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Cheque out your holiday spending.

The humble traveller's cheque is about to undergo a dramatic sea change.

Secret new plans to modernise it are being tested by American Express whose founder created the first traveller's cheque just over 100 years ago.

But AE are keeping details of the new 21st Century cheque firmly under their hat - until they've got it absolutely right!

Amex has moved its traveller's cheques division into a new "stored value" group which includes the electronic phone cards it produces in the USA. So perhaps there are some clues there!

The paper traveller's cheque remains in hot demand with holiday- makers.

Of the 23.5 million Britons who holidayed abroad last year, almost half took traveller's cheques (tcs) - worth nearly pounds 5.7 billion - with them.

That means we each used an average of pounds 511 worth of traveller's cheques to pay for holiday treats and extras, compared to cash withdrawals from hole-in-the-wall machines (automated teller machines or ATMs) of pounds 226 each.

The average purchase of Amex traveller's cheques last year was pounds 555.

Thomas Cook customers bought pounds 519 of TCs and Barclays Visa customers took pounds 504 worth away with them on holiday.

"Traveller's cheques are accepted all over the world," said Amex's Keith Meyrick.

"They are refundable 24 hours a day, and don't require ATMs which are less widely available outside major towns and cities."

You can buy traveller's cheques at banks and building societies and even at the Post Office before you go.

Buy your TCs - or currency - worth pounds 300 from Abbey National and you'll get a booklet of money-off vouchers to spend in airport shops and restaurants while you wait for your plane.

Or you can go to an Amex office and buy their TCs direct, which can work out cheaper. Commission levied when you buy traveller's cheques is between one and two per cent.

At Amex's own offices the charge is kept to one per cent and there's no fee for cashing in unused ones on your return.

Check if your TC issuer has any special encashment deals in the country you're going to. For instance, in Spain Amex has linked up with the BCH bank which now cashes Amex traveller's cheques free - there's no further commission to pay.

Most people prefer to take sterling traveller's cheques because that way they still have an idea of what they've spent and what's left for the rest of the holiday.

But traveller's cheques in US dollars are the second most popular choice. It's always a good idea to check what the best denomination is for the place you're travelling to.

Amex gives its own customers a "call before you go" helpline to check out local details.

Have a good trip!
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Gunn, Cathy
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jun 8, 1997
Words:454
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