Banking & Money Tips

Finding out how to save, what to spend

Saving money for a semester abroad is no easy task. So when you're Europe, you have to get the most bang for your buck.

Before You Go

Be sure to do the following things:

  • Let your bank know not just the country in which you're studying but also the countries you may travel to. There are no costs associated with activating your card in these various countries, so it's better to round up in case a last minute trip takes you to some farflung corner of Europe.
  • Set up online banking so you can monitor your balance at any time
  • Ask your bank which overseas banks they have relationships with. Bank of America, for example, has partnerships with Deutsche Bank (Germany) and BNP Paribas (France) and Barclays (England), which allow you to skip the charges if you find those ATMs.

We've also learned that users of Charles Schwab checking accounts pay no ATM fees anywhere in Europe. Follow the link here for more information on CS accounts.

Currency Fluctuations are Real and They Affect You!

Keep an eye on them here. Throughout the course of a semester you can gain or lose sometimes 15% of your buying power! is my favorite resource, and they have a solid iPhone app to make it easy to estimate everything from flights to the cost of dinner.

While You're Abroad:  ATMs and Cash

Each time you withdraw cash from any given ATM, do your best to maximize the amount withdrawn. You can often expect fees from both angles: the foreign bank and its ATM at your home bank for using a foreign ATM. Minimizing the number of times you have to go to an ATM will shrink the number of per-withdrawal fees you face. Of course, don't carry all that cash with you all the time. Do your best to only carry as much as you'll need that day in case you get pickpocketed. Also check with your home bank to see how many free ATM withdrawls you are allotted before you go, and try to stay within this number!

While you're in foreign-currency countries, it's always better to opt for being charged in the local currency when you swipe your card. Over the last couple years, services have popped up that let you choose whether to be billed in USD or the local currency. What they don't tell you is that these rates are much worse than your home bank will give you. Something to keep in mind! To avoid currency conversion fees from your credit card company, choose one like Capital One which does not charge the fee. More information on Capital One here.

Setting up Euro-Denominated Accounts

Four or less months overseas does not justify the extra effort of acquiring a Euro-denominated account. Stick with your bank's friendly ATMs for cash. For those staying a year or longer, it may make more sense but these often require additional complicated forms and documents. Your bank and study abroad administrators are the best ones to talk to regarding banks for these longer stays.

ATMs vs. Traveller's Checks

Traveller's Checks are a thing of the past. In yesteryears, that's how our parents or Gen Xers used to get around before the Internet and cell phones. Your debit card is absolutely the way to go these days.


It's exceedingly difficult to land a paying job during your semester overseas. There are a number of road blocks to actually getting a job, including taxes and the fact that you have a student visa. With that in mind, be sure to save up a solid chunk of change so you can enjoy your time overseas to the fullest.

Kelsey Haver

Happy Backpackers

I enjoyed all the activities we did with WSA Prague and I thought they provided a good understand of the history of the country and the city itself. WSA made my spring break as amazing as it was. I loved it to bits. Loved the Prague Cathedral! But I'm a church nerd, so obviously I got...

Kelsey Haver ~ London, UK, Spring 2012

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