Your Money Abroad

Your Money Abroad


In most countries, the best advice is to use your credit and ATM/debit cards. These cards will allow you to access funds from your home account(s) and make purchases at the most favorable exchange rates. MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted credit cards. 

  • Check with your bank to make sure that your ATM card allows you to access international ATM networks (e.g., Cirrus, Plus). Find out if your bank has a partner bank in the country in which you will be studying.
  • Some countries do not have letters on their ATM keypads, so be sure you know the corresponding numbers if you have letters in your PIN.
  • Be sure that you have a PIN for your credit card and cash advance capabilities in the event you need to get a cash advance.
  • Check with your bank or credit card company about fees for withdrawals, purchases and cash advances overseas. Consider a travel rewards credit card, which will allow you to make international purchases without paying a foreign transaction fee.
  • If your credit card has a high credit limit, consider getting a new card with a lower credit limit.
  • Take travelers checks in the local currency for emergencies. Many retailers no longer accept travelers checks, but you can exchange them at a bank.
  • If you must exchange US currency overseas, beware of high commissions (often hidden in unfavorable exchange rates), and avoid changing money at airports because of high rates.
  • Be sure to have $100-200 in local currency when you arrive.You can obtain foreign currency at larger US banks or by using an airport ATM upon arrival.
  • While abroad, it is useful to always have USD available as an emergency fund. 

Below are some other recommendations for your finances:

  • Research the cost of living in your host country. Consult travel books, web sites, OIS program evaluations and other students who have studied in that country.
  • Make a budget, and know what you can spend.
  • Expect to spend more money on arrival (compared to the rest of the term).
  • Plan to spend more money on entertainment and travel than you do now.
  • Decide whether you wish to open a local bank account while abroad and research what information will be required to do so (e.g., letter of good standing from you current bank).
  • Please note that requirements differ among countries, and it may not be possible to open an account in certain locations (especially if you are abroad for a single semester). It may take 5-10 business days or longer for an account to be activated. Plan accordingly.
  • Leave copies of all bank and credit cards at home with your family, along with a list of customer service telephone numbers. Be sure to check with your bank about their customer service numbers abroad.
  • Have a back-up ATM/credit card in case of loss, theft, or damage.
  • Never put credit cards, debit cards or cash in your checked baggage- it is very likely that it will be stolen.

The information given above is generally applicable, but not universally so because of the wide variety of study abroad destinations. It is your responsibility to find out about financial issues as they relate to your destination and program by reviewing information provided by your host institution or program provide and by talking with students who have preceded you.