Nyah Project
Travel Awakens Leaders

10_ELP Personal Funds Abroad

Personal Funds Abroad

As parents, the most important things to remember are:

  • When fellows are unable to access money while on the Program, it is most likely not an emergency. Food, shelter, and other essentials are always provided for fellows, so you don’t have to worry that there is any threat posed to those who cannot immediately access personal money.
  • You DO need to make preparations now for the fellow to be able to access money while abroad. In general, it is important to remember that in most countries, it is NOT as common as it is in the US to use cards for most transactions. Accessing cash is necessary. 

In order for the fellows to access cash abroad, these are our recommendations:

The best way to access money abroad is to bring cash.  Carrying some cash for when ATMs are not available is a good idea. We recommend about $200 dollars which can be exchanged. Most exchange places abroad will NOT accept any bills before the 2003 series or old or damaged dollar bills. Bring crisp bills. Do not bring traveler’s checks. Do not plan on wiring money. Wire money only in emergencies. It is okay to bring a credit card for emergencies, but it is most important that you are able to access cash.

Before-you-go checklist:

  • Check the U.S. dollar to local currency exchange rate so you know how much money your money will get you.
  • Get an ATM card with your name and make sure to memorize your pin and write it somewhere safe.
  • Call your bank before you go to let them know the dates you will be abroad.


Should I bring Travelers Checks?
No. It may be very difficult to find a place that exchanges them. There is often a large fee or commission when exchanging them.

Can I bring my parent’s ATM card?
No. The ATM card(s) should be in your name. You may be required to show proof it is your card.

Will my ATM card work abroad?
This largely depends on you! Have you informed your bank that you are leaving the country so they do not assume your card is stolen if used in a foreign country? Have you made sure that your ATM card is linked to an active bank account? Are you sure you know your pin number? Write down your pin number. It happens more frequently that students forget their pin number than get their pin number stolen.

Do all types of credit/debit cards work abroad?
Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted. PLUS (Visa) and Cirrus (MasterCard) are the most common debit networks. Do not bring American Express. If your debit card contains the Visa or MasterCard symbol it will most likely work at most ATMs around the world, but the debit card’s network symbol, such as Plus or Cirrus, must match the ATM. If one ATM does not take your card, don’t panic. You should try different ones, and you will probably eventually find one that will.

How much money should I have on my ATM card?
This is up to you and your parents/guardians. Money matters are personal, and you could choose to spend minimally or you could choose to take extra money for shopping or other expenses. You must, however, have some personal money especially for when you are not with your group (for example, during a homestay). When you are with your group, remember that your meals will be covered. The Program recommends that you have access to $200 - $250 in funds. However, the best way to ensure you to have enough money is if your parents are able to add money to your account while you are abroad, if needed. Remember that some countries are more expensive than others.

Should I take cash?
Exchange rates for cash are higher than what you will be charged using ATMs. There are also additional fees and commission for ATMs. And many places do not have ATM machines. It is a good idea to have some cash with you in case you can’t find an ATM immediately, but it is not a good idea to go on your program with nothing but cash. If you lose all your cash, there is nothing to be done.

Can I get my money wired?
It can be very expensive to wire money to you in a foreign country. In some cases it may not be possible at all.

Lost or Stolen Cards
It’s important that you are prepared in case your card is lost or stolen. Some options are:

  • Leave a photocopy of both sides of each card with your guardians at home, who should be able to report any problems on your behalf or perhaps replace the card if lost or stolen. You must establish with your bank before you travel that they have the power to request such transactions.
  • Obtain the numbers for the global customer assistance offices for each of your credit/debit cards and financial institutions. Know exactly how to report a damaged, lost, or stolen debit or credit card and how to promptly replace it wherever you are. Note that toll-free 800 numbers cannot be called from outside the United States.