As a first time traveler, I had very little knowledge about currency exchange and had to learn how to budget as I studied abroad. Currency exchange, budgeting, and credit/debit cards are a few important things that I would consider when studying abroad. In many cases, lots of countries have a different kind of currency. For example, Paris does not accept U.S. currency. Instead, they run by Euro currency. So before leaving to another country, make sure to do some research on what kind of currency your country accepts.
Once you figure out your country’s currency, plan to exchange some of your money at your bank or at other money exchange places. Since I didn’t know much about it, I didn’t plan this too well as I had hoped for. I had actually opened a TravelEx debit card, which is a multi-currency card. It can be used in most countries by depositing money and converting into any type of currency to wherever I spend it on. When I had asked if there were any extra or hidden fees and was told no, I just knew that it was too good to be true. When I exchanged U.S. currency to Euro currency, I lost a little over a hundred dollars. Moreover, when I had pulled money out from the TravelEx ATM in Paris, I was charged with a 25% fee. After I had realized I had gotten charged, I withdraw all of my money from the ATM. Otherwise I would have every transaction taken an additional 25% fee.
Furthermore, I had realized that Paris’ pricing were a bit more expensive than back at home. As a result, I had to learn how to budget to ensure I had enough funds to last for the entire trip. By the end of the day, I would go back to my receipts and total how much I have spent for the day. This helped a lot because I was able to visually see where my money was being spent on.
However, if you’re one of those people like me that go crazy on souvenirs and end up still not having enough money, a debit/credit card can also be a useful tool while studying abroad. With two days left in the program, I have used up all of my cash that I had exchanged. Now, I am utilizing my debit card for “emergency” monetary purposes. This can actually be helpful in case you run out of cash and don’t want to deal with exchanging more money when it can be paid through a card. However, I wouldn’t advise using it frequently since it can include some small fees using it internationally.
If you’re planning on studying abroad or even thinking about it, here is a list I have compiled of the Do’s and Dont’s about money.
- If you are going to do your currency exchange at your bank, plan a week before your departure (banks have to process your currency exchange and can take a few days and you have to pick it up at your bank)
- Check the website: http://www.xe.com/ for exchange rates because every few hours the exchange rate can increase or decrease (you want to try to get a best deal out of it)
- Use currency exchange companies because they tend to have higher exchange rates and have hidden commission/transaction fees (like TravelEx)
- Exchange all of your money because they might have lower exchange rates over there
- Research at the country you’ll be staying and see how expensive it is to live there
- Consider making a budget plan
- How much money do you think you would be spent eating out?
- How much money do you need to set aside for excursion trips?
- How much is transportation?
**Those are a few things I would consider when creating your budget plan**
- Spend your money freely because money can go down the drain really quick
- Be too strict on your budget plan. Give yourself some wiggle room so that you can still have some fun while studying abroad.
- Do not bring all of your cash with you when you go out
- I highly advise maybe no more than 50 Euros a day (plus it helps you from overspending)
- Contact your bank to let them know when you’ll be studying abroad so that they don’t lock your account if you were to use it internationally
- Understand and be aware that taking out money from a foreign ATM has conversion/transaction fees
- Bring a debit/credit card that has a chip included
- Specifically in Europe, a lot of the places only accept cards with a chip in it
- Do not use your credit/debit card frequently
- Those small fees for every transaction can add up, so I highly advise having some cash on the side to minimize the costs
- Do not have only one credit/debit card with you
- I highly advise no more than 2 just in case if your other card gets declined, you will have an alternative to use