One of the wisest things to do as you are planning for your time abroad is to consider your budget and your costs before you leave. The International Education Center will provide you with a cost estimate that takes your obligatory costs; tuition, room, board, transportation, the cost of passport and consular fees, laundry and local travel into consideration. Significant travel on weekends or other discretionary costs such as eating out, clubbing or souvenirs are not calculated. For this reason, you should know what your priorities are while you will be abroad. Developing and sticking to a budget will ensure that you do not miss out on anything, particularly if you have limited funds.
Credit Cards and ATM Cards
Most ATM card systems can be used overseas to withdraw money from your home bank account. If you currently do not have a U.S. based bank account, you should make sure you have one before you depart. It may be very difficult to open a bank account in a country where you are not a resident.
U.S. credit cards, especially Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in many parts of the world. A credit card is an excellent way to ensure that you have the funds you need while you are abroad, especially in emergencies. You should be careful not to rely on funds from your credit card for all of your expenses especially if you intend to carry a balance paying only the minimum monthly payment.
Since ATM machines rely on the use of a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to access your accounts, make sure that your PIN will work in the countries that you are planning to visit. You should make sure that none of your card PIN's begin with a zero. You may find that some countries have a system called Chip and Pin which requires the card user to enter a pin for each purchase they make. Because the U.S. has not yet adopted this system widely you may occasionally find that you are unable to use your card in smaller shops or restaurants. Most of the time however, you should be able to "swipe" your card in one of the chip and pin card machines the same way you would here in the U.S.
Receiving Money While You are Abroad
In most major cities you should be able to obtain a cash advance at a bank on Visa, Master Card and sometimes American Express card. If you intend to use your card this way make sure it can be used for cash advances. Cash or travelers checks can be cabled to you through a bank or agency. Do not have anyone send you personal checks from a local bank in the U.S. They are not negotiable abroad.
Travelers checks are no longer the typical way to take funds overseas, but you may consider having a small amount in travelers checks for an emergency back up is a good idea. Many banks will charge a fee of one percent on travelers checks.
Obtaining a small amount of the currency (i.e. $100-200) before you depart will ensure that you have some cash for a bus, taxi, phone calls or food when you first arrive. You are advised to read up on where best to cash travelers checks so that you do not pay enormous service charges or conversion fees.
Be aware of the fluctuation of the U.S. dollar and learn to convert prices into terms of dollars. This will help you understand the value of the currencies you will be using and will also help you budget your funds accordingly.