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Travelers' Aid

Money on the Road
March 4, 2000

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I get a lot of questions about foreign currency. People always ask me, "what's the best way to get money abroad? Will my credit card work overseas? Are travelers checks better than cash?" It's a confusing subject. So I thought I'd go straight to the source. I spoke with Melinda Mulcahy. she works in the traveler's check division at American Express. Now, I use travelers checks a lot when I travel, so I asked her if there are there any disadvantages.

Well, one person already educated is Conner Gorry; she travels all over Central and South America for the Lonely Planet guidebooks. I figured, if anybody can give me an on-the-scene report about what you need money-wise when you travel, it's her. So I asked Conner: out of credit cards, travelers checks, ATM cards, and cold, hard cash, what's does she find the most useful?

Now, even though ATMs are ubiquitous these days, I still tell people to take a little local currency whenever they travel. It's a good idea, in case you run into an ATM glich or the airport money changers are closed. And always check with your bank before you go. In some countries you need a special access code -- usually just an extra digit or two on your PIN. And one other thing is still true. When you pay with a credit card overseas, you usually get a better exchange rate than you would with cash. That's because your credit card company charges you the base conversion rate -- better than you'd get on the street, or even at a bank.

But what if you are off the beaten path like Conner and you do get stuck? See if you can get your friends in the U.S. give a call to the international money company Thomas Cook and Associates at 800-287-7362. For $35, they'll wire money anywhere around the world. And tell your friends not to worry...you'll pay them back when you find your way home.


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