How much spending money will you need?

Although this really depends on your personal spending habits and your destination country, you will probably spend more money while studying abroad than you would during the same period at home. Common expenses include eating out, souvenirs/gifts, and—the biggest category—personal travel. The best advice is to talk with other students who have been on your program, and ask them what they tended to spend money on, and then make a personal budget for yourself.

Other advice regarding money and finances abroad

Your bank

Let your bank know where you’re going. This includes your destination country, any layover airports, and any countries you plan to travel to while living abroad. If you don’t, your bank may assume your account has been compromised and may freeze your accounts.


When traveling, debit cards are very convenient: ATMs are generally accessible 24/7, they make it unnecessary to carry large amounts of cash, and the money you receive from an ATM will be in the local currency. Check with the bank that issues your card, however, to learn if/how much they charge for “foreign transaction fees” which can vary greatly from bank to bank. There may also be “external ATM fees” for not using your bank’s ATMs. Check with your bank to see if they have sister banks abroad to avoid the external ATM fees.

Credit cards

Taking a credit card can be a good idea in case you have to make a purchase that exceeds the daily limit of your debit card. Credit card may also carry “foreign transaction fees” which can vary greatly from bank to bank.

Contact info

Make sure to have a list of customer service numbers to call in case any of your credit cards are stolen—you will want to cancel them immediately. Leave this list with your parents as well, since it may be easier for them to make the calls from the U.S. than for you to do so from abroad.

Emergency fund

Take an emergency fund in cash (at least $100) when you are traveling; keep it securely stored in a neck pouch or money belt. It is better to take small bills (10s or 20s).

Bills back home

If you will be responsible for paying bills in the U.S. while you are abroad, set up automatic debit or online payment options (through your bank, an online service, or the institutions you have to pay) before you leave.