Access to money overseas is a topic of great concern for every education abroad participant. Your education abroad specialist will discuss country-specific considerations in regards to money at your pre-departure orientation. Follow these guidelines when dealing with money overseas:
Debit cards with a Cirrus or Plus designation can often be used to obtain foreign currency from an ATM overseas. Debit cards are a popular option as ATMs abroad are typically available 24 hours a day and you can often get a low exchange rate when the card withdraws money directly from your checking account at home.
Check with your bank or credit card companies to see if they charge an extra fee for international transactions. Most ATMs accept only a four-digit numerical PIN. Inform your bank that you will be traveling abroad and using your card so the bank does not "freeze" it, thinking the card has been stolen. If you are planning to take a debit card overseas, leave a bank account deposit slip at home with a family member who can deposit money into your account in case of an emergency.
Sometimes debit cards do not work overseas or are "eaten" by an ATM, so make sure you have other ways of obtaining money. Debit cards can also be difficult to replace if lost or stolen.
Most major U.S. credit cards can be used worldwide and are extremely valuable in a financial emergency. It is highly advisable to obtain a major credit card before studying abroad. The most commonly accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard. Credit cards you use overseas must be in your own name as given on your passport. Be sure to record your credit card number and emergency card numbers in a separate place in case your card is lost or stolen.
Typically, the amount charged to your credit card bill is based on the exchange rate on the day that your bank or credit card company processed the transaction.
Traveler's checks can serve as a back-up should you have difficulty accessing money from an ATM or your card is lost or stolen.
Prepaid travel cards are an alternative to traveler's checks and can often be reloaded once depleted. Lost or stolen cash cannot be replaced; traveler's checks and travel cards can be replaced. You can purchase either checks or cards from a variety of internationally recognized sources such as American Express, Bank of America, Visa or AAA.
If you plan to be overseas for a semester or longer, you may wish to open a local bank account in the host country. This is especially helpful if you will need to make payments via wire transfer for housing. Many banks overseas will have their own bank cards, allowing you to make withdrawals from their ATMs. If you plan to open a bank account overseas, you should make your deposit with traveler's checks or have your U.S. bank wire the funds. A personal check or money order can take weeks and even months to clear and will delay the ability to open a bank account quickly.
If you run out of money and need emergency funds, here are some options: