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Tell me how to spend money in America

Flippy_DFlippy_D Digital ConquistadorLondonRegistered User regular
edited July 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hoy.

Traveler's cheques. Special credit cards with specific rates/commissions. Raw cash.

Tell me what I should be doing for my trip. It's 80 days long, I am not expecting huge expenses as I am rarely paying for accommodation, and my native currency is the comparatively strong British Sterling.

I want to know the cheapest, the easiest, and the most savvy ways to spend my money across the pond.

Thanks.

Flippy_D on
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Posts

  • DeciusDecius Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    When I go south of the border, I usually stop and get some American cash first. The banks like to rape you on exchange rate on the credit card, and my Interac card is either (A) no good in the states, or (B) prohibitively expensive to use.

    Now I'm only down for a week or two at a time. Travelers cheques (they still make those?) might be your best option for such a long stay.

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  • Psychotic OnePsychotic One Never let an alligator... Do your taxesRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Probably the easiest would be some sort of Pre-paid cash card that you can recharge. That way you can exchange X amount of Sterlings for Y amount of Dollars. Would be accepted like credit any where you go then just keep a little bit of folding money on hand for the times where cards are not possible. Cashier Cheques can be useful but not alot of regular places like to accept them. *shrug* But the Visa cash cards, like what parents get to teach their kids about proper credit card spending. Work like credit cards yet have a set balance by what ever you put into it.

    But here in America we always accept cash, but I wouldn't carry around large sums of it just in case.

  • ChanusChanus Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Where, roughly, are you going?

    New York would require a different plan of action than Des Moines, IA.

  • Flippy_DFlippy_D Digital Conquistador LondonRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Everywhere. Details in my sig.

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  • ChanusChanus Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    That looks pretty awesome.

    The pre-paid Visa idea is pretty solid (http://usa.visa.com/personal/cards/prepaid/index.html). Works exactly like a credit/debit card, and they're accepted anywhere you can use Visa (which is everywhere).

    Traveler's cheques are still around, but I really don't know how well they work... I've never used them.

    It would be good to have some cash on you, but probably not more than $100 at a time would be necessary, especially if you're using the pre-paid Visa.


    Also, as to your question mark area... I would recommend visitng somewhere in Colorado like Boulder or Durango. Simply amazing places. =)

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    A) Cash
    B) Credit Card
    C) Travelers Cheques
    D) All of the above

    Though since you're mostly be staying with people, I'd say more of A and B, since cheques are not very loved by merchants.

    In any major city, it won't be a problem finding a bank, so I'd probably "stock up" at each major city.

    On second thought, are you still traveling by bus? You may want to stick with cheques in that case.

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  • ElinElin Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    In non tourist areas it may be a pain to use a Travelers Cheques. They'll be accepted most like BUT the cashiers won't be trained in how to accept them and you may have some irritating waits.

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  • kaliyamakaliyama Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Traveler's checks are antiquated. It's foolish to carry more than 50-100 on you, and you should save it for emergencies. The best exchange rates are bank exchange rates. So just bring along your credit/debit card. As long as there's a visa/mastercard logo on it you'll be fine. Depending on your bank, they'll be reciprocal withdrawal arrangements so you don't pay ATM fees - I know that Barclays/Bank of America has one. Your bank's website will be able to tell you more.

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  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    FINE
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  • korrianderkorriander Registered User
    edited July 2009
    Just my two cents, on that part driving through Idaho, take the northern route. I live in the area, and while the southern route might be faster, the northern is a FAR more beautiful ride. Don't miss it!

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  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Flippy how can you go to America and not stop in Florida?

    Terrible.

  • ChanusChanus Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Well, to get anywhere worth seeing in Florida, you need to drive through Jacksonville... and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. =)

  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    Well, to get anywhere worth seeing in Florida, you need to drive through Florida... and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. =)

    Fixed for truth. There is no good road in Florida. I am pretty sure we own like 7 of the top 10 most fatal highways in the country.

