General Financial Information
How to take and have access to money overseas is a topic of great concern to every study abroad participant. Always have two or more ways to get money! Carry your money, credit cards, ATM cards, and passport in a travel pouch/neck wallet under your shirt or tucked in your pants. These travel pouches are very inexpensive and are well worth the peace of mind that you will gain by being able to protect your money and passport. Remember to keep your travel pouch concealed while in public.
It is important to note that some countries operate on a cash economy; credit credits and/or debit cards may not be widely used or accepted. Students studying in these countries should be prepared to pay for purchases in the local currency. Prior to your departure, research your host country to determine if it operates on a cash economy so that you are prepared upon your arrival.
It is not recommended to carry large quantities of cash. If your cash is lost or stolen, there is no possibility of recovering your funds. We do recommend that, if possible, you obtain a small amount of foreign currency ($50-$100) before departure because this will be useful for phone calls, taxi cabs, etc. upon arrival. You can contact your local bank to inquire about the process for ordering the foreign currency. Please note this may take several weeks, so you should plan well in advance. Also, once you arrive in your host country, you will be able to exchange cash/traveler's checks either in the airport or in the city. Please note that a fee will be charged each time you exchange funds, so you should plan accordingly.
It is possible to use ATM cards in many foreign countries and this is the most common way travelers obtain money. Check with your bank to make sure that your ATM card will work outside the U.S. (some banks are restricting this due to increased fraud abroad). Also check on the fees for ATM transactions as well as the maximum daily withdrawal limits. In the event that you are unable to use your ATM card, you should take a credit card or traveler's checks as a back-up.
Most major U.S. credit cards can be used worldwide and are extremely useful to take with you. Check with your credit card company to learn what fees, if any, they will charge when converting currency. Although credit cards are becoming easier to use around the world, it may be difficult to use your credit card for purchases in certain countries, and to use your credit card in as many stores as you are accustomed to at home.
When you use your credit card in a foreign country, you will be charged in the currency of the country, and the statement you receive each month from the credit card company will show the amount charged converted into U.S. dollars. If you use your credit card for a cash advance, keep in mind that you will be charged interest on the cash advance from the minute the money is withdrawn.
Be sure to make photocopies of both the front and back of your credit cards in the event that they are lost or stolen. Call the credit card company prior to your departure to let them know that you will be abroad, the dates of your travel and the countries that you will be visiting. Otherwise, the credit card company may block overseas charges to prevent credit card fraud.
As a general rule, traveler's checks can be cashed worldwide and are a safer alternative to cash. These can be easily exchanged for local currency in banks and can be used to open a bank account. There is usually a small fee charged to exchange the checks for local currency but the added security is worth the fee. Be sure to leave a copy of the serial numbers of your traveler's checks in a safe place separate from the checks themselves (in the event that they are lost or stolen). As you cash the checks, keep a tally of which ones remain unredeemed. The advantage of the checks is that they can be replaced if lost or stolen.