Checks Out, Cards In TRAVEL SPENDING
By Farnoosh Torabi

(MONEY Magazine) – Traveler's checks have fallen out of favor with Americans traveling abroad, who now tend to use more versatile credit or debit cards. (They let you get money from an ATM, for example.) But if you like the security benefits of traveler's checks--the funds are unconnected to your bank or credit-card accounts, and the issuer can usually replace them in 24 hours--and are willing to pay extra for them, consider so-called stored-value cards. You can use them at ATMs (for a $2 to $2.50 fee) to get local currency. American Express offers the newest stored-value card, called TravelFunds (888-412-6945). It can be used in stores like an ordinary AmEx card, costs $15 and can be reloaded by phone for $5. Visa's Travel Money Cards (available through Travelex at 877-394-2247) cost about the same, work at more ATMs and are available at a discount to AAA members, who pay $3 to $6 a card and can get an extra card on the same account for free. Unlike the AmEx version, however, it can't be used in stores as a charge card. --FARNOOSH TORABI