Planning to travel the world is exciting, but it can also be filled with a bit of stress. You want to be able to buy what you need abroad. From local travel to meals, souvenirs and services, you need some form of payment. Ideally, that form of payment will be simple to get and use once you travel. So what works best?
You might've heard of traveler's checks in the past. This form of international payment has worked for travelers for decades, but as technology has increased, new forms of currency exchange for travelers have emerged. One of these is the AAA MemberPay Visa® Prepaid Card, which you may find to be the best option for you when taking a trip or vacation abroad. Learn more about traveler's checks and why you may prefer using a prepaid card on your next traveling adventure.
What Is a Traveler's Check?
A traveler's check is one way to spend money when you travel. Credit unions and banks issue traveler's checks to those going abroad, and you receive these checks in exchange for your cash. They often come in set amounts like $20, $50 or $100, which you can select based on how you think you'll use and cash traveler's checks abroad. Traveler's checks each have a unique number to ensure you can request a refund if yours is lost or stolen. They look like regular checks but act more like money orders or cashier's checks.
You'll probably have to sign the checks twice. The first time you sign will be with whoever issues the traveler's checks, and the second time will be when you cash or pay with the checks. Depending on where you get and exchange your checks, there may be fees, exchange rates and restrictions to consider.
If you use traveler's checks on your trip, you can either exchange them for local currency or pay for goods and services with them. To exchange your traveler's check, you will need to go to your issuer's exchange partner abroad. You then exchange your checks for local cash. To pay with a traveler's check, you have to find specific locations that accept this form of currency.
Does AAA Offer Traveler's Checks?
Traveler's checks are now mostly outdated, meaning many stores and services no longer accept them. It's also difficult to find locations that offer traveler's checks, even at major banks. Instead, travelers opt for prepaid travel cards, which AAA offers instead of traveler's checks. Travel cards are similar to traveler's checks in that you exchange money to create a prepaid check or card. But a travel card acts more like a credit or debit card. Travel cards do not pull from your bank account like a debit card would, keeping you protected from theft.
Countless locations accept prepaid travel cards since they are similar to credit or debit cards. You can use these cards at ATMs abroad, too, often for low ATM fees. Travel cards are easier to carry around. Instead of managing different traveler's checks in varying amounts, you'll only have to keep track of your prepaid card. While you have to note how much you've spent and still have on your card, it is easier than managing handfuls of checks.
Because a travel card is reloadable, you don't have to worry about running out of money as you would with traveler's checks. As long as you track what you've spent and your card's balance, you can travel with confidence and security. If you're considering travel cards, you'll be happy to know that AAA offers the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card.
How Does the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card Work?
To use the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid card, you preload it with amounts ranging from $10 to $5,000. You can then reload the card when you need to. Use a AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card as a credit card and sign upon making a purchase or as a debit card with a PIN. You'll have to call the customer service number on the back of your card to create, change or set a new PIN if you forget yours. Be sure to sign the back of the card before using it.
To keep track of your card's balance, you can either call the customer service number or check online. Find your available balance, which considers completed and pending transactions, and your transaction history, which shows completed transactions.
When to Use the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card
You can use the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card anywhere that accepts Visa debit or credit cards. Get one any time you plan to travel, especially out of the country. You can use your prepaid travel card to:
- Pay for products and services at accepting merchants: Many merchants and services accept debit and credit cards. A AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card works like these cards at checkout or payment with a chip or the ability to swipe through a card reader.
- Get local currency: When you're abroad, you can use Visa-branded ATMs to withdraw local cash. Remember that some ATMs charge fees to withdraw cash, and you'll want to consider those fees when you're checking your balance. Plan accordingly and know that you are responsible for these fees.
- Have financial security when traveling: When you're traveling, financial security is essential. It'll give you peace of mind and make your trip less stressful. Use a AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card to have financial protection, from lost and stolen card coverage to the ability to access foreign currency easily.
AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card Card Benefits
While you may not be able to get AAA traveler's checks, a AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card comes with many benefits that make it a worthwhile choice. Consider getting a AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card for these advantages:
- Security: Using a prepaid travel card keeps your debit and credit card numbers safe. You won't use them to pay at numerous locations during your travels and can instead use a travel card that has no connections to your financial accounts. That can help protect your credit and any money you have in the bank.
- Convenience and ease of use: A AAA prepaid travel card gives you the convenience of a Visa card with the function of a traveler's check. Pay with it where you'd use debit or credit cards and easily access foreign cash at ATMs.
