In trying to estimate how much a student might need, students should think about how much money they spend on campus per semester. Then they should realize that certain incidental expenses (coffee or a coke in a cafe, a movie, cosmetics, data plans, and so on) will most likely be more expensive abroad. In addition, students will spend more on things such as phone calls to the US, postage, gifts and traveling (trains, taxis, and so on). Students may be traveling much more during vacations than they would at home and thus incur other expenses.

Also take into consideration the dollar’s value in the foreign currency. Try to make an educated guess based on these factors and have a back-up plan to get more money in a hurry. 

Exchanging Local Currency

CGIS suggests that students have at least $100 worth of the local currency with them before departing for their program. This local currency can be obtained in several ways. Foreign currency can be purchased at most banks in the US, but students should allow several days or even weeks for this transaction. Banks in Ann Arbor that have foreign currency are Bank One, First of America (South Main), and Comerica (North Main). Students are encouraged to call in advance to make sure the needed currency is available.

Once on site, students should ask on-site staff about a reliable place to exchange money. To avoid losing all of their money or having it stolen, students should:

  • Avoid carrying more than a week’s worth of money on their person at any given time.
  • Carry money in several places, preferably concealed beneath their clothing in a money pouch. 
  • Use a credit card or bank card when possible.
  • Keep small denominations in a wallet and avoid flashing stacks of cash, a thick wallet, or large bills when paying for items. Replenish the wallet while not in the open to avoid attracting would-be thieves. 

Credit Cards and Cash (ATM) Cards

Students can use major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, and to a lesser extent American Express) and cash cards to get cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) throughout the world. The two major networks, Cirrus and Plus, continue to add more countries to their member lists.

Students should inform their credit card company ahead of time that they will be overseas, since many companies now try to protect their customers from identity theft by refusing what they consider to be suspicious charges.

Students should ask their bank for a list of ATM locations for the countries they plan to visit. They should be sure to know their personal identification number (PIN) and request an international PIN, if necessary.

Even when students have taken all of the above precautions, they may encounter ATMs where their card will not work. Therefore, do not depend solely on ATM cards for cash. Students should be aware of fees their bank or credit card company will charge for overseas use. 

Receiving Money from Home

In case of emergency, money can be wired to students, but this usually takes at least 5 days. Students can find out more about wiring money by calling Western Union at 800.325.4176 or American Express Moneygram Info at 800.543.4080. If an ATM is available, someone in the US can deposit money into a student’s home bank account and the student should be able to use their ATM card abroad to access those funds.