You should have at least two ways of accessing funds while you are on an Education Abroad program; this likely means having a debit card and a credit card. It is worth doing your research early to determine how your debit (bank) card and credit card will work abroad, and how cash, credit, and debit cards are used in your host country.
- Let your bank and credit card company know the dates you will be out of the country and the different countries you will be visiting. Additionally, if you plan any additional travel while you are abroad, you will also need to notify them of this travel. This is important to ensure you can access your funds while you are abroad and avoid your account being frozen.
- Bring a small amount of cash ($100 in U.S. dollars and/or host country currency) when you depart to cover expenses over the first few days in case you have issues with your debit/credit card when your first arrive.
- Research the local currency of your host country and understand the exchange rate and tipping culture. Check out the Budgeting webpage for resources related to finding this information.
ATMs are the easiest way to access cash abroad, although transaction fees may apply, and you cannot assume cash machines will always be available or will always take your card. Contact your bank before your program to discuss how you can access funds abroad and what the policies are regarding international travel. Questions you should ask include the following:
- What is the daily limit for withdrawals?
- What is the transaction fee? Is it a percentage of the withdrawal, or is there a fixed rate?
- Is there a currency exchange fee? If so, how much is this fee?
- What networks do you have access to?
- Does your bank have an affiliated or partner bank in your host country? If so, you may be able to avoid some of the fees associated with using your ATM card internationally.
Credit CardsCredit cards are often accepted abroad; however, in some countries, they may be less widely accepted for purchases than they are in the U.S, or using them may come with associated fees. Verify with your credit card company that your card will work in your host country. Visa and Mastercard are most often accepted abroad; whereas, American Express and Discover are less widely accepted. Additionally, some banks and credit card companies charge fees for international transactions. Contact your credit card company in advance to find out 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 depending on these policies.
CashYou may find yourself using cash more so than you were used to using in the U.S. Some countries still operate as cash-based societies and for some of the reasons outlined above, it may make more sense for you to use cash, especially for smaller purchases. A few tips related to using and carrying cash while traveling:
- Take some of your host country’s currency with you if possible (maybe $100 worth).
- Wait to exchange most currency until you arrive in your host country; you usually get the best exchange rates at banks located in your host city, rather than in the U.S. or at the airport exchange kiosks.
- Never carry large sums of cash with you or leave cash in an insecure place.
Direct deposit into a bank account to which you have access via an ATM card is the ideal way to receive additional funds while you are abroad (this could also include transferring funds via Venmo and then to the affiliated bank account).
If direct deposit is not possible, a few other options that may be available include the following:
- International money orders or international postal money orders. Postal money orders are purchased and cashed at Post Offices and are inexpensive.
- Cashier’s check in the currency of the host country. These can be purchased at many banks. There is usually a service charge of $25 or more.
- In case of emergencies, money can be wired to a bank in your host city. This is expensive for both senders and receivers, but the funds usually arrive in 48 to 72 hours (verify with the bank). You will have to give the person wiring the funds the name and address of the bank you want to use. The money is then wired in your name, and you present your passport to pick it up.
- In cases of extreme emergency, the U.S. Department of State may be able to assist in securing funds. See the U.S. Department of State's website for more information.
Disclaimer: The following is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by the University of Colorado Boulder or Education Abroad. CU Boulder Education Abroad is not an agent for these organizations.
Last Updated January 2023