Financial Tips for Study Abroad
The cost of living abroad will inevitably vary from student to student, based upon individual living styles, budgetary habits, personal resources, and the fluctuating currency exchange rates. Taking these factors into account, students may find it difficult to actually estimate expenditures in preparation for a program. Students should be prepared to adapt their standards of living to their surroundings, and approach the experience with a sense of financial responsibility.
Here are some financial tips to remember, in preparation for your time abroad:
Before You Go
Contact your bank and credit/debit card companies to let them know you will be abroad, so that your withdrawals are not denied or your credit card cancelled. The credit card and/or debit card you plan to use while abroad must be in your name (not your parents'). Most major lenders will, at the request of the cardholder, provide an additional card in the name of a dependent authorized to use the account.
Check with your bank for information about daily/weekly limits on withdrawals, and about fees charged for the use of foreign ATMs. When withdrawing money from an ATM abroad, you will likely be charged a fee at the foreign bank, in addition to your own bank's fee. Ask your bank before you go if they have a partnership bank in the country where you will be living; if so, you might be able to avoid ATM fees.
Look into purchasing currency prior to your departure to have on hand when you arrive. You may need money to get from the airport to your accommodation or school. Keep in mind, though, that changing money in airports is often more expensive than at a bank.
Be aware that traveler's checks are becoming increasingly difficult to cash, especially in Europe.
Carry a money belt or pouch for your cash, credit/debit cards, photocopy of your passport, and other IDs. Be careful with purses, wallets, and backpacks, as they are easier targets for pickpockets. Have a back-up plan for emergency funds in case your money gets lost or stolen. You should have your credit card's international emergency number available in case your card or money is stolen.
Always carry your student ID and/or International Student Identity Card with you, as many places offer student discounts or even free admission. Keep an eye out for student rates, and remember - it never hurts to ask! Try to avoid eating out during the week; cooking for yourself and/or eating with your host family will save a lot of money for weekends, travel, souvenirs, etc. Try to avoid Starbucks abroad - it is much more expensive, and local coffee is usually better!
When you arrive, consider buying a long-term bus or train pass; a monthly or multiple trip pass is likely a better value than daily passes. Make a budget for travel in addition to your weekly expense budget. Be aware of the current exchange rates in the countries you plan to visit as this can greatly affect your travel budget.