Plan Your Budget

Study abroad can be expensive.  With planning, though, you can have an affordable and safe experience.  Check out these resources and tips to make the most out of your travel without breaking your bank.

Resources

International Student Identification Card (ISIC)

The International Student Identification Card (ISIC) provides you two valuable services:  it is widely accepted abroad as a form of photo identification; and it can offer you discounted or free admission to many historical and cultural sites around the world.

Currency Exchange Rates

No matter where you travel, you will most likely have to exchange some hard currency and carry cash.  As a result, you need to be aware of the current exchange rates for the currency of your host nation relative to the U.S. dollar.  You can find exchange rates on Xe, using an internet search, or downloading an app to your mobile phone.

Types of Money

Different travelers will provide you with different advice as to the best way to carry and use money abroad.  In truth, each form of currency as its strengths and weaknesses, depending on where in the world you travel.  Feel free to use the guide below for some ideas about how to use money abroad.  You can always ask your Study Abroad Advisor for hints and tips, as well.

Foreign Currency

  • Pros: Can use anywhere. No fees for use.
  • Cons: If it is stolen, you cannot get it back.

Traveler's Cheques

  • Pros: Access to cash without having to carry it all at once. No fees to redeem the cash.
  • Cons: A lot of fraud, so many countries will not accept them anymore, especially in Europe. Must be at airport or certain banks to cash.

Credit Cards

  • Pros: A major credit card can make purchases almost anywhere. Not tied to a bank account. Easier to fix get money back if the card is stolen and used.
  • Cons: Linked to your identity. Fees for every foreign transaction. Higher interest rates on ATM withdraws.

Debit Cards

  • Pros: Can use at ATMS. Easy to cancel if stolen. A major debit/credit card can make purchases almost anywhere.
  • Cons: Linked to your identity and bank accounts. If stolen and used there may not be any money left in the bank account if any auto bill pay before the issue is resolved which can be a slow process. Fees for every foreign transaction.

Travel Money Card/Pre-Paid Card

  • Pros: Not linked to your identity or bank accounts. Made by major credit card companies so it can be used almost anywhere. Can pull cash from an ATM. Usually has companion card so if the primary card had to be cancelled when stolen there is still access to the money immediately.
  • Cons: Fees for every foreign transactions. Can’t use at street side vendors.

Note:  Many European countries now use cards with embedded microchips instead of cards with magnetic strips, as is standard in the U.S. This means that U.S. cards may not work abroad.  Contact your card company to see if your card will work where you travel.  For more information about the different uses of cards versus cash, read The Perils of Plastic, the Cachet of Cash by Rick Steves.

Tips to Avoid Identity or Property Theft

Identity theft is on the rise, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  Make sure you practice some common sense behaviors to protect your money and identity.
  • RFID protecting wallets protect the card number, expiration date, and other personnel data stored in the card’s chip.
  • Anti-theft purses and bags are usually made with metal wires inside the seams and fabric, making it very difficult to slash a hole in the bag or a strap.
  • Neck and waist pouches store cards, cash, and ID in a small comfortable sack that can be hidden beneath clothing.
  • Passport holders provide a place to store and protect passports.
  • NEVER give your PIN (personal identification number) to anyone.
  • ALWAYS use your body or a hand to shield the key pad from snooping eyes when entering your PIN anywhere.
  • Check ATMs for card readers, or devices that may electronically read your card when you deposit it in a slot.
  • It's best to use an ATM with a friend so that someone can keep an eye out for you and your money.
  • Do NOT carry your wallet in your back pocket. It is best to not carry money or IDs in a backpack on your back either. Keep backpacks, purses, and wallets in front of you.
  • Don't keep everything in one spot. Separate your money into multiple places, so that if one set is stolen, you still have some money.
  • Don't open a "tab" in a restaurant or pub if you don't have to do so. Thieves often copy down your card number and information when it is out of sight and mind.