Being Money Savvy Abroad

If you’re planning on studying abroad at some point during your time at Marquette, you’re probably very excited. And though you might have considered some of the costs of studying abroad, like how much you’ll be paying for tuition and housing, there are some other finance tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Make a budget! Take all the costs you’re expecting to pay and put them in a budget. This includes tuition, housing, food, souvenirs, weekend trips, etc. You’ll want to know exactly how much you can afford to spend; otherwise you might run out of money and spend half of your semester broke. Having a budget will help you know how many times a week you can afford to eat out, and how many weekend trips you can take without breaking the bank. And don’t necessarily plan on getting a job to cover your costs if you run out of money, because many countries have restrictions on foreign students working while studying abroad.

Notify your bank of your plans! Tell your bank in advance that you’re going to be out of the country. That way, when you start using a credit card or withdrawing money from ATMs outside of the US, your bank won’t think that your identity has been stolen and freeze your account. If you know that you’ll be taking weekend trips outside of your host country, try to notify your bank of those trips as well, just to be on the safe side.

Know local banks, currencies, and exchange rates! When getting money abroad, know which financial institutions are trusted, so that you can protect yourself against scams or identity theft. You’ll also want to know which US banking institutions have branches in other countries, and whether they participate in the Global ATM Alliance. The Global ATM Alliance allows you to use your debit card to withdraw funds with no ATM fee at any participating bank.

Be familiar with the currency used in your host country, including the symbols and denominations. Once you get familiar with the money itself, you’ll want to get familiar with the exchange rates. The exchange rate is how much a currency is worth when it is converted to another currency. With the exchange rate, you’ll be able to estimate the approximate value of US dollars in the local currency. There will be frequent minor fluctuations in the exchange rate, so don’t stress too much about knowing exactly how much your money is worth. But still keep an eye on it, because if the exchange rate turns extremely favorable, you’ll want to make your way to an ATM and withdraw a little extra cash while it costs you less in US dollars.

Be aware of the type of money! When studying abroad, you’ll have a variety of ways you can pay for things: cash, traveler’s checks, credit cards, etc. You’ll probably be carrying cash in the local currency, but don’t carry all of your cash with you at one time. Bring an appropriate amount for your activity, and keep the rest in a secure location. In some countries, cash is the preferred method of payment, so you might want to do some research on the culture to see if cash is the preferred way to pay! Credit cards and debit cards are also convenient ways to pay, but not all places will accept them. Have a backup in case a location does not accept plastic or there is a problem with your account. Traveler’s checks are still a very secure way to spend money in a foreign country, but many places no longer accept them because they are a hassle to cash. While traveler’s checks are secure, you might want to keep other payment methods in mind.

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