  • ChanusChanus Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Well, you also have 7 out of 10 people of retirement age... coincidence?!? =)

  • th3thirdmanth3thirdman Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Ok I hope this will help. I have worked retail for many years and this is what I know.
    A) Cash is king. Easy everywhere.
    B)pre-paid Visa. Can be a pain in the ass you need to always know the balance, as most stores will reject the cards if you don't. You see their systems can not talk to Visa,mastercards pre-paid systems. Also if you lose your card your fucked no refund.
    C)Travelers Cheques. Are a good options as most banks will cash them for you if they are made to american funds chase will charge 5 bucks if you dont have a account with them.

  • matt has a problemmatt has a problem Six pack on a dick Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Any bank you walk into will cash a travelers cheque at their exchange rate, and it will be the best exchange rate you're going to get. Same goes for cash, you get whatever the current published rate is. Credit cards will get you a decent exchange rate, but banks can tack on a fee for using it in a different country, it varies from bank to bank. Debit cards are hit or miss, you can be stuck with withdrawal fees for using them at ATMs.

    The places you want to avoid are any "currency exchange" places. They're doing it for a profit, so you're not getting the best rate. Basically, don't exchange your money in an airport.

    People saying travelers cheques are antiquated... they're still the safest way to travel with money due to the signature requirement when using one, the easiest to get replaced since Amex will have you new ones by the next day if they're lost or stolen, and get you the best rate when cashed at a bank. Using them as actual forms of payment for retailers is going the way of the dodo, but using them as a way to carry a store of cash is still quite widespread.

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  • KetarKetar Duke of Weaseltown Like an agile peacock!Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Jasconius wrote: »
    Chanus wrote: »
    Well, to get anywhere worth seeing in Florida, you need to drive through Florida... and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. =)

    Fixed for truth. There is no good road in Florida. I am pretty sure we own like 7 of the top 10 most fatal highways in the country.

    The worst accident I've ever seen was in Florida, while riding on a bus back to Orlando from the Kennedy Space Center. There was no doubt in my mind (or my wife's) that anybody riding in at least 2 of the cars involved was dead, and there were at least half a dozen other cars that probably involved serious injury at a minimum. About a week or so later when we got back home I was able to google that crash scene in about .5 seconds - made all sorts of news. Ugh.

    Also, to echo some others, no travelers cheques. Places that accept them are getting to be few and far between, and even at spots that do not everyone will be trained on how to process them. A credit card/prepaid Visa would be a good way to go, or just use cash. The exchange rates you get using an ATM machine would be the best way to do so while avoiding carrying too much cash at any given time.

  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Any bank you walk into will cash a travelers cheque at their exchange rate, and it will be the best exchange rate you're going to get.

    This is what you want to do. For the amount of time you are coming, it is worth converting all the funds you think you'll need in Traveller's Cheques, then cash them at a bank when you need to. I'd then place some of the cash onto a pre-paid card, and keep some notes. Do this once every 30 days, and you'll be golden.

    Traveller's Cheques are a secure method, as they aren't valid until you counter-sign them, and you can keep a separate record of the serial numbers in case something goes wrong. It's only after you convert them can you lose money via theft or loss.

  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Decius wrote: »
    The banks like to rape you on exchange rate on the credit card

    I don't know if you have different cards or something, but when I travel, credit cards are always the best exchange rate.

  • DeciusDecius Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    oldsak wrote: »
    Decius wrote: »
    The banks like to rape you on exchange rate on the credit card

    I don't know if you have different cards or something, but when I travel, credit cards are always the best exchange rate.

    Considering I'm in Canada, yes our cards sound like they would be different. I get better exchange rates if I stop at a cash exchange and get US cash before I leave the country then if I use my VISA in the States. Plus my bank buys and sells at different rates, making refunds for hotel mistakes a fucking nightmare. It's an issue I've had to deal with on more then one occasion, where my bank has tried to convince me that the dollar has dropped $0.04 in value in 2 seconds. Ah the wonders of the internet and being able to track trading rates on currencies in real time.

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  • tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Credit cards are always the best exchange rates, only ever change a few extra dollars before travelling for flat out emergencies. Just always spend directly on your card, don't carry any cash and you are golden.

