Holiday Money: A travelling companion in a world of change
Travellers' cheques offer the best security, says Christina Stopp
Wednesday 26 June 1996
In 1874, Thomas Cook relaunched the idea in New York, with the co-operation of 400 hotels in Europe, America and the Middle East. By the 1890s, Cook's Circular Note system was in use worldwide. At this point the American Express Company - offspring of Wells Fargo, of stagecoach fame - also took up the idea with its travellers' cheques. The rest is history.
In 1909, Cook's $20 travellers' cheque had the rates of exchange printed on its face. The sterling equivalent of $20 was pounds 4 1s 8d, or Fr102.5, or DM83.3. Times have changed. Today, rapidly fluctuating exchange rates are a concern for the traveller using cheques. They mean a possible gain or loss if you have any left over at the end of the holiday. Or you can commit yourself to an exchange rate at the outset by buying cheques in the local currency.
At a Thomas Cook office you can buy cheques on the spot in any of 13 currencies. The Australian dollar and South African rand are easy to find. At the Abbey National and the Halifax you can get Saudi ryal cheques. But foreign currency cheques will cost you extra from most outlets: pounds 500 in French francs costs pounds 9.50 from the Abbey National compared with pounds 7 for pounds 500 of sterling cheques. French franc cheques cost pounds 10 at First Direct, NatWest and Thomas Cook, all of whom charge just pounds 5 for the sterling equivalent.
Neither American Express nor the Halifax makes a distinction between sterling and currency travellers' cheques in the commission charged, both levying 1 per cent, but the Halifax's additional pounds 2 handling charge puts the cost of a pounds 500 order up to pounds 7.
Handling charges are the norm with issuers where you have to order your cheques: Abbey National and the Halifax, though not First Direct (see table). None of those shown in the table makes any charge for buying back unused sterling cheques, though you will be expected to produce your original receipt. Abbey National and Barclays (some currencies only) make a charge on unused non-sterling cheques which they issued.
Amex and Thomas Cook have networks of offices abroad where you can cash cheques with no charge. Thomas Cook has arrangements with bank chains in some countries whereby the bank will cash their cheques cheaply or for free. With most other issuers, you are dependent on the charges levied at the hotel reception, bank or bureau de change. Don't forget to compare exchange rates as well as charges. An office charging nil commission will probably have loaded its rate of exchange to recoup costs.
In France, it is also worth asking if the shop or restaurant will take a travellers' cheque. Cheques used in this way are taken at face value, so there is no further charge.
Travellers' cheques are, arguably, more secure than plastic when abroad. If you lose your cheques, say Cook's, the local Cook's office can replace them in as little as half an hour.
Cheques offer security in another sense. Many people like to feel they have paid for the holiday before they set out, with no credit card bill awaiting them on their return.
Convenience may also come into the equation, if you want to be able to walk into a shop on the morning you go on holiday and buy cheques in various currencies. If you have to order your cheques it will be slower and probably dearer, though some banks now quote a cut-off time. If you phone your order before the cut-off time, you will get your cheques the next day.
- 1 Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
- 2 London is the most googled city in the world
- 3 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
- 5 Richard Dawkins ridicules Sabrina Corgatelli for claiming her giraffe kill was 'ethical'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
iJobs Money & Business
£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...
Day In a Page
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.