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Travellers' cheques go plastic

A high-tech innovation could spell the end for travellers' cheques, according to American Express. The banking giant is conducting a pilot scheme involving an electronic version of its traditional travellers' cheques which takes the form of a plastic card "programmed" with foreign currency.

The company has chosen the UK for the trial, and the cards are being targeted at people visiting the US in the next few months.

Called "TravelFunds," the cards can store up to 10,000 US dollars and are bought in the same way as ordinary travellers' cheques. People pay for the amount of dollars they want on the card. The cards can be used in the US wherever American Express is welcome. People simply present them when making a purchase and sign the receipt, with no need to show identification.

The cards are refundable if lost or stolen and can also be used to get money from American Express cash machines.