Article | 3:13 min read

5 Financial Tips for Your Summer Abroad

Budget and Save

You’ve finally been accepted into that study abroad program that you’ve been waiting to hear back from for weeks!

A traveler taking pictures of a scenic view

So now what? On top of the growing list of things to do, there are some financial details that need to be addressed before any bags are packed. Here’s a list to help you along before you go plane side and fulfill your quest for worldly knowledge.

1. Checking out the Change.
When traveling to a new country there comes a whole new currency to learn with it. Though it may not seem like a big deal to learn in comparison to a foreign culture’s practices, checking out the change before arriving will make the transition easier. Dealing with vendors and unfamiliar prices can make paying with cash an unnecessary stress, and it is generally advised to use cash when abroad because of the transaction fees that are incurred when doing card transactions. On top of that the majority of merchants prefer cash. According to Rick Steves, an author and travel TV host, because merchants pay commissions to credit-card companies, small European businesses (B&Bs, mom-and-pop cafés, gift shops, and more) often prefer that you pay in cash. Vendors might offer you a discount for paying with cash, or they might not accept credit cards at all [1].

2. Knowing what works where.
You finally are out and about in the world! It makes sense to optimize your time abroad and see other countries along with your host country. When crossing borders you need to be aware of any changes in currency. Luckily in Europe many countries use the same kind of currency, the euro. According to How Stuff Works Money, on January 1, 2002, the euro became the single currency of 12 member states of the European Union. This will make it the second largest currency in the world (the U.S. dollar being the largest) [2]. Be sure to research the specific area you will be in, as with the case of Ireland, some countries are divided in what kind of currency they use. For example, Northern Ireland subscribes to the pound while Southern Ireland accepts only the euro.

3. “Chip” cards.
While some countries still accept cards that have only the magnetic strip, it is best to follow “the better safe than sorry” rule in regard to “chip” cards. For those larger transactions that you plan on putting on a card you’ll want to make sure you have a card with an EMV chip. In the case that a vendor or bank has not updated their card reader, you’ll have the magnetic strip option.

4. Exchange Rates.
When exchanging your home currency for the host country’s currency, you will want to monitor the exchange rates to make sure you come out ahead in the tradeoff. For instance, as of 2020, 1.00 US dollar is worth only .88 euro. Depending on where you are traveling from, this exchange rate could either work in your favor, or make you exchange a given amount of money for less. One final piece of exchange rate advice is to order a sum of the host country’s currency ahead of time. This will allow you to make the exchange when the exchange rate is working in your favor, and allow you to avoid the excessive exchange fees at airports.

5. Travel notification.
Be sure to let your local bank know of your intended travel. Withdrawals abroad will be seen as fraudulent if your bank is unaware of your location, and a hold could be put on your spending until you are able to verify that it is in fact you. With travel, it is better to take care of things ahead of time, rather than in the moment.

Whether it’s studying abroad, or just traveling abroad, be sure you’re financially aware and prepared so you can better enjoy your trip. Bon voyage!


[1] Pay with Plastic or Cash, Rick Steve Europe
[2] How the Euro Works, How stuff works-Money

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