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Traveler's Checks and Money Orders
I first recall hearing about traveler's checks as a young girl from my grandmother when she was getting ready to go on a trip. I thought it sounded like an interesting idea, and recall thinking they were very beautiful compared to other checks and money I had seen. Traveler's checks are issued by banks, credit card companies and also travel companies. Generally speaking, they are to be used in place of cash, and especially in places where you might have problems with using personal checks for whatever the reason.
Traveler's checks come in different fixed amounts or denominations. They can be in local or foreign currencies. One of the ways they are a safer option, is that you sign them when you first get them, then again when you go to cash them later. It can inhibit theft in certain situations for obvious reasons. After the check is cashed it goes through a normal process back to the place that issued it. There is no real official record of you using it anywhere.
The fee for traveler's checks is small, unless it is a side benefit or perk for say being a patron or member of a certain group, etc. One drawback is that sometimes a place will have you pay another fee for cashing it in, which doubles your fee. The greatest benefit in my opinion is that if they get lost, you can get them replaced almost immediately by alerting the issuer with a phone call. This can give great reassurance to a person traveling.
Money orders are about the least expensive guaranteed checks out there, for people that don't have a personal checking account. They can cost a few dollars at a bank, and less than a dollar at the post office. They are very easy to use. Tell your clerk or teller how much you want the money order for, pay for that price plus the small fee. The amount of the money order is printed right onto it. Just fill out the requested information, sign and send it to wherever it needs to go. Most banks will sell you a money order, even if you don't have an account there.
Money orders are a nice alternative to a personal check, especially if you don't have a checking account and don't need to use them very often. They do have some limitations, however. Its hard to know if a money order has been cashed or not, because the check isn't sent back to you. There is no stopping payment once you have sent it. Sometimes there can be restrictions on the amounts, and you can save time and frustration by asking about this up front. Some have caps in the several hundred dollar range, while others have 3500 dollar ranges, and others around one thousand dollars.