Money and Banking

England still uses the pound sterling (£), Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc (CHF), and most of the rest of Western Europe uses the Euro (€).  The use of the Euro certainly makes moving around the continent much easier, though somewhat less interesting.  Some countries in Eastern European may still use their local currency.  It is a good idea to exchange some money to the currency of your host country before you leave the U.S. You can exchange currency in the airport upon your arrival, but the bureaus charge an additional fee, even for traveler’s checks. 


Coins, and lots of them!!  You might want to take a coin purse.  Neither the Pound nor Euro has paper money in small quantities such as ones and twos.  You’ll get these as coins and by the time you have a number of one and two £ or coins they begin to weigh down your pockets.

ATM Card

The ATM Card is the preferred means of obtaining money in the local currency.You may use your ATM card abroad to obtain money.  Be sure it’s a card that will be recognized everywhere, one with the VISA logo on it.  Check with your bank.  It’s also a good idea to let the bank know you will be traveling abroad so they don’t think your card has been stolen when charges show up from a variety of countries.  There is no delay in obtaining the funds.  Check with your bank regarding any fees that may be charged.  If you have a problem with an ATM, try a machine at another bank.  It might work then.  It is recommended that your parents have the authority to act on your behalf while you are gone.  Talk to your bank about the best way to accomplish this.


With the dominant use of ATMs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to cash travelers checks.  You will generally find that the best exchange rates are found in banks.  Rates are not as good when you exchange money or checks at stores, hotels, airports or exchange bureaus.  Keep in mind that banks may not be open on weekends or holidays.  European countries have “Bank Holidays”.  That means just what it sounds like, banks and many public offices are closed.

Debit and Credit Cards

Students report that debit and major credit cards are accepted in most places in the world.  Purchases made with these cards have the advantage of automatic exchange conversion in your monthly bill, and usually at the most favorable rate. Again, contact the company issuing the credit card to let them know you will be traveling abroad.  Some credit card providers may charge a fee for foreign currency.  If you have a choice, use one that does not charge that additional fee.  Check before you leave.

Parents on your Bank and Credit Card accounts

It’s a good idea to have your parents named on your bank and credit card accounts.  This way they can be sure you have money in your account when you need it.  If any problem arises, they will be able to help with minimal delay.  If you lose your ATM card they can have a new one sent to you quickly.

Traveler’s Checks are not recommended

However, it may not be a bad idea to have a few checks.  If they are American Express checks you can cash them at the American Express offices located in major cities.  Keep your receipts in a separate place from the checks.  If you lose your checks you will still have the receipt numbers for replacement.  Before you purchase traveler’s checks, ask how easily they can be replaced abroad.  There are American Express offices conveniently located in larger cities and cashing traveler’s checks or having them replaced is easy to do.  Make copies of your receipts, with check numbers, and leave it at home so your parents will have this information too. Former study abroad students don’t recommend traveler’s checks.

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