As recently as the 1990s, travelers checks were so common you would never think of 'leaving home without them', as actor Karl Malden said in the classic American Express ads. And Amex weren't alone on the market.
This is no longer quite the case.
Travelers checks are becoming harder to cash, especially in countries where ATM machines are everywhere. Even a few years ago, you could easily use checks in shops or hotels but increasingly, hotels are refusing them. As for shops, I haven't found any in years that would take one.
Travelers checks (or travellers cheques in some countries) are dying but not quite dead. American Express still sells them, and in some countries (like China) they are still used, even where ATMs are plentiful.
While they were once the gold standard for travel money, these days they've been dethroned by the credit card, the debit card and the ATM machine.
Consider a mixture.
If you're going somewhere checks are common and you're planning on spending a lot, then take some, by all means.
No matter what, you should carry regular or prepaid credit cards, debit cards, and a bit of cash in the local currencies.
If you run out of money or your cards get lost, stolen or compromised, you can always get a money transfer overseas through a bank, change office, or a service like Western Union.
Bottom line? I no longer carry checks although I like the system. If I could cash them easily I would probably still use them. Instead I have some cash, stashed away either in my money belt or in my trusty bag, and a couple of cash cards. I haven't needed more.
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