Money & banking abroad
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 far flung corner of Europe.
Set up online banking so you can monitor your balance at any time and ask your bank what their phone number is if you’re calling from abroad
Ask your bank which overseas banks they have relationships with. Bank of America, for example, has partnerships with Deutsche Bank (Germany), BNP Paribas (France), and Barclays (England), which allow you to skip the charges if you find those ATMs.
While You're Abroad
ATMs & 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Each time you withdraw cash from any given ATM, do your best to maximize the amount withdrawn.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's ATM, and 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.
While you're in foreign-currency countries, always choose to be 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.
Also be aware that your bank may charge you a fee each time you use your card as a credit or debit card so taking out cash may make the most sense (and it will be easier to keep track of how much you are spending).
Currency fluctuations are very REAL
Throughout the course of a semester, you can gain or lose up to 15% of your buying power. XE.com is our favorite resource, and they have a great app to make it easy to estimate everything from flights to the cost of dinner. It is also very handy when you are traveling to countries where converting to dollars requires an advanced math degree.
Setting up Euro-Denominated Accounts for Long Term Stays Abroad
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 accounts often require complicated additional forms and documents. Your bank and study abroad administrators are the best ones to talk to regarding setting up a new account for these longer stays.