NerdWallet's 5 money tips for students abroad
Find out your bank partners in the country you're heading to and dodge the unnecessary fees. Source: Shutterstock

Thinking about serious issues like money is hard, especially when you’ve got a serious date with your couch and Netflix, and a spring break of sun, fun and adult beverages before you pack up for your study stint overseas.

But if you can knuckle down on that fun-in-the-sun itinerary, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pay the same dedication to getting your finances in order. Doing so, even if just a little, will pay off in big ways in the long run.

This becomes twice as important if you’re heading to a foreign country for your semester abroad in the summer or in the near future. Even for American students heading just across the pond (UK is the top favourite study destination), it takes time to navigate a new banking system and figure out those hidden fees. Miss a step, and you’ll find your pockets (and wallets) riddled with proverbial holes.

And seriously, it isn’t fun being broke and financially lost in a foreign country.

Lucky for us, the financial geniuses of NerdWallet have come up with these money tips to help you keep track of your finances during your study trip abroad:

1. Become an authorised user on a parent’s credit card

As an authorised user, you will get a credit card with your name on it, but your parents will receive the bill and, yes, they will be responsible for paying it. This works as a safety net, on days you run out of cash or when you face emergencies (not the kind that lands you behind bars, we hope).

Get a credit card that works wherever you’re planning to study and visit during your trip, such as a Visa and MasterCard. And make sure to get one with no foreign transaction fees – to choose the one that’s best for you, check out this analysis.

2. Use a debit card to withdraw from ATMs

Small ATM fees can be painful if you aren’t careful and vigilantly dodging them. Find out who your bank in your home country partners with in the country you are heading to. There are financial institutions that will let you withdraw for free or even reimburse your fees at ATMs worldwide.

Find them, dodge the fees. Thank us and the folks at NerdWallet later.

3. Have your parents transfer money to you

For times when you need the money but don’t want to use your credit card or an ATM, you can try using money transfer services. Use NerdWallet‘s transfer rate tool to compare foreign exchange rates and fees first before using them.

Though not as instantaneous as a credit card or ATM, they can be pretty timely – some providers will allow your parents to send money directly to your bank account or a pickup location within the same day (different locations may require a longer time).

4. Know your conversion rates

It goes without saying – different countries come with different currency rates. So keep conversion rates at the forefront when planning your trips.

In Paris, a Big Mac will cost around US$8.46 whereas in Beijing, the same order will set you back less than half that at US$4.20.

If you’re heading to Tokyo, it’s better to watch the streets than go to the cinema. Two tickets there can cost up to US$30.58, three times more than it costs in San José, Costa Rica, which only charges around US$10.26 for two tickets.

5. Let your bank know where you are

When your bank detects a transaction in an unfamiliar location, warning bells will alert their system and some will even suspend your accounts.

To avoid this unnecessary hassle so you can party in peace in Ibiza (Spain is the third favourite study destination for American students after all), let your bank and credit card company know whenever you move to a different country, even if it is for a short trip.

Use these tips, sort your finances and enjoy your semester abroad in peace!

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