Finances Abroad

Managing finances can be very different when you’re living away from home. Learn different methods and tips for how to spend wisely and access money while abroad.

Managing Money

It’s important to think about how you will carry and access money on your program. Follow these tips to prepare for your arrival.

  • Contact your bank and credit card company to let them know you're going out of the country and/or area. If you don't, they may view an international transaction as your card having been stolen and freeze your account! Ask your credit card company in advance about any applicable fees. It may be more cost effective for you to limit the use of your credit card for purchases and/or plan to use cash more often. For students studying abroad in Europe, be aware that in most European countries, credit cards use “chip-and-PIN” technology (cards have a small computer chip in them and require users to enter a PIN code to make purchases), rather than a magnetic strip and signature, which has been common in the U.S. This means that in many locations, particularly when paying at a self-service kiosk or ticket machine, U.S. credit cards may be rejected. If you do not already have a credit card with chip technology, it is recommended that you contact your credit card company before you depart to ask whether this is available.
  • Write down all of your credit card numbers and each company's phone number and store them in a safe place. Toll-free numbers often do not work from other countries, so make sure you have a number with a U.S. area code.
  • Research how much it costs to use an ATM in your program destination. Your bank or credit card company may charge fees for withdrawals overseas and may have a limit on the amount you can withdraw daily, so be sure to consult with your bank about this. Lots of study abroad students in the past have set up an account with Charles Schwab, as all ATM fees (even international!) are refunded to you at the end of every month.
  • Have some cash when you arrive. Bring a small amount ($100) of cash in U.S. dollars when you depart for study abroad to cover expenses like bus/taxi fares, snacks, and phone calls for the first couple days and in case you have issues with your debit/credit card. Some U.S. banks are able to provide foreign currency, so you may wish to obtain your local currency before departing the U.S. Otherwise, in most locations, U.S. dollars can be exchanged for the local currency at local banks and exchange houses. Exchange rates at airports are often higher, so if exchanging money at the airport, only exchange a small amount to get you to your program location, and then find a bank that has a better rate.
  • Don't keep all of your cash in one location (ex: wallet). If you happen to get pickpocketed or robbed, you don't want to lose everything. Stash some cash in your wallet, purse, backpack, or even your shoe. It’s a good rule of thumb to always have at least $20 with you in cash (or the currency of wherever you are) in case of an emergency!
  • Give your bank account information to a trusted parent, guardian or family member (optional). If you find yourself short on funds, the best way to obtain additional money from your home country is usually to have a parent or guardian deposit money into your bank account directly. Make sure to give them your bank account information in advance if you think you might need to use this option. If your wallet was stolen and you have no way to access your bank account, you can also have someone wire you money via Western Union or another currency exchange.
  • Research mobile pay options for your program destination. Mobile payments include any payments where a mobile device is used to authorize and confirm a transaction (i.e. PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Zelle). In some countries, mobile payment is being used in place of traditional payment systems (i.e. cash, credit cards). Research if mobile payments are common in your program destination, but be aware of security issues. 

Work or Intern During Your Program

During your program, there may be opportunities for you to work or intern with a local organization. These can be great ways to earn some spending money and build valuable skills while also getting to really know your host community. 

If you are participating in a semester or year-long exchange program and are studying at any of the universities below, you are able to intern or work abroad with your student visa! The first step to making this a reality is connecting with your host university’s International Office.

  • Australia (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Queensland University of Technology): Work or intern up to 20 hours per week
  • Finland (JAMK University of Applied Sciences): Work or intern a maximum of 25 hours per week if it is not related to your degree (no maximum of hours if related to your degree)
  • Germany (Hochschule fur Gestaltung Schwabisch Gmünd, Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt): Work 10 days per month (1 day = 8 working hours)
  • India (Alliance Business School): Intern up to 20 hours per week
  • Ireland (University College Dublin): Can work if you are studying at the university for at least 2 semesters
  • Japan (Kyushu University, Kwansei Gakuin University, Okayama National University, Sophia University, Yokohama National University): Work up to 28 hours per week with permission of a part-time job from the Immigration Bureau
  • Norway (University of Oslo): Work or intern up to 20 hours per week
  • South Korea (Gyeongsang National University, Kyungpook National University, Sungkyunkwan University): Work up to 20 hours per week; more allowed if you have the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) certificate
  • Sweden (University West): Work or intern (no maximum amount of hours per week)
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