It is important to budget, plan and spend wisely while abroad. Even those on a tight budget can enjoy experiences abroad without going into debt – It just takes some planning. Following are some common sense tips which may be of assistance as you plan your finances:
- Make both a weekly and at times a daily budget and stick to them.
- Learn the “value” of the currency (in relation to the US$). Keep in mind that these values fluctuate regularly and you will want to check the exchange rate regularly.
- Be alert for special student rates and discounts, such as the International Student ID card, for travel, lodging, entrance fees.
- Plan your entertainment and recreation around the availability of free, inexpensive and discounted events on the campus or in the community where you are studying.
General Information & Tips
- It is advisable to bring a small amount of local currency with you, but exchange the bulk of your money at a local currency exchange or bank.
- As a safety measure – keep one “untouchable” big bill ($50 or so) in reserve, separate from your other money. Use only in case of emergency.
- Depending upon the country, you may want to bring a small amount of U.S. cash ($1 & $5).
- Count your change wherever you go.
- Don’t go overboard on what seems to be a bargain, such as items which will be expensive to ship or items you will need to pay high duty to bring home.
- It is almost impossible to cash a personal check abroad.
Credit/Debit Cards With ATM Capabilities
Automated teller machines (ATM’s) provide one of the best ways of transferring money, exchanging currency and making purchases. This means that you can get cash in the local currency directly from your bank account in the United States. Usually you will get a very favorable rate of exchange.
To be able to use ATMs overseas, your PIN code should not be longer than four digits. Some foreign keypads have only numbers. If you have letters in your PIN, before you depart, substitute the number you would use to dial that letter on an American telephone.
Some ATM’s will not let you have a 0 in the PIN number. Check this out before you leave the U.S. Foreign ATM’s may allow draws only from your primary checking account. Instructions are usually available in English, but not always.
- Most major credit cards (except Discover) are accepted abroad, depending upon the country. You may want to take more than one. Apply as soon as possible to be sure you have your card before departure. You should also request a PIN for your credit card. It is important to verify your credit limit and the amount you can withdraw each day before you go.
- Credit card currency conversions are usually very accurate and your bill serves as a future reference if something is lost or broken. You may receive a more favorable rate of exchange, since the corporate rate that card companies receive is often lower than the rate for individuals.
- Keep in mind that cash advances accrue interest from day one and often at a higher rate than for purchases. It may be possible to send a large check to your credit card company before you go abroad to cover advances.
- If your card is lost or stolen and used by a thief, you generally cannot be held responsible for more than $50 in fraudulent charges, and many credit card companies will replace your cards. It is important to immediately cancel your credit card if it is lost or stolen.
- Make certain you collect your credit card receipts from the vendor. A receipt can be used by someone else to falsify your card. Make certain you receive your card back in restaurants, not someone else’s.
- Businesses have been known to alter charge slips in an effort to defraud customers. Don’t throw away your charge slips until the charges have been billed and paid. An extra zero on the charge slip can cause the bill to soar.
- Call your credit card company’s fraud protection department, before you depart to let them know you will be out of the country, so they do not put a hold on your account when you charge in another country. You know you are out of the U.S., but they do not, and do this as a protection.
Even if you plan to rely exclusively on ATM’s, bring some extra cash since you may not always find an ATM on your bank’s network. Also, bent or damaged cards are useless.
Be aware that debit cards are not without risks. Because the debit card is drawing on your account at home, if it is stolen, your account could be wiped out, thus leaving any outstanding checks to bounce. Many debit cards have a maximum liability of $50, as long as reported within 48 hours. Be aware of the card rules.
You many find once you are abroad that you underestimated the amount of money you need. Decide prior to departure with your family how money will be sent to you if this occurs.
What to Do If You Lose Your Purse/Wallet
- Cancel your credit cards immediately (the key to this is having the toll free numbers and your credit card numbers handy so you know who to call).
- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen. This proves to credit providers that you were diligent and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
- Call the three (3) national credit reporting organizations and Social Security Administration immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security: 1-800-269-0271