My Mom asked me the other day if anyone still uses American Express traveler’s checks (or cheques if you’re hoity-toity faux British.)
Back in the dark ages of travel, say, in the 1970s/1980s, I remember going to get those checks before a trip. You took in cash (or one of those old-fashioned checks from your brick-and-morter bank,) paid for traveler’s checks in the amount you wanted and then you slid them carefully in your wallet.
It was also a good idea to make a photocopy of them, or at least a list of the check numbers, so that if they were lost or stolen you could go into any American Express office and get them replaced.
Just like that copy of your passport that goes in a separate place in your stuff in case the real one is stolen.
You do that, right?
Anyway, the AMEX offices were an overseas Expat/Tourist Central, because not only could you go there to do financial stuff, but you could have your mail (snail, the only kind) sent there while you were traveling. It was your own personal post office, plus it had a clean bathroom, which was KEY in a lot of funkier places.
Why go through such hassle? Because, duh, there was no other way to get money!
ATMs were a new innovation and not yet widespread. I vividly remember the first time I stuck my ATM card into a machine in the United Arab Emirates, and local currency popped out.
Local Bongo Bucks, right there.
It was a total miracle.
Everyone and their brother didn’t take credit cards, either, so you needed traveler’s checks to buy stuff.
Even in today’s plastic world, you still have to be careful about foreign currency and purchases, because banks are starting to tack on onerous fees for using overseas ATMs and for using your credit card overseas. It’s sometimes called a ”currency conversion” fee. If you travel overseas a lot, look for companies that don’t do this to you.