How to access your funds abroad

Cash vs. Plastic? 
  • Day-to-day spending is more cash-based in Europe
  • We strongly recommend:
    • Paying for as much as possible with cash
    • Using a bank that charges no or low fees for international ATM transactions
    • Withdrawing large amounts at each transaction
    • Then carry with you just what you need that day
  • Bonus: the less you use your cards, the less likely your information will be stolen
Basic Dos and Don'ts
  • DON'T exchange dollars for foreign cash at a currency exchange booth (it's a rip-off!)
  • DON'T carry a lot of cash with you (either traveling to Europe or once you're there)
  • DON'T buy foreign currency before your trip
  • DO keep your money safe at your host family's home and/or in a money belt
  • DO use local cash where you travel
  • DO assume you'll be shortchanged so count your change to be safe :) 
  • DO familiarize yourself with the exchange rate (you can do rough estimates in your head)
ATM Tips
  • Names: distributeur in France, cashpoint in the UK, and bankomat pretty much everywhere else
  • Ideally, withdraw cash from bank-run ATMs that are just outside that bank during the bank's opening hours (in case your card gets eaten so you can go inside for help)
  • Plus bank ATMs usually do not charge usage fees and are generally more secure (cameras)
  • Avoid "independent" ATMs as they usually have high fees
  • Select the UK flag or English options when you withdraw
What to Bring
We suggest bringing the following:
  • Debit card: Use this at ATMs to withdraw local cash, which you'll use to pay for most purchases
    • Make sure it has a Visa or MasterCard logo
    • Check with your bank what the international transaction fees are
      • Ideally, you want a flat fee per transaction/withdrawal (a few dollars, usually $2-$5)
    • Don't withdraw cash all the time, try to space it out so you don't pay the fee so often
    • Note: European ATMs will withdraw funds only from checking accounts
      • So make sure your checking account balance has enough or be able to transfer funds from your savings account
  • Backup card: Not a bad idea to carry a backup card (debit or credit, ideally from another bank), in case your main one gets lost, demagnetized, stolen, or just doesn't work
  • US dollars: As an optional backup plan, you can bring some cash ($50 - $100). Could come in handy for emergencies, if banks go on strike or if your ATM card stops working
You may also choose to bring: 
  • Credit card: Make sure the international fees are zero! You can use a credit card to pay for larger items (train tickets, larger shops and restaurants, etc.)
    • Don't use these with an ATM (they have sky-high withdrawal fees and interest rates)
    • We'd only recommend it as a last resort, if that 
Before You Leave
  1. Know your cards

    • Make sure they will work abroad! Ideally, use a debit card with a Visa/MasterCard logo

    • (For example, Discover is unknown in Europe)

  2. Ask about fees

    • With either credit or debit cards, you could be charged any or all of the following fees:

      • A currency conversion fee (usually 1–3 percent of the whole amount)

      • A Visa or MasterCard international transaction fee (1 percent)

      • For debit cards, a flat $2–5 transaction fee each time you use a foreign ATM

        • Some major US banks partner with European banks, allowing you to use certain ATMs without fees

    • If you're getting a bad deal​, consider getting a new debit card

  3. Check your cards' expiration dates

    • If your card will expire during or soon after your trip, get a new one

  4. Let your bank know your travel dates

    • Do this in writing, not verbally (i.e. online or via your bank's app)

    • Set your travel notification for the countries you'll be in and the dates you'll be abroad

    • Do this for weekend trips as well if you're visiting another city/country

    • This way, they won't freeze your card if they detect unusual activity

  5. Know your PIN

    • Make sure you know the four-digit PIN for all of your cards

    • Request it if you don't have one (some purchases require it)

  6. ​Adjust your ATM withdrawal limit

    • Find out how much you can take out daily

      • Remember that you're withdrawing cash in the local currency

      • So if your daily limit is $200 in US dollars, that might be just €150 or so depending on the exchange rate

