"Don’t leave home without them.” That was the warning that actor Karl Malden shared with TV viewers in the 70’s in a series of ads for traveler’s checks. At the time, these checks were the safest way to carry money while traveling.
If you are planning a Mediterranean yacht charter holiday this summer, don’t bother bringing any traveler’s checks. It seems traveler’s checks, just like those commercials, are becoming a distant memory. "After last season, we noticed many retail outlets in Europe have ceased to accept traveler’s checks, " states Jana Sheeder, President of SailAway Yacht Charters. "Travelers who have relied on these checks for years are finding themselves in a cash-flow limbo."
For years, travelers turned to traveler’s checks as a way to carry something close to cash safely. For a small fee, companies such as American Express promised quick replacement if the checks were lost or stolen.
Most retailers accepted the checks as cash, but that began to change with the use of electronic payments, primarily via debit and credit cards. A report by the U.S. Federal Reserve of St. Louis states the use of traveler’s checks has been on a steady decline since the 90’s.
According to Sheeder, “The few places that still accept them are charging large commissions to change them. Compounding the problem are the exchange rates, often 10% less than the rate you can get through an ATM machine."
To keep fees to a minimum, Sheeder encourages Mediterranean yacht charter customers to purchase prepaid travel cards instead of traveler’s checks. Sheeder says, "The most efficient way to pay for goods and services, particularly when traveling overseas, is by using prepaid travel cards and credit or debit cards."
an expert who blogs about awards points while traveling, concurs. In a related interview, Kelly said, “People should get a credit card that works for them. Many credit cards offer fraud protection, awards points and some even provide rental car insurance at no additional cost.”
Before you pack your bags for your Monaco Grand Prix yacht charter holiday, Sheeder has some final thoughts regarding the use of debit or credit card overseas. She offers these guidelines:
• Make sure your bank is aware that you will be traveling. Many banks will shut down a card if they see suspicious purchases, such as charges outside of the country.
• Check on the exchange rate fees. While many banks will not charge an ATM fee, there are sometimes large exchange rates for using an ATM overseas. For this reason, use the ATM as little as possible, and consider a prepaid travel card. (You can purchase prepaid travel cards through banks and credit card companies. They are safe and secure.) If you do use an ATM, use the one at the bank, rather than the independent ones on street corners.
• If you plan on leaving a gratuity for your luxury mega yacht charter crew, consider a bank wire transfer. Make arrangements with your charter broker to wire the tip to the captain at the conclusion of the charter. "Most crews are not in a position to accept credit or debit cards," says Sheeder. "In today’s world, it doesn’t make sense to carry large sums of cash for the purpose of leaving a tip. Wire transfers are simple, fast and safe."
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