Skip to content

Managing Your Money

Know what your program fee covers and prepare a preliminary budget of the funds that you are able to spend. These figures can change, but it is a good idea to have some sort of plan beforehand so that you don't run out of money too quickly. Refer to the budget sheet of your program and section of the website on finances and costs.  Here’s a link to an excel spreadsheet that will help you figure out your finances.

Using Credit and Debit Cards Abroad
You should ask the bank that issues your card for details and procedures for overseas use of the card. There can be some variation in services that are available for each type of card as well as the cost of using those cards.  Different cards also have different protection against theft and the fraudulent use of the cards. Remember to inform your bank that you will be out of the country, so they don't think your card has been stolen and freeze your account.  Also make sure to keep the card numbers and the phone numbers easily available in case you need to report a stolen card.

Debit Cards
When using debit cards abroad, be aware of hidden charges.  While the actual exchange rates are frequently very good, you can be charged an international transaction fee as well as an ATM fee and this can add as much as 5% to the cost of each transaction.  You also may want to consider opening a bank account in your host country.  Requirements will vary in each location.

  • Make sure your card has a chip, a smart card.
  • Only use ATM machines affiliated with a bank and make sure nothing appears amiss with the ATM, which would suggest number-thieving "skimmers."
  • Safeguard your pin.
  • Transactions may take up to a month to appear on your bank statements, so keep close track of withdrawals. Keep all transaction receipts and note that some receipts may contain your full bank account number. 
  • If you plan on using your ATM card, remember to check with your bank to see where it is useable. Many foreign countries don't accept cards at stores and restaurants, so always keep cash available to you.

Credit Cards
Get a credit card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee.  Click her for a list of cards with no transaction fees.

  • Remember that credit card will charge for cash advances and these can run 5% plus interest rates of as much as 25%, but fraud is usually not going to be your responsibility.
  • When using the card abroad, beware of dynamic currency conversion, in which the merchant asks whether you would like to have your total in dollars — easier for the U.S. citizen abroad — or the currency of the country you're visiting, which is not as easy to compute but is the better choice.  Asking for your total in dollars allows the merchant to set the exchange rate, risky because the systems designed to monitor hornswoggling are ineffective or nonexistent.

You don't want to have a lot of cash, but some of the local currency and dollars (perhaps 200 of each) will come in handy, the former for immediate expenses and the latter for emergencies. Some of this currency should be in small denominations to be used for incidents, tipping and baggage handling. If you cannot exchange money before departure, you should exchange money at the airport or train station immediately upon arrival.

Changing money
Try to avoid changing money in hotels, restaurants, airports or train stations where the exchange rate is less favorable; and fees may be high. Banks usually give the best rates. Often a Bureau de Change (money exchange office) may appear to offer a better rate but may also charge a high service fee. Beware of changing money at change offices that are unofficial.

If you do have to carry large amounts of cash, always wear a money belt.

Sending money abroad
Click here for information on sending money abroad. 

Wiring money from an American account to a student's account overseas is possible. Your parents will need your bank account number, bank address and routing number from your overseas bank. Inquire at the bank about the arrival of the funds because banks do not usually notify you when money arrives. There may be a substantial fee for this service (~$40) for both sender and receiver of funds, and the transfer abroad may take anywhere from two days to several weeks.

Revised 8/16/2018