View Full Version : Trav checks, debit or credit cards?

07-31-2004, 14:37
I'm wondering what is the best way to carry money while thru-hiking. I'm thinking of a combination of Travellers checks and debit card. That way if one gets lost I still have the other. Wondering what you all use for carrying money on the trail?



07-31-2004, 15:47
I think travellers checks are put of date for any sort of travel (though I'm sure some will disagree). It is much easier to travel with a debit/ATM card -- which in foreign countries often gives you an excellent exchange rate. Credit cards are handy, though if you're not going to be able to pay the balance off in full on the billing cycle (and that's only possible if you have someone at home willing to do it for you), then don't use them.

Travellers check can get damp and crumpled and you have all sorts of protections with the ATM card if it gets lost or stolen, most importantly no one else has your PIN and the bank can send you a replacement card if you lose it. You should make sure you have enough cash on hand though in case you need to work that soda machine and there isn't an ATM for miles...and of course if you lose the card until you can get a replacement.

And most supermarkets and such take ATM cards nowadays...

Cameraman :dance

2000 Miles to Maine (http://homepage.newschool.edu/~at2k/) on DVD

07-31-2004, 16:12
also some trail businesses only accept cash ..no ATM or credit/debit cards.

mtn momma's just north of the smokies comes to mind.

Jack Tarlin
07-31-2004, 16:28
Traveller's checks aren't necessarily a bad idea....there are some trail towns and stops that don't have banks or ATM's, and there's always a chance that the one ATM in town (say Hot Springs, for example) might be down or empty when you need it. I've also seen hikers have their ATM card get eaten and retained by a machine for some unexplainable reason, and they're s*** outta luck til they can contact their hometown bank to see what's going on. This can definitely happen if a card has ever been reported lost or stolen, and can sometimes happen with brand new or replacement cards as well. In any case, Traveller's checks can help out quite a bit in times like this.

Quick thoughts:

* If you carry Traveller's checks, make sure they're 20's as some of the smaller places on the Trail don't want to deal with larger denominations.

* Make sure you have excellent photo I.D.

* Make several records of your check numbers, so if they're lost, damaged, stolen, you can get 'em replaced. Do NOT carry the only copy of your check numbers with you; make sure you have a copy somewhere else.

* It's always a good idea to have at least some cash on you for emergencies; I never leave a town without at least $100.00 in currency. That way, in an emergency, I can pay for unexpected things......unplanned shuttles, stores that don't take credit cards, busted ATM machines, arriving in a town on a holiday, weekend, or after banking hours, etc. As a general rule, never leave a town without at least some cash on you; it's kind of a Murphy's Law sort of thing....the one time you'll absolutely need cash money will be the one time you're not carrying any.

07-31-2004, 16:29
On my thru-hike, I used a combination of a credit card, a small amount of cash and travelers checks (which my credit union & AAA provide without a fee).

I started out the hike with some cash and some traveler's checks (and I made sure that I always had at least $20 cash on me throughout the hike). I used a lot of maildrops; so I put a $20 travelers check in each maildrop (I had a list with me of which number was supposed to arrive where). Fortunately, I got all of these maildrops without any problems. :)
Having this steady supply of traveler's checks meant that I rarely needed to use my ATM card...or pay the outrageous fees that the banks charge for using it!

I used my credit card when my cash was low, or to pay for "big ticket items" like a hotel room. I left pre-dated and filled-out checks with someone back home to pay off the credit card debt each month so that I didn't have to pay any finance charges.

This all worked great for me and I'd probably do the same again. I don't use debit cards, but I can see how it would be very useful if you like using them.

Bear Magnet
07-31-2004, 16:57
I used a debit card and credit cards last year. No traveller's checks, although I can see how a couple could come in handy if you lose your card or lose cash.

I pay my credit card bills online, so I was able to keep up the payments when I got internet access.

Many grocery stores give you cash back (usually up to $50) when you pay with a debit card. That way you avoid the service charges on ATMs.

Bear Magnet
Jonathan Amato

08-01-2004, 13:11
Thanks very much for the info everyone. Definitely a great aid in my planning.



Kozmic Zian
08-01-2004, 18:21
Yea.....Money? Keepin' it simple........debit card, small amt. of cash, drivers license. IMHO, that's all you need on the AT. KZ@

08-01-2004, 19:51
Yea..money..I like to keep plenty of it :D

Flash Hand
08-02-2004, 00:30
Lesson learned... I didn't have cash when I arrived Hot Springs. Elmer Hall's sunnybank inn dont accept credit card. Bank closes and no ATM outside the closed bank. Outfitter have ATM Machine, but they were closed at 6pm. Next time, I ll have to bring ca$h.

Cash and check card is my vote for thru hike.

Flash Hand :jump

08-02-2004, 00:54
I just saw an ad tonight for an American Express card that is supposed to be as safe as traveller's checks. I think it works like a debit card, but I guess it has some safety features making it as safe as Travellers checks. If I thru hike next year I may get one of those, have some regular travellers checks in addition and keep a stash of cash. Safety and security.


08-20-2004, 00:23
Credit card, ATM card, driver license and some cash. I would guestimate how much cash I needed when I made an atm withdrawal until I would be in another town where I could make a withdrawal. If I thought a 100 would be o.k. I would make it 120. I ran low a couple of times but never completely out. If I needed new gear or stayed in a hotel I used my credit card. But hostels like to work on a cash only basis.

Two things to remember, If you use your credit card while on the hike and do not have some paying the bill at home, take a little extra when using the atm, walk into the bank get a money order and mail it to your credit card company once a month. If don't pay something every month your credit card will be cancelled and you will hurt your credit score.

I got a 50 money order once a month and mailed to my credit card company.

Next, be leary of hikers who never seem to have any cash, they will try manipulate others into feeling sorry for them and hike the trail at the expense of others. Not saying they all like that, but it happens. Bottom line if they can't afford to be out there then they need to go home and get a job and come back when they can afford it.

You do not hang out with people at home who can not pay ther own way don't do it on the trail or you will get used.