Managing Money Abroad
Using a foreign currency for the first time may be confusing, but fortunately, there are many ways you can access money abroad. Be sure to have a basic budget plan to help you manage your finances while you are abroad and to familiarize yourself with the local currency and the resources available to you. Read below for further guidance on being safe and smart with your money abroad.
It is important to consider that different areas of the world have different costs of living when preparing your budget for your program abroad. Consider the following tips as you choose your host destination and plan your finances for your program.
- To learn more about the costs of living in different countries, consult guidebooks or online resources such as Expatistan or Numbeo, which compare the costs of living in cities around the world.
- Consider using an online budget worksheet or checklist to help plan your budget. These are helpful tools to make sure that you’re considering all budget categories.
- Regularly use a currency converter app both while planning your budget and while abroad to ensure that you know the true cost of what you are purchasing. While the Euro and the British Pound have historically been worth slightly more than a U.S. Dollar and most other currencies tend to be worth less, these rates change constantly.
- Leave some buffer in your budget. When creating a budget for the first time, combined with living in a new place, it can be very easy to underestimate the amount of money that you are going to spend, or to encounter unexpected expenses that may push you over your budget. Make sure to account for this by budgeting a certain amount each month for emergencies or overcharges.
Many study abroad scholarships will help pay for additional travel expenses on top of tuition and housing. For a list of scholarships through both Seton Hall and outside organizations, click here.
While technology to accept credit and debit cards is becoming increasingly common around the world, especially in major cities, it is always a good idea to have a small amount of cash in the local currency with you in case of emergencies or encountering a business that does not accept credit cards.
- The best way to access cash while abroad is to use an ATM, which are becoming increasingly more available across the world. Many airports have ATMs that you can use immediately upon arrival but be sure to consult your bank or credit card company about fees or limits that might apply.
- Generally, withdrawing money from an ATM will have a small fee that may be either a set amount or a percentage of your withdrawal. Also note that some debit cards may not work abroad, namely those that do not have chip technology or have a pin number starting with zero (0).
- Be sure to notify your bank about your study abroad program to ensure that they do not block the use of your debit card.
- You may be able to convert money while you are abroad at a money exchange businesses or at a local bank. However, exchange access may vary based on your destination in your host country. For example, a bank in a small town may only exchange money for its registered clients.
Though credit cards may not be as widely accepted in your host country as they are in the U.S, they are increasingly accepted worldwide. Many credit cards provide additional safety features that can protect your money, and some do not charge a foreign transaction fee, which can make accessing money more cost effective.
- Make sure to contact your credit card company to learn about any fees that may apply and to let them know that you will be abroad.
- Note that Visa and Mastercard are more widely accepted worldwide than Discover or American Express. It is a good idea to bring at least one credit card and consider bringing a second as a backup option in case problems arise with your first one.
- You may get an option pay either with USD or the local currency. When you choose to pay with USD, the business will be responsible for converting the payment; when choosing a local currency, the money will be converted by your credit card company. You will often get a better exchange rate when allowing your credit card company to do the converting, so it is a better idea to pay in the local currency.
- Contactless Pay: Many businesses in host cities now offer contactless payment through applications such as Apple Pay. Having your debit and credit cards available on your phone can be highly accessible, especially when traveling light.
Preparing your finances for your study abroad program ahead of time helps prevent the stress of figuring out how you can access your money abroad. It is recommended you avoid the following practices during your program.
- Opening a Foreign Bank Account: Opening a foreign bank account is often not necessary, especially if you will be abroad for less than 6 months. Many students consider it easier to simply access your U.S. bank account from abroad.
- Traveler’s Checks: While these are safer than using cash, they are increasingly becoming outdated and difficult to cash. Credit or debit cards are a more convenient way to protect your money.
- Personal Checks: Personal checks are both difficult and expensive to cash abroad. They are not a reliable way of transferring money abroad.
- Cash Exchange Counters: Though they may seem convenient, cash exchange counters traditionally have a significantly higher exchange rate than ATMs. Avoid them when possible.
- Wire Transfers: While wire transfers can be useful in case you need additional cash on hand for your program, it can be difficult to find a business that processes transfers between the U.S. and your host country. There may be additional fees that reduce the amount you receive as well.