Accessing Money Overseas

NOTE: This section contains general suggestions for money management overseas. Please check your program materials for more specific advice.

In general, we suggest carrying only a small amount of U.S. dollars to your overseas destination. It may be advisable to obtain a small amount of foreign currency prior to departure for immediate incidentals upon arrival such as taxis, tips, food, etc.

Options for accessing money overseas include the following:

  • ATM Cash Withdrawal may be the most convenient way to obtain cash overseas especially using ATM cards with the VISA or MASTERCARD logo. Be sure to check your program materials or visit www.visa.com or www.mastercard.com for information about ATM machine locations at your destination. 

  • Credit Cards may be the most convenient way to make purchases overseas and can be useful in case of emergencies. However, be careful about taking a cash advance on a credit card, as fees and interest charges can be very high and can start accruing immediately.

IMPORTANT: contact the bank(s) associated with your ATM/credit cards prior to your departure from the U.S. to verify the following:

  • Will the card work overseas? (Will a new card or a new PIN be necessary?)

  • Will fees be charged for withdrawals and/or purchases in foreign currency?

  • Alert the security department that you’ll be using the card overseas to avoid having it frozen or canceled! (Specify your travel dates and destinations.)

1.)  Depending on your program, Travelers’ Checks may be best used as “back-up plan”.

Advantages of travelers’ checks include:

  • Can be used worldwide (perhaps even in remote locations where ATMs might not be available)

  • They are the safest way to carry currency overseas because

  • They are replaceable if lost or stolen, assuming you have copies of the checks and serial numbers

Disadvantages of travelers’ checks include:

  • They may involve high service fees; both to buy them and to cash them overseas

  • The exchange rate may not be as favorable

  • They are not as convenient; must be cashed at banks, money exchange kiosks, etc. Some stores, restaurants, and other vendors may not accept them.

2.)  Overseas Bank Accounts may be an option, depending on your program, destination, and length of stay overseas. Banking regulations vary, but research the possibility and cost of opening an overseas bank account with travelers’ checks, international bank check, wire transfer, or money order. Personal checks from the U.S. are normally not accepted overseas OR could take months to clear and involve high fees.

Tips on Crisis Management / Financial Security Overseas

  • Don’t carry a lot of cash

  • Use a money belt

  • Don’t keep all sources of money in the same place; carry only what you need

  • Photocopy/scan the front and back of all cards in your wallet in case of loss or theft

  • Consider appointing someone you trust as your power of attorney to act on your behalf on matters that you specify (e.g., financial paperwork, depositing checks, paying bills, etc.)

Last modified 2/6/2015