- Emergency cash and card replacement: Depending on your location, you could request and receive emergency cash or card replacement within one to four days. If your card is lost or stolen, AAA makes it easy to report with numbers you can call from different countries or one to call collect when you're abroad.
- Reloadability from anywhere: Add money to your prepaid card on a mobile app, in-person or online. Many reload options are free, but remember that any messaging and data rates could apply. You can reload your card with cash, a credit or debit card or a bank account, depending on which reload method you select.
- Travel and emergency assistance: AAA provides assistance like translations, legal and medical referrals, emergency messages to family and emergency trip arrangements. Along with a AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card, the additional travel and emergency assistance will give you more security and convenience for your trip.
- Instant alerts: Keep track of your payments with instant alerts to your phone whenever you use your card. Call the customer service number to set up alerts and increase your awareness of your prepaid card charges.
Who Qualifies for the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card?
AAA members and nonmembers can get the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card, but the fees may differ depending on your membership status. You have to be 16 years or older to buy a AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card. Parents or guardians can purchase a prepaid travel card on their child's behalf if they'll be traveling alone. We then recommend you teach the child who's traveling alone how to use the card and have them sign the card before traveling.
You can purchase a card at your local AAA office or online. If you're in these counties, you can visit one of AAA Central Penn's branch locations:
If you aren't traveling soon but you know someone who is, give them the gift of a AAA membership. Let them know about the AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card and the other travel benefits that come with a membership so they can feel safer on their travels.
Additional Money Management Tips for Traveling
Want even more peace of mind as you travel? Follow additional tips for money management during your trip. You'll stay on budget and keep your finances safe as you enjoy your travels with these suggestions:
1. Create a Travel Budget
Before your trip, make a budget for different aspects of your travel. You may have to consider local travel, food, gifts and souvenirs. Depending on what you arranged before your trip, you may also have to cover accommodations. Research where you're going to see average prices and whether they're on the more expensive side. Tourist areas and cities, for instance, may charge more than you'd expect to see in smaller locations. You can then consider your finances and create a budget to stay on track.
2. Familiarize Yourself With Local Currency
It's easier to manage your travel spending if you understand the local currency. Know the conversion rate to United States dollars. Is the conversion equivalent, or will it seem like you're spending less when the American equivalent is higher? Know the difference to avoid going over your travel spending budget.
3. Update Your Bank and Credit Card Companies
Whether or not you plan to pay with a debit or credit card during your travels, you should let your bank and credit card company know. Call or visit them and tell them when you're going out of the country, where to and for how long.
You don't want to be stuck in an emergency situation where you need to use a card but your bank or credit card company doesn't know you're abroad. They may flag your accounts, and you won't have access until you call and correct the issue. If you share an account with someone who isn't traveling, be sure to note that for the bank, as well.
4. Get Foreign Cash Before You Go
Avoid worrying about finding a place to withdraw foreign currency when you arrive at your destination. Get a bit of foreign currency before you go to have it on hand. That can help you cover local travel to your accommodations or anything you buy at the airport. Look for AAA currency exchange to order foreign cash at certain AAA locations.
5. Plan to Carry Cards and Cash
While countless places accept cards, it's wise to carry cash on you so you're prepared for locations or services that only take cash. You'll also have peace of mind if you lose your card or if someone steals it. Travel cards provide extra security here, but you'll still need to carry your debit card and possibly credit cards. Even with all those cards, it's smart to have cash on you.
6. Don't Keep All Your Money in One Place
Since you're carrying cards and cash, be sure to keep them in different places. Don't put all your cash in a purse, wallet or backpack with your cards. If where you're staying has a safe, leave some cash there. You could also hide a bit in your suitcase. Just ensure you remember the different places you'll keep your money. You could make a list on your phone or a physical list of the locations, but don't label what it's for.
7. Get Travel Insurance
Make handling unfortunate incidents, like losing travel documents or tickets, easier with travel insurance. AAA Central Penn partners with Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance to help you choose insurance coverage that's right for you.
Trust AAA for Help and Peace of Mind When Traveling
At AAA, we provide so much beyond quality roadside assistance. Our travel services and resources make it simple to plan and prepare for your travels. Work with a AAA travel agent to organize a trip or book with our vacation packages to make planning simple. Every aspect of your trip can be secure and convenient with AAA travel and financial services. And now, with our AAA MemberPay Visa Prepaid Card, you can carry the funds you need on your travels with more confidence compared to traveler's checks.
Browse additional AAA travel resources or get in touch with an AAA travel agent for more information if you're already a member. If you're not a AAA member yet but want access to travel and financial benefits, become a member today.