Managing Money

Before Departure

Costs to consider

As you get ready to go abroad, it is your responsibility to stick to your budget, know your deadlines, and pay all program expenses on time. Expenses may need to be paid:

  • At the time of application to a study abroad program (e.g. application fees and program deposits)
  • Out-of-pocket before departure (e.g. airfare, passports and/or immigration documents, program fees/payments)
  • Once you are abroad (e.g. meals, personal expenses, in-country transportation, rent)

Please be sure to visit our Billing Information page for more information regarding payment to different entities.

Financial Aid

If you will be receiving financial aid the semester you will be going abroad, please refer to our Financial Aid tab for more information.


All students are highly encouraged to apply for as many scholarships as they are eligible for. Learn more about scholarship opportunities here.

communicate with your bank(s)

Depending on your bank/card company, your destination, and the transaction (e.g. ATM versus a merchant) you may be able to use your U.S. (or home country) debit or credit card abroad. However, you will need to consider and prepare for the following:

  1. Verify if your card type (e.g.Visa, Mastercard, etc.) is widely accepted in your destination
  2. Research foreign transaction and currency conversion fees.* Be careful, as sometimes you can be charged these fees by your bank AND the local bank/merchant for a single transaction
  3. Notify your bank/credit card company of your travel plans: if they suddenly see expenses on your account from halfway across the world, they will likely flag that as suspicious activity and possibly cancel your card!
  4. Research if your bank has a partner bank in the location(s) where you will be traveling. If they do have a partner bank, sometimes this means you can withdraw money from the partner's ATM using your U.S. card with waived or reduced fees

The OEA does not recommend planning to wire money abroad frequently - this typically incurs hefty fees, which will add up quickly if you do several wires.

Request Host Currency

Before departure, order a small amount (the OEA generally recommends the equivalent of 100 USD) of local currency to get you through your initial expenses upon arrival abroad (as applicable, e.g. meals, transportation from the airport to your accommodations if necessary). You typically do not want to count on exchanging currency at airports, as they usually do not give you the best exchange rate. You can usually order currency through your bank or through organizations like AAA, but don't wait until the last minute - sometimes they have to mail the currency to you!

Make Copies of Your Bank Cards

Make copies of the bank and/or credit card(s) you plan to take with you, leave a copy at home, and pack a copy in a safe place in your checked and/or carry-on luggage separate from the actual card.

Emergency Funds

Make sure you are prepared to have access to emergency funds, whether via a savings account or credit card, to use should you need it abroad. Your international health insurance in which the OEA will enroll you while abroad should reimburse you for most medical expenses incurred abroad, but you will need to be prepared to pay for those out-of-pocket at the time of service and then be reimbursed.

While Abroad

Monitor the Exchange Rate

Remember to monitor the currency exchange rate of your destination(s) often, as this may fluctuate daily. Remember to also familiarize yourself with the currency and exchange rate for any countries you plan to visit during personal travel. One app you may want to consider downloading to the device you will have with you abroad is the XE Currency app.* Continue to update your banks of any personal travel you plan to do in other countries.

Consideration of Cash-Based Societies

Keep in mind as well that many parts of the world do not accept credit/debit cards as readily as you may be used to in U.S. - you may need to be prepared to carry more cash than you are used to. However, you will not want to carry large sums of cash around with you, nor will you want to withdraw cash from a local ATM using your U.S. card too often as you will have likely have to pay currency conversion and foreign transaction fees each time you use your card. It is important that you determine for yourself how much local currency in cash you are comfortable having on you at any time versus how much you want to spend in currency conversion and foreign transaction fees to be strategic about how often you use your U.S. card(s) abroad.

Local Bank Accounts

Once you get abroad, you may want to consider opening a local bank account to avoid some of the fees associated with using your U.S. debit or credit card abroad. However, it is likely not worth it to open a local bank account if you will be staying abroad for less than a full semester or year.

Outstanding Balances

Remember as well that it will be your responsibility to take care of any outstanding payments due to the OEA or to UNC Charlotte while abroad.

Stick to Your Budget

At each phase of your study abroad, remember to continue to track your expenses, anticipate upcoming expenses, and above all stick to your budget! Budgeting not your forte? Check out the UNC Charlotte Guide to Managing Your Money and the Go Overseas How to Budget Guide.* Want more advice on managing your money for study abroad? Contact an OEA Peer Advisor!

*This is an external site unaffiliated with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only for students considering studying abroad through UNC Charlotte; it does not constitute an endorsement or an approval by UNC Charlotte of any of the products, services, or opinions of the organization or individual who authored the page. UNC Charlotte bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links.