Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Thursday Thirteen #356

13 facts about traveler's checks.
One of the things I always did in the run-up for any vacation was go to the bank and buy traveler's checks. I kinda miss that pre-trip ritual.

I'm also sure most Americans under 35 have no idea what traveler's checks are. How about you? Did you ever use them?

1. Traveler's checks are paper documents. Your funds aren't loaded onto a card or accessed via smart phone. They are in the form of checks that can be used to pay for goods and services.

2. They were introduced in 18th century England for use across the nations of the British Empire. They made it to this side of the pond when American Express got into the act, just before the turn of the 20th century.

3. They were once sold by most banks and credit unions. No more. Major banks like Wells Fargo, Chase and Bank of America quit selling them years ago.

4. Each check had a set denomination. Unlike a personal check, where you fill out how much it's worth, a traveler's check has an amount printed on it. $20 and $50 were most popular. 

5. You signed each check twice. Every check had two signature lines. You signed one in front of the teller when you bought it. When you cashed it, you sign the second line and presented ID. That gave the merchant three signatures to compare before accepting the check.

6. Each check had a unique serial number. The bank kept a copy and you received a separate "register" with the number listed so you could make note of when/where you spent it. If your traveler's checks were lost or stolen while you were on the road, all you had to do was let a local, participating bank know and your funds could be refunded.

7. All this security came at a price. Banks charged a service fee for issuing the checks.

8. Traveler's checks didn't expire. When you get home you could cash your unused checks at the bank, use them at local merchants, or save them for your next trip. Banks loved these last two options. You paid the bank a service fee, but they aren't paying you interest on your money, so the longer they went unused, the better for the financial institution.

9. Traveler's checks declined in popularity in the 1990s. ATM cards that carry the Visa or Mastercard logo are welcome worldwide, give you immediate access to your funds wherever you go, and are more convenient for both you and the merchant.

10. Bad guys got wise. Fraudsters counterfeited traveler's checks, which ended up costing banks, restaurants and stores a ton.

11. For domestic travel, traveler's checks don't make much sense anymore. If you can still find a bank or credit union that issues them, you likely won't find stores or restaurants who will accept them.

12. They remain more popular in Europe. Note that I said "more popular." That doesn't mean they are widely accepted. If you plan to use them to pay for your hotel in Lucerne, call ahead to make sure they will take your traveler's checks.

13. Here's an advantage to using them abroad: There are fees every time you use your card in a foreign ATM machine and with every purchase you make with your credit card. Generally (not always) you can cash traveler's check at the counter in a foreign bank with no fee. Again, before you go overseas with traveler's checks, do your homework.

I, however, am not going abroad any time soon so traveler's checks just seem like a relic of my past.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

Uncomfortably numb

Scared. Heartbroken. Angry. I have a lot of feelings just waiting to overwhelm me. But right now, I prefer feeling nothing. 

John is back in the ICU. He had been moved to cardiology, where nurses reported that he was improving every day. But suddenly, Monday, he began vomiting blood. They did some kind of endoscopic exam and discovered healed over stomach ulcers. They think it was "old blood" and now that it's expelled, he may start feeling better and eating again. I admit I have no idea what I'm talking about here. I'm getting the information on his condition from Gregory, who is getting it from John's brother, who is getting it from the medical staff. Asking questions doesn't really do me much good, because Gregory can't answer.

His condition is worse than I was originally led to believe. The reason he decided, back in January, to take time to himself and "re-evaluate" is that he fell in his apartment and blacked out. He thought he'd passed out from too much liquor and weed. Turns out it was a stroke (strokes are not uncommon for people like John with congestive heart failure).

This frightened him but, rather than contact a doctor -- like anyone would! -- he chose to withdraw, believing that if he stopped drinking and smoking he would get better. Instead became seriously depressed and his health worsened as he grappled with an undiagnosed/untreated stroke. Now here we are ...

More than 10 days at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with no release date in sight. It's a world-class hospital, where the doctors are trying to prioritize and treat his:

•  Irregular heart rate and congestive heart failure

•  Infection and internal bleeding

•  Depression and brain damage

•  Diabetes and rollercoaster blood sugar level

Most disturbing to Gregory now is the attention paid to ongoing assessment of damage from the stroke. John continues to be "foggy," often struggles to find the right word, and has short-term memory loss. How much of this is a result of all the meds coursing his veins and what's permanent brain damage? We don't know.

"If he comes home, he has a life expectancy of 5 to 7 years."

I simply cannot process this right now. I feel nothing. I woke up this morning to tummy trouble, which makes sense because that is where everything I don't acknowledge goes.