Money Tips and Taking Money Abroad
The amount of money you should plan to take with you largely depends on your personal spending habits. The Padnos International Center will work with you on an individual basis to identify the estimated cost associated with your academic program. Personal travel, gifts, and items not associated with your academic program must be evaluated on an individual basis. 

PLEASE NOTE: Be sure to let your bank know the dates and countries you will be traveling to. 

Money and Banking Tips for Studying Abroad


Forms of Payment Abroad

Cash: It is a good idea to carry a minimum of $100 in U.S. currency for incidental expenses when traveling to your destination. Once you arrive in your destination, you may want to put it away until you are ready to return home. Local money on hand upon arrival is useful for tips, cab or bus fares and minor purchases. Black market currency exchange transactions are unwise, and in most countries, illegal.

ATM Cards: If you have an ATM card, you may be able to use your card overseas and get cash easily at the favorable inter-bank rate. Contact your bank to find out fees for international usage. Also, be sure to find out if there are any service charges involved. ATM cards for savings accounts may not work when used abroad. It is advisable to transfer money into your checking account before departure if you wish to have access to these funds. As in the United States, you will need to find machines compatible with your card (i.e. Pulse, Cirrus, etc.). You will not be able to obtain balance information from an ATM machine while abroad. Many individuals utilize on-line services to check remaining balances.

Tip: It is important that you not rely on only one source for money. If you rely on your debit card and it is lost, stolen or demagnetized, it may be several days before a replacement card arrives. It is always best to have options!

Visa ATM locator, Mastercard ATM locator

Credit Cards: are invaluable when traveling abroad. They can cover hospital entrance fees, a plane ticket home, or other kinds of emergency expenses. Use your credit card for larger purchases to ensure a good exchange rate where credit cards are accepted. Visa and MasterCard are accepted universally; American Express is accepted in fewer situations. Keep in mind that smaller shops may not accept a credit card as a form of payment. You may also have difficulty using a credit card outside of major cities. It is always best to have options for making purchases.

Note: In many developing countries or countries with a transitioning economy, credit cards and ATM cards may be difficult to use due to the lack of facilities. It is very important that you research your destination for information on the availability of these services. You can get more information on whether or not your host country has ATMs on your network by contacting Mastercard or Visa.

Money Transfers: If your hometown bank has an overseas affiliate, a transfer can be made quite easily. The procedure may take a few days, so plan accordingly. Money can also be cabled (a bit more expensively) through American Express or Western Union. Contact Western Union for more information.

Lost or Stolen Money: Before you depart for your study abroad program, make sure you have all toll-free numbers for your credit card company, banks, etc. In the event that your cards are lost or stolen, you will need these numbers to contact the issuing company for instructions on how to replace them and stop future transactions. Tip: Make photocopies of all important documents, credit cards, I.D. cards, insurance information, etc. and leave a copy at home with a family member that agrees to help you while you are abroad. Provide all of the information in a large envelope or folder in order to ensure the information is organized and stays together. You will also want to keep a copy of these documents on you in a location other than with the originals.

Budgeting Ideas: Budgeting while studying abroad can be a difficult challenge for many students. Keeping yourself organized and sticking to a budget can really make a difference in your overall study abroad experience. Students who do not budget well are likely to spend a good deal of time concerned about not having enough funds, instead of enjoying all of the opportunities that study abroad can offer. It is recommended that you spend some time figuring out a budget that would work best for you, make a plan, and stick to it. You will need to consider costs associated with pre-departure, with travel expenses, and with expenses that you will incur on a daily basis while in the host country.

The following are some suggestions you may want to consider:

  1. Plan to spend more money during the first couple of weeks in your host country. You may need to spend money on basic things in order to get settled in. Consider whether or not you will have access to pillows, blankets, sheets, towels, toiletries, and other such items. If not, you will either need to bring them with you or purchase them while you are there.
  2. Consider the funding that you will have available for in-country/local travel, food (if not provided through your program), laundry, excursions, and other miscellaneous things. Work out on average how much you have to spend each week. Remember that you will spend more the first couple of weeks. You will need to keep yourself on track by reducing the amount you spend after you have settled in.
  3. Be sure to create a realistic budget. For example, if you are a person who likes to eat out on a regular basis instead of making your meals at home, then you may want to consider budgeting more for food costs to accommodate your personal spending habits.
  4. Keep all of your receipts and lists of transactions in the appropriate envelope in order to monitor spending.
  5. Bring a few empty envelopes with you. Consider labeling them as follows:
  • Current receipts/transactions
  • Prior transactions
  • Excursions/independent trips
  • Gifts

Currency Conversion: Become familiar with the currency in the host country. Remember the exchange rates may fluctuate on a regular basis. You can use an online Currency Conversion Calculator.


Page last modified November 3, 2014