withdrawing money goes smoothly, it happened to me on two occasions that a transaction was subtracted from my account twice, even though I got money only once... I settled it with my bank without the least bit of trouble, but they needed the receipts for that. So keep those in a safe place!


6. Posted by rorone (Budding Member 40 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hey guys,

Thanks for the info. Im going to bring a debit card and set up a dummy A/c so i can transfer money into it as i move. TC dosnt seem practical.

Not too long left now! deaparting on the 24th of Nov.

Speak to you soon!

7. Posted by dbloom (Respected Member 586 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

With Credit/Debit ATMs the TC once an institution is almost obsolete in much of Latin America, many banks do not want to hnadle them, you have to carry them and your passport (bulky)along, and some banks charge a small % for the service. If you have a Credit/Debit Card find an ATM in a bank or in a secure area during the daytime and make your withdrawals. Always bring a friend if possible, never accept assistance from strangers if you have a problem. Be careful making purchases on cards such as groceries in supermarkets, gas, hotels etc. as "skimming" is now becoming a common practice, the employee, using a hidden device downloads your info. from the magnetic stripe and sells it to persons who then clone cards. Don't let your card out of your sight. Throughout Latin America the most commonly utilized Cards are Visa. American Express does not maintain many services in the region as they did in the past.

8. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi Rorone,

Travellers cheques seem like a pain in the ass to me! I met many ppl who had difficulties with them outside of major cities.

My advice for what it's worth is this:

Make sure you have both a VISA and a MASTERCARD before you go. Its invaluable to have both in South America. YOu will find that in Peru and Bolivia, VISA is accepted most widely, MASTERCARD hardly at all, whereas in Chile in Aregntina both are widely accepted, but MASTERCARD moreso (I found). Occasionally, you can roll into a small town and find that there are no ATMS so it's always advisable to have $100 emergency money stashed somewhere. $100 in the SA will keep you floating easily for a few days (accomodation and food included).

Anytime I was on the move I had one credit card along with one debit card on my person beside my passport. The other credit card and debit card I kept in my daypack along with a photocopy of my passport. And I kept $100 in my main backpack.

That system worked really well for me.

Hope that helps :)

9. Posted by rorone (Budding Member 40 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi Samsara,

Im planning to bring debit cards only. Will that restrict me or can i get away without having a credit card for the duration of the trip?



10. Posted by tricky (Respected Member 323 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Would everyone agree that the previous posts all still stand.
I am going to look into opening an account soon.

Was thinking on a joint current account for my wife and I along with a deposit account where we can make internet transfers to top up the account.

On the above advice that seems best along with carrying enough cash for a few days as an emergency fund.

Has anyone used HSBC? Nationwide seems to be getting the best press from site users.

Both are local to me so I will prob check them both out.