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The Bargain Corner

Locking In Travel Costs

March 20, 1988|JACK ADLER

With the dollar not faring well, locking up the costs of your travels at current rates in the United States will mean that you won't be hit by any surcharges, at least as far as air fares go.

Some tour operators guarantee their rates if you pay a deposit by a certain date. Otherwise, you may have to pay more for some packages.

Once you're overseas and using dollars, or traveler's checks, you're subject to the fluctuations of the dollar.

Some travelers avoid worrying about the dollar falling before and during their trips by buying foreign nation's traveler's checks in the United States.

Such checks can be cashed instantly. Also, you avoid a potential service fee per transaction that you might face with U.S. traveler's checks. You don't have to hunt around for the best exchange rate, either. In either case, it's always good to have some foreign currency when you arrive in a country abroad.

Generally, if you have a good idea of your approximate budget in a foreign country (with a stable currency), it may make sense to take a good supply of foreign traveler's checks. On the other hand, if you're not quite sure how long you may be in that country, you're better off with a lesser amount of foreign checks. Avoid holding a large amount of a currency when you leave a country.

Basically, if the dollar goes down, foreign currency traveler's checks will be worth more. But if the dollar rises in value, your checks will be worth less when you cash them.

One of the companies dealing with such checks is Deak International. Phone (800) 252-9324. A spokesman said Deak sells foreign traveler's checks in the lowest denomination for Japan, England, France, West Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia. There is no service charge on the purchase. If you bring checks back, however, they would be repurchased at the rate of that day, with a 1% service charge.

American Foreign Exchange, call (800) 521-1854, also sells foreign traveler's checks to virtually the same countries. There is a 1% service charge and you have to buy the equivalent of $300 in U.S. money. Repurchase is also at the current rate, but without any service charge.

Ambassador International Travel, call (213) 383-1287, sells foreign traveler's checks for England, France and West Germany to travelers who buy round-trip air fares to Europe from them. You have to put a $100 deposit on your air fare to be able to buy the checks, and pay your full air fare 30 days in advance of departure. There is no minimum purchase or service charge on either purchase or repurchase of the checks.

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