Financing your study abroad experience can be a learning experience in itself. Additional travel or going out is not an expectation of student’s semesters abroad, however for students who do so, it can add to the overall budget to study abroad. In addition, money is handled differently in different countries. What works for one student in one country, may not be the same for the next. To help prepare you for your time abroad, please read through the advice below.
For more information on the costs of different types of study abroad programs, how financial aid is applied, and on scholarship and funding resources, please see Finances.
Plan Ahead for Expenses
We recommend that prior to departing, you plan out an overall budget. If you have financial aid, you would have a budget sheet (PDF) for your program. This form is completed by your Study Abroad Advisor if you are studying abroad on an exchange or direct-enroll program, without a program provider. If you are studying abroad on an external program run by a program provider, you will complete this form yourself. If you have questions about doing so, please contact your Study Abroad Advisor for advice. Even if you do not have financial aid, we would still recommend that you complete a budget sheet to help understand the costs and share with anyone helping you finance your time abroad.
It is important to note that this budget sheet does not include any *non-required* costs, including, but not limited to: additional travel, meals outside your meal plan, going out at night, an occasional snack, etc. Students should create a budget to help stay on track for these costs. This budget sheet also does not reflect your financial aid- only the costs associated with your study abroad participation before any financial aid or scholarships are applied. For more information, see Finances.
Do your research about what currency your host country uses, and whether you should purchase some of that foreign currency before you leave the United States. This can be helpful when you first arrive in your country for unexpected expenses. Many US banks can exchange money for a small service fee, some banks will have a minimum requirement. Depending on the currency, they may need a few days to receive the money to give you. You can also exchange money at most international airports, however the exchange rate may be less favorable. Once you are in your host country (even often when you arrive at the airport), you can usually withdraw local currency from an ATM for a small fee. Some countries have a commission rate for exchanging money. If you exchange money at hotels, restaurants or retail shops be prepared to pay extra. You may need your passport as identification whenever exchanging money.
During day-to-day life abroad, many students find debit/ATM cards to be the easiest method to withdraw money. You should find out from your bank if they have any agreements with international banks that will ensure you do not pay a fee each time you withdraw money. When you use an ATM abroad, all transactions will be in the local currency. Exchange rates will be applied on the date the purchase or withdrawal clears your bank, rather than the day of the transaction. It is your responsibility to be aware of the exchange rate, and ensure that you have enough in your account. Most times your balance will not show on the screen or receipt. Most international ATMs only accept a four-digit PIN. If your PIN for your debit card is longer than four-digits, make sure you change this before you depart.
Not all ATMs will accept all cards. Some countries will not allow cash withdrawals from foreign bank accounts using all ATMs. In this case, you should find out where you can withdraw money (for example, In Japan, Americans are generally not able to withdraw cash from US accounts using ATMs except those at post offices and some convenience stores). It is advised that you always have more than one way to pay for your expenses. Many banks have withdrawal limits to prevent fraudulent withdrawals. You should be aware of your limits, and plan accordingly when leaving for extended trips.
Whenever you travel to a new country during your study abroad experience, be sure you know the currency, and exchange some before you depart, especially if you are arriving by bus, car, or train. Some countries rely on using cash most often, rather than credit or debit cards. Learn about the options in your host country before you go.
Opening a Bank Account Abroad
Your study abroad program may require you to open a local bank account, especially if you are receiving stipends for your cost of living. If this is the case, your international office or local director should be able to assist with this and advise you on the best bank.
Even if it is not required to open a bank account, it may be worthwhile to look into, because it will limit the number of fees you pay when using a US debit/credit card.
If you do open a bank account in your host country, make sure to close it before you return home at the end of your term abroad.
Using Credit and Debit Cards Abroad
Credit and debit cards can be extremely useful abroad, both to make foreign transactions easier, and in the case of emergencies. If you choose to take a credit card with you, be aware of any service fees and interest charges you may encounter. Some credit card companies have high fees for international usage, and some have no international fees at all, so make sure you know what fees, if any, you might incur from using your card abroad. Credit cards can also make it easy to overspend, lose track of your budget, or forget to pay off your charges each month, so be careful.
Most countries have a "chip and PIN" requirement instead of the "chip and signature" or "swipe and signature" requirements more common in the US for credit and debit cards. If your card does not have a chip, you should request a new card before you depart. When using your credit/debit card for purchases abroad, make sure the cashier or business knows that you have a US card and will likely need to sign for the purchase. It is good to have enough cash as a back-up option in case a business does not accept the use of foreign credit cards.
It is advised that you research if your country allows or requires traveler’s checks as the method of currency exchange. Traveler's checks are not accepted in most countries, however they may still be used in some countries. This guide to traveler's checks explains how to use traveler’s checks, and where to buy and exchange them.
Important Information from Student Financial Services
UVM students who participate on Approved Study Abroad Programs (any program found in GoAbroad) and complete all of the pre-decision and post-acceptance phases of GoAbroad may be eligible to receive some financial aid while abroad. Financial aid packages will be re-calculated to reflect the costs of the study abroad program. After completing all of the steps in your GoAbroad account, students must notify OIE of any changes to their study abroad plans. Students receiving financial aid should note the following:
- Financial aid will not cover any coursework abroad that is repetitive of coursework already completed at UVM;
- Financial aid will not cover any courses you audit abroad;
- Financial aid may be reduced if you withdraw from a course while abroad.
These and other adjustments to your coursework could affect your aid eligibility. This means that you could see a reduction of or loss of financial aid, resulting in a balance due to UVM.
Please be sure to notify OIE of any changes to your study abroad plans.
If you have any questions about your financial aid award or disbursement date, please contact:
Student Financial Services
223 Waterman Building
85 South Prospect Street
Burlington, VT 05405
Phone: 802-656-5700; Fax: 802-656-4076
This page is a part of the Pre-Departure Guidebook portal.