An American debit card in Paris
Whether you trade in dollars or euros, there many options for accessing your money overseas
by Carten Cordell
There are many things to consider before studying abroad—which country to visit, what academic program to enroll in and how to approach cultural immersion. That’s why the last thing you want to worry about is banking in a foreign country.
“I had no difficulty using my [American] credit and debit cards abroad,” says Eric Felland a Northwestern University senior who studied in Paris. “There was some international fee activity involved, but the cost of transferring money by wire to a foreign account and then withdrawing it from there was comparable.”
Felland is one of many students who found practical ways to manage funds while far from home. Here are some tips to keep you financially savvy while abroad.
Debit? Credit? Pick a card
Alicia Stanley, associate director of Northwestern University’s study abroad office, suggests students simply use their American debit and credit cards while living and learning in a different country. Fortunately, a number of American banks have branches set up overseas. Citigroup, HSBC and BNY Mellon have a presence throughout Europe, Asia, the Americas, and select parts of Africa and the Middle East.
“Chances are pretty good that you will be able to utilize your ATM internationally,” says Diane Wagner, Bank of America‘s senior vice president of media relations.
Bank of America is a good option if you’re going to Western Europe because they partner with European financial institutions such as France’s BNP Paribas, Italy’s BNL d'Italia, the United Kingdom’s Barclays and Germany’s Deutsche Bank to provide free ATM service for customers abroad. Other American banks will allow use of your debit card overseas for a service charge, sometimes as high as $5 per transaction.
Getting money from your parents or moving funds for financial responsibilities back home can be accomplished through many banks by the use of a wire transfer.
Wire transfers allow you to shift funds from one account to another and can be done through an array of international banks. If you’re not using a foreign bank, Western Union has offices around the world and will transfer funds to you or provide quick payments to a biller or government agency as needed. As with any transfer, fees will be determined by the amount sent and where it’s headed.
Aunts, uncles, grandparents and other old-timers may bestow upon you a slightly outdated, but still useful, traveler’s cheque. Often used just like cash, they are accepted at many places across the globe. The biggest upside: Cheques are insured and can be refunded if stolen.
Be sure to inform your bank you’ll be out of the country to avoid anti-theft and anti-fraud measures inadvertently kicking in and limiting access to your account.
Wagner also suggests keeping your banks’ customer service numbers in a safe spot in case you lose your card.