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Using Credit Cards While Studying Abroad

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Jul 11, 2017

Studying abroad is a unique experience that allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture and travel to different countries easily and frequently. With these new opportunities comes the responsibility of financial planning. Allocating your limited funds as a student can be difficult, especially with an entirely new currency and the burden of an exchange rate.

Quick Tips for Using a Credit Card When Studying Abroad

  • Choose a credit card that is universally accepted. You want to be sure your card will be accepted in every country you travel to, in addition to the home country you study in.
  • Try to choose a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Many credit card companies charge an average fee of 1-3% for every transaction, in addition to the ATM fees the local banks charge.
  • Contact your bank in advance to let them know you will be abroad and provide a list of your potential travel destinations. This will ensure your card is not declined for fraud reasons.
  • If you choose to use a debit card, be sure to put more money than you think you need on the card in case of an emergency.
  • Sign the back of your credit card and always have photo identification. European countries take theft seriously and will refuse your card if they think it’s stolen.
  • Know the exchange rate, especially in your home country. Rates can fluctuate without warning, but having a general idea will help you avoid any scams.
  • If you keep your money in a global bank with international locations, you can avoid ATM fees. Some of these banks include HSBC, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
  • Take advantage of travel planning and budgeting apps. Having access to your spending at all times can help you stay on track with your budget and be aware of fluctuating exchange rates.

Best Credit Cards for College Students Studying Abroad

When choosing the right credit card for your abroad travels, it is important to consider the travel, security, and theft solutions that will be most beneficial for you.

If you are traveling to Europe, it might be useful to apply for a credit card with EMV (or “chip”) technology. These cards are embedded with a microchip that stores cardholder information to increase data security.

Many European countries use chip-enabled credit card machines because it makes cloning and fraud much more difficult. If you don’t have a chip card, you may want to choose a card with $0 fraud liability. This means if your card is ever lost or stolen, you will not be responsible for fraudulent purchases.

One of the other important aspects to consider is foreign transaction fees. These add up quickly, so it’s best to choose a card with no foreign transaction fees. Choosing a card with travel assistance is a good idea because you want to be prepared for any emergencies that may arise.

Exchange Rates in Popular Study Abroad Countries

An exchange rate is the value of one country’s currency in terms of another currency. The exchange rate of U.S. Dollars will vary depending on the country. Most students know exchange rates exist, but they don’t know what an exchange rate really means.

For example, if 1 U.S. Dollar equals .73 Euros, you lose about 37 cents per U.S. dollar. This is because with the current exchange rate, 1 Euro equals 1.36986 USD. Knowing the current exchange rate before you travel can help you get the best conversion possible.

How to Maximize Your Study Abroad Experience

  1. Plan your travels in advance. There are great deals from airlines such as EasyJet, RyanAir, and WizzAir when you purchase tickets ahead of time.
  2. Stay on your budget by utilizing your kitchen. Going out to dinner abroad can be expensive and different than in the United States. Free water and bread rarely exist abroad so make sure to ask the restaurant before you order.
  3. Take time to explore your home country. Visiting other countries can be great, but take advantage of the one-time opportunity to travel locally. It can also be an easy way to save money.
  4. Socialize with local students in your area. They can help you find the best food at the best prices and free activities to do in the city.
  5. Use the public transportation. It is a great way to explore the city, learn the culture and avoid the cost of taking taxis.
  6. Be aware of the money tipping policy in your city. We tip for customer service in the United States, but many other countries view tipping as rude and unnecessary. Eliminating tips from your budget is a way to save money for travel, pubs, and local events.
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