Money Matters Abroad

Studying abroad costs more than just program costs and airfare. For example, you might travel to different countries and cities. And don’t forget social activities, bars, clubs, eating out, museums, and so on. With so many things to pay for you should ask yourself:

· Should I use my bank account from home or should I open an account with a foreign bank?

· Should I carry cash or use credit cards?

· What about traveler’s checks vs. a traveler check card?

· What is the exchange rate of my host country?

Learn all about banking, traveler’s checks, credit cards and exchange rates below:


ATM/Check Cards

Credit Cards

Traveler’s Check vs. Cash

Currency Exchange


A bank account is essential when you go abroad. At minimum you need to have an account from home and, depending on the where you decide to study, consider opening an account in your host country too. The benefits to having a bank account include:

· Keeping your money in a bank account is safer than carrying cash

· Family or friends can deposit money into your account if your cash runs low or in an emergency

· It’s easier for you to keep track of your spending

Before you leave:

· Notify your bank that you will be going abroad. This will prevent your bank from blocking your ATM/Check card because of unusual charges being made abroad

· Get paperless banks statements or have your statements forwarded to your address abroad (this helps prevent fraud)

U.S. banks abroad

U.S. banks Citibank and HSBC both offer branches and ATMs abroad. An account with either will save you money by avoiding fees for ATM withdrawals.

Other U.S.-based banks offer customers international services. For example, Bank of America doesn’t have branches or ATMs abroad, but it does have affiliations with foreign banks. Bank of America customers can withdraw money from affiliated foreign banks ATMs without paying a fee. Wells Fargo (en español) also provides international banking services through its International Personal Banking.

Opening an account with a foreign bank

If you choose to open an account in your host country, wait until you arrive. In other words, open the account in person, not online. Most study abroad programs will explain the options for opening bank accounts during your orientation. Shop around and find the bank that meets your needs.

ATM/Check Cards

Your ATM/Check card- whether from a U.S.-based bank or a foreign one- represents the best way to withdraw money while abroad. The benefits to using an ATM/Check card are:

· ATM/Check cards are convenient and safe

· You will almost always get a better exchange rate with a ATM/Check card compared to cash or travelers checks

· If your card is lost or stolen, it will be replaced, usually without cost to you

· Managing your money is almost always be easier with an ATM/Check card

· You won’t have to exchange money each time you visit a new country

ATM/Check card tips

· Most ATM/Check cards require a four-digit PIN (Personal Identification Number)

· ATM cash withdrawals abroad come in local currency

· Most ATMs abroad include English instructions

· ATM/Check card’s with VISA or MasterCard logos work at Merchants anywhere in the world where VISA or MasterCard are accepted

· Thousands of ATMs worldwide are compatible with Cirrus(MasterCard) & Plus(VISA) ATM/Check cards

Visit the sites below to locate ATMs in your host country:

MasterCard ATM Worldwide Locator (en español)

Visa ATM Worldwide Locator (en español)

Credit Cards

Credit cards offer wide acceptance in developed nations, and are becoming increasingly common in developing nations as well. Credit cards can be an invaluable financial tool abroad–when used wisely. Beyond giving you more spending power and favorable exchange rates, credit cards can be a valuable asset during a financial emergency.

Emergency cash

If you need instant access to cash, credit cards do the trick (see the note below). If you have an American Express card you can visit more than 2,200 American Express locations for instant access to cash, travelers checks and other travel services. Find an American Express location in your host country. VISA and MasterCard (en español) also offer emergency assistance and travel services for card holders.

Note: Cash withdrawals usually carry a higher interest rate than regular transactions. Consult your credit card company about interest rates for cash withdrawals.

IDs required

Credit card purchases abroad frequently require a proper ID. Many merchants, in fact, will require you to show your passport to use your credit card.

Traveler’s Check vs. Cash

Carrying some cash is always a good idea when traveling. Cash is usually easy to exchange into the local currency, and the exchange rates are usually a little better for cash compared to traveler’s checks. Even better, some countries accept the U.S. dollar along with the local currency. (Do research to see if this applies to the country where you are going to study.) The downside to cash: if it’s lost or stolen you are out of luck.

Get foreign currency before you leave

Many U.S. banks offer currency exchange for before you leave. This way, you will already have currency of your host country when you arrive.

Traveler’s checks offer security

You can get traveler’s checks in various denominations and currencies. Exchange traveler’s checks at airports, exchange houses and most banks when you get to your host country.

· Most banks offer traveler’s checks

· You can also order travelers check from American Express or VISA

Note: Traveler’s checks, compared to cash, offer more security if they are lost or stolen. To replace your checks, you will need the serial numbers, so keep your check receipt with the serial number separate from your actual checks.

Travel cards: The best of both worlds

Travel cards offer another alternative. Travel cards work just like an ATM/check card but offer the protection of traveler’s checks.

· Purchase travel cards before you leave (see links below)

· Use travel cards at merchants just like an ATM/check card with American Express, MasterCard or Visa logos

· Withdraw money from ATMs just like with an ATM card

Best of all, travel cards carry many of the protections that traveler’s checks do. Learn more about the benefits of travel cards:

American Express Cheque Card

VISA TravelMoney

MasterCard Prepaid

Currency Exchange

Whether you’re in South Africa using Rand, in South Korea spending Won or in the Czech Republic using Koruna, your concept of money has to change when you go abroad. The currency exchange rate will be very important, especially when you exchange U.S. cash or traveler’s checks for local currency in your host country.

· Be aware of the currency so you know how much money you’re spending

· Full service banks usually offer the best exchange rates

· Exchange houses at airports and in tourist areas offer he worst exchange rates

You can find out more about this post or about the various abroad study programs at:

where was this post a year ago!

it is good stuff to know…

when i went overseas i had all of $30…$20 my pocket a thirty on my check card…it is a wonder i got to where i was going relatively without incident…