Money and Budgeting

Start Planning a Budget

It is easy to lose track of how much money you are spending overseas. Conversion rates can be confusing, the money looks funny, and you are more worried about experiences than your bank account. We’ve all been there. Having an honest conversation with yourself about how much money you have to spend while overseas and how you want and need to divide that money up will save you trouble (and money) in the long run.

There are a lot of expenses you’ll need to consider when you are developing a budget for your time abroad. Below is a list to help you get started (but keep in mind that this is not all-inclusive).

  • Program price and inclusions
    • Are you responsible for getting from the airport to your housing? What are your options?
    • Are meals included? If not, do you have access to a kitchen?
  • How much are airline tickets from the US to your destination?
  • Do you need a visa? If so, how much does it cost?
  • How much are immunizations?
  • How much will travel toiletries, converters, luggage (if needed), etc. be?
  • Do you plan on eating out a lot?
  • Do you plan on traveling while on your program?

The answers to most of these questions can be found on your program’s website. We’ve also got a great tool to help you add all of this up at You’ll find information on the cost of living for cities across the globe at

Call Your Bank(s) and Credit Card Company(ies)

Regardless of how long your program is, you will use your US bank account and ATMs overseas to access your money. Before you can do so, you need to call your banks and credit card companies to place a travel alert. Your bank will ask you the right questions to make sure that your account isn’t frozen while you’re abroad.

Some Other Questions to Ask Your Bank

  • Is there a maximum withdraw limit on my account?
  • Will I be charged a fee for using an ATM overseas? Are there foreign transaction fees?
  • Is there a number I can call if my card is lost or stolen?
  • How could I receive/activate a new card abroad?
  • If my card is close to expiring, can I receive a new one before I leave the US?

Research the Currency Before You Go

It is important to know how the currency works overseas. For example, the Euro has €1 and €2 coins. This can get confusing so prepare yourself before you go. Is there a “culture of cash” where you will be studying and traveling? “Key Facts” in your Culture Smart book has more information on this.

Stick to Your Budget

You made that budget, now stick to it! The easy way to do this is to withdrawal a set amount of money from the ATM to last you one to two weeks. When that money is gone, you’re done until the next withdrawal.

Accessing Money

Withdrawing money from the ATM is going to be the easy way to access it overseas. Save your credit cards for emergencies and rely on cash. In fact, most countries have a “culture of cash” in which paying for credit cards is saved for large purchases.

Be Safe with Your Money

Only make withdrawals from the ATM in well-lit areas during the day and pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t use any ATMs that look like they may have been tampered with and pay attention the keypad – the numbers are inverted in some countries! Keep your money in a safe place. Don’t carry more money with you than you need at any given time. Don’t carry your debit and credit cards with you if you don’t need them.