Individual expenses vary greatly, but you probably will spend more money overseas than at home. Of course your country and specific place of destination will affect costs, as will any plan that you have to travel before, during or after your study abroad program. For Rider programs, we have provided you with an estimated budget that you will also use to secure financial aid. However, this budget does not include expenses for items considered optional by financial aid such as clothing purchases, souvenirs, weekend trips or any travel outside the program, and any other optional personal expenses.
2a. Currency Fluctuations
Students tend to overspend during their first month abroad. Remember that currency exchange rates fluctuate, so that the rate used by the OIE or your provider to calculate your program expenses may be different from the rate when you arrive in country. Then too, this rate can fluctuate while you are there. Make it a practice to be aware of rate changes by checking on an online currency converter or in a newspaper.
2b. Currency Exchange
US currency can be exchanged for foreign currency at most international airports prior to departure, at the airport of your destination or most major banks abroad. Generally rates are higher in airports (unless you can find a Cash Machine (ATM), so don't cash large amounts unless you have to. Travelers checks will give you a slightly better rate of exchange than cash. You will need to show your passport to exchange money. Each time you exchange money, you are charged a service fee, which varies from 1 to about 3 percent. Banks usually give the best rates; hotels and airport exchange counters poorer rates. Because you are charged this fee each time, it makes sense to change money fewer times for larger amounts.
3. Accessing Your Money Overseas
The OIE recommends that you use more than one option to access your money while abroad, including traveler's checks, ATM cards and credit cards. If you are staying for a full year in the same location, you may want to consider opening a local bank account to which your parents or guardians can directly send money.
3a. Traveler’s Checks
This is the safest way to carry your money since they can be replaced when lost or stolen and the rate of exchange is usually better than for cash. Most banks, post offices, hotels and tourist stores will exchange traveler's checks. When you purchase them, buy in multiple denominations. Smaller amounts are useful for travel and excursions, while larger amounts are good for getting cash during your program, for example, to pay housing fees. Record all of your transactions and keep your record separate from the checks. You will need your passport to cash them.
4b. ATM, Debit and Credit Cards
A debit/check card (ATM) is highly recommended. ATM machines are numerous in many countries. Be sure to check their availability in your host country. In China and Ghana, for example, ATM cards and even credit cards are not widely acceptable in some or most locations. In Europe and Oceania, as you might expect, this will not be a problem.
Credit cards are widely accepted in most places in most countries, although some countries will only allow cash for financial transaction or will offer significant discounts on items if you use cash. The two main cards are Visa and MasterCard, while American Express and Discover are less common.
Check with your credit card company and bank for information about service fees charged for activity abroad. Also check before you leave to be sure that your PIN can be used overseas, and that your financial agency knows about your travel abroad. Otherwise your account might be frozen as a measure of anti-fraud protection. They will want to know your travel dates and countries of destination.