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  • CauldCauld Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I would say to use your credit card, but check to see if there's an international service fee. On my card I think its 1%, so everytime I purchase anything I get charged an extra 1%. That's not too big of a deal, but they commonly are 3% and higher is probably possible. If you get cash from an ATM you'll get a decent rate and only have to worry about the ATM fees.

    So both of those are possible and likely cheaper than using traveler's cheques, but in all my travels I've never personally used them. I tend to go to 2nd or 3rd world countries, where traveler's cheques are a real pain to use.

  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User
    edited July 2009
    With reckless abandon, kiting cheques and credit cards until you have amassed no less than $10,000 over and above your current net worth, then declare that it's "too hard" to pay them back, and ...

    Oh, sorry, that's "how to spend money like an American" :P

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  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Here's what you do:

    You use your debit card at a grocery store and get cash! Best exchange rate!

    Changing money is a scam because they work their fees into the interest rates. Travelers checks are antiquated and a pain in the ass. Credit cards are decent but tack 1-3% on top (which is their fee).

    You'll notice that usually the 1-3% is the best deal when you start doing the math, so use your credit card for anything serious, and use your debit card to get cash when you want cash. If you have more than 1 card, call them up to say "I'm going to be in the US for 80 days and am wondering what your fee is for purchases in a foreign currency" and they'll tell you. And you should also call them so that when you are in the US they won't shut off your card for weird purchases (you just say "I'm going to be out of the country and need to make sure my card won't be shut off")

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  • NatanekoNataneko Registered User
    edited July 2009
    I'm not sure if it was just for Canada, but there was a class action against bank charging fees for using your credit card in foreign country. I'm guessing that means they don't do it anymore.

  • Flippy_DFlippy_D Digital Conquistador LondonRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    FINE
    I won't take you to Disney World OR Universal Studios.
    Have it your way.
    D'aw, I'm sorry. Florida is just too much extra mileage due to there-and-back-again nature... and does seem rather like a less cool California, with added mosquitoes.
    korriander wrote: »
    Just my two cents, on that part driving through Idaho, take the northern route. I live in the area, and while the southern route might be faster, the northern is a FAR more beautiful ride. Don't miss it!

    Yeah, I've decided to do that after google mapping w/ satellite.


    Thanks for your help thus far guys =)

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  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I understand about Florida, but at least catch a gator wrestling show somewhere.

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  • Flippy_DFlippy_D Digital Conquistador LondonRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Seen it in Australia :D

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  • DalbozDalboz Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I don't know about the exchange rates, but if you asking about the actual easy with which to spend different types of money, I can give some advice. Cash is pretty much accepted everywhere for everything. I don't think you'll have much trouble finding a place that won't accept cash (except hotels/motels, which will require a credit card for incidentals). Of course, cash is much less secure, so it really depends on how safe you feel and how carefully you hold onto your wallet. I know several places do take travelers' cheques, but I'm not sure of the details, and some places make have trouble with them even if they do accept them because they aren't as common as other forms of money, so the register jockeys may not know how to deal with them. Credit cards are accepted in a lot of places, although it depends on the type of card. Usually, you shouldn't have a problem with them, although there are cases where some don't work.

    I wish I could give more detail, but I haven't done register work in ages.

  • PolloDiabloPolloDiablo Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    tbloxham wrote: »
    Credit cards are always the best exchange rates, only ever change a few extra dollars before travelling for flat out emergencies. Just always spend directly on your card, don't carry any cash and you are golden.

    This is the truth. If you've got a Visa/Mastercard, stick to that and you're set. You can hit up a bank for some cash, but you won't need to carry any more than $20. 99% of places take credit cards.

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  • XantusXantus Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    simplest? easiest? if you consider yourself good at managing your money... cheques and cash. credit/debit card for random emergencies.

    banks are everywhere to cash in, minimal chance of any fees, always knowing exactly how much money you have.

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  • MrIamMeMrIamMe Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Flippy_D wrote: »
    Seen it in Australia :D

    and really a croc > gator any day of the week.

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