Preparing to Study Abroad:

Study Abroad Finances

Make sure you have all of your study abroad finances taken care of well ahead of time. This includes making sure all of your financial commitments at home are being addressed and you’ve researched how you’re going to maintain and organize your finances when you’re abroad.

Confirm that all of your billing for school costs has been covered for tuition, as well as housing. If you aren’t paying your home school directly, verify that your payments to the study abroad program or school are arranged. Let all scholarship sponsors know where you will be and to whom they should address scholarship checks.

If you’re getting some sort of federal loan and/or scholarship, confirm that you’ve completed all of the necessary paperwork well before you leave in case you still need to return any forms. Lastly, make sure you let your bank and credit card company know that you won’t be in the country for an extended period of time. This prevents them from freezing your account when they see that someone (who they wrongly assume isn’t you) is traveling around the world with your card.

I’ll get into how to open a bank account overseas a little bit later, but for now, here are the basics of foreign banking.

  • ATM machines overseas typically accept most U.S. bank ATM cards. The most popular are MasterCard, VISA, CIRRUS and NYCE. If you don’t have one of those, just call customer service or get in touch with a bank representative who will tell you if your card is valid overseas. Find an ATM at the location you plan to study abroad.
  • Withdrawal fees are hard to avoid, but it’s better to know ahead of time what you’re spending every time you use your card. Be sure to do some research. Some banks are part of the Global ATM Alliance which allows customers of their banks to use their ATM card or debit card at another bank within the Global ATM Alliance with no international ATM access fees. For example, Bank of America fees will not be charged for Barclay’s branches in the UK or Deutsche Bank branches in Germany.
  • Wiring money is always an option, but that is way too expensive in most cases.
  • Traveler’s checks are still an option although they’re quickly becoming obsolete. If it’s something you’re looking into, try to get them in the currency of your abroad country so you aren’t affected by the exchange rate.

When you’re heading abroad, I suggest having at least $300 in foreign currency for emergencies and basic costs like food and other necessities that you’ll need when you arrive. When I went to Scotland I took 170 British Pounds (GBP), and when heading to Beijing, I brought 2,000 Renminbi (RMB).