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Money Matters Abroad

Budgeting and knowing how you will access your money abroad will help you have a smooth study abroad experience.

Contact your Bank
Let your bank and credit card companies know when and where you will be traveling. If there is any suspicious or unusual spending activity, banks will often put a security freeze on your account. Notifying them ahead of time of your travel will prevent any complications when you start using your card abroad.

ATM Fees and International Transaction Fees
Know what fees your bank and credit card companies will charge you while you are abroad. In addition to non-bank ATM fees, you may be charged an international transaction fee for any transaction made in a foreign currency. Ask your bank what these fees are and if there are any options to waive these fees. Sometimes banks may have established a partnership with a local bank in your host country. Ask if they have any partner banks. This may be a way to avoid fees particularly when you need to withdraw cash.

Cash, Debit Cards, and Credit Cards
Familiarize yourself with the currency of your host country. Research the exchange rate so that you understand how much money you are spending. Cash is often more widely used when you are living abroad.  Most countries are now requiring that debit cards and credit cards have a chip. Your bank can help you obtain a chip card if you don’t have one. Make sure you know the PIN of any debit or credit cards. When withdrawing money from an ATM, use ATM's that are preferably indoors. Use caution when using ATM’s on the street.

Create a budget for yourself in order to anticipate the expenses that you will have when you are living abroad. The amount of money you need will largely depend on your spending habits. It is helpful to use a budgeting worksheet to calculate your expenses for your time abroad. If you are on financial aid, make sure that you see Diane Barrett in the Financial Aid Office to have a clear understanding of your financial aid package during your time abroad.

Northwestern Study Abroad Budgeting Worksheet

Cost of Living
Use a cost of living calculator to help anticipate the cost of public transportation, food, toiletries, entertainment, and medical expenses in your host country.


Talk to Returning Study Abroad Students
Returning study abroad students have the most recent experience. Ask them about how they budgeted their money and about expenses to anticipate.  

Go Abroad Crunching the Numbers
Go Overseas How to Budget Guide
Northwestern Budgeting and Accessing Money (with access to a helpful checklist)
International Student ID card

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