    • Ask for a higher withdrawal limit if you want to get more cash at once


  • Don't stress about tipping

  • Tips are nice wherever you travel, but tipping in Europe is different

  • The US tends to be more generous and automatic in tipping compared to Europe

  • Restaurants

    • Waiter/waitress tips are more modest in Europe than in America

      • This is because servers in Europe are well-paid and tips are considered a small "bonus"​

    • Check the menu to see if a service charge is included (servizio in Italian, service in French, servicio in Spanish)

      • If yes, don't worry about tipping (it's included in the price)

      • If no, a tip of 5–10% is normal (10% is a big tip in most places)

      • Tipping 15 or 20% in Europe is unnecessary and even culturally ignorant​
    • If there aren't waiters and waitresses, (aka you ordered at a pub or counter) don't tip

    • Generally, it's better to hand the tip to the waiter when you pay the bill vs. leave it on the table (especially in busy places)
    • Servers prefer to be tipped in cash
    • France: All restaurant prices include a 12–15% service charge, so locals tip very little, if at all
    • Mediterranean Europe: a 10% service charge is usually built into your bill. If you wish, you can add an extra €1–2 for each person in your party, or about 5 percent.
    • Spain: If you order at a counter (i.e. when sampling tapas at a bar), no need to tip but you can round up with a few small coins
    • London: Restaurants commonly include a 12.5% service charge in the bill
    • Scandinavia: Service charge typically included in your bill might go to the restaurant owner instead of your server, so for good service, add 5–10%
    • Czech Republic: Speaking just a few Czech words will likely get you better service in the Czech Republic, and you won't be expected to tip more than a local (5-10%)
    • Greece: It's considered rude to leave a single euro, even for a small total so if the service isn't included in the bill, leave at least a €2 tip, even for a small bill.
    • Iceland: No-tipping country! 
    • When in doubt, if you're pleased with the service, add a euro or two for each person in your party
    • Any tip is appreciated and don't stress about leaving the 'wrong' amount of tip
  • Taxis
    • Just round up to the next euro on the fare (to pay a €13 fare, give €14)
    • For a long ride, round to the nearest 10 (for a €76 fare, give €80)
    • If the driver carries your bags or helps you catch your flight, maybe add a bit more
    • If you're being driven in circles or ripped off somehow, skip the tip
  • Tour Guides
    • If you've already paid for the tour/admission, you don't have to tip extra (€1-2 euros is plenty if you want to)
    • If it's a free tour,
    • In group tours (i.e. a city walking tour), €2–5 tip per person is good, depending on the size of the group
      • Higher rate for smaller groups
    • For tours with a private guide for a few hours, a tip of €10–20 for the group is fine
      • You can do more if the guide goes above and beyond​
  • When in doubt, ask your host family (different countries tip for different things)

Informative Resources for Money

  • Oanda - currency conversion tool, with handy app version

  • Federal Trade Commission - advice on bank card theft and more

  • NerdWallet - objective advice on debit- and credit-card options for overseas trips

  • Bankrate - compares bank-card fees

  • Your bank's mobile app

  • Locate nearby ATMs and banks (and restaurants, pharmacies, etc.) with Google MapsApple Maps, etc​. 

  • Get more money tips from our friend, Rick Steves! 
Worried About Paying for the Program/Your Flight?  
  1. Tell your friends! You get a 15% discount for each friend you refer to the program ​​
    • ​​When they apply, have them use your full name as the promo code
  2. Additionally, here are some ideas to save money:
    • ​​Make and stick to a BUDGET
    • Live off 70% or less of what you bring home
    • Spend less on groceries (meal planning helps a TON!)
    • Don't buy things you don't need
    • Use cash, not cards
  3. ​Here are some ideas to raise or make more money:
    • Sell your textbooks on Amazon the semester is over
    • Get a job (or second job)
    • Send out a fundraising letter 
    • Donate your birthday or Christmas
    • Use a fundraising website
    • Set up a car wash
    • Host a garage sale
    • Use Facebook/Instagram
    • Host a bake sale 
    • Sell arts/crafts of your own making
China Teaching
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