Accessing Money Abroad

Make sure you can access money in several different forms. That way, if for some reason your debit card doesn’t work at a particular ATM, you can use a credit card, cash, or perhaps an electronic source such as Paypal or Venmo. We suggest that you exchange $200-300 into the local currency before arriving in your destination so you will have cash in case of any immediate needs. You can do this in advance by making arrangements with your bank or AAA (if you are a member), or at the airport.

Credit Cards

We recommend that you carry a credit card as a source of emergency funds. Visa is the most widely used although MasterCard is also generally accepted. Discover and American Express are rarely accepted and are not recommended. Credit cards are useful and offer a competitive exchange rate, but, if using a credit card abroad, make sure your card company knows in advance that you will be abroad. Ask about fees for using the card abroad for purchases or cash advances. Many countries use a PIN-based system for credit cards as opposed to the US’s signature-based system. Few US credit cards have a PIN already associated with them, so ask your bank to assign one. If you are applying for a credit card, we recommend getting a card  that does not charge foreign transaction fees. There are many options.

Debit Cards

Be sure to notify your bank of the dates you will be abroad to avoid having your card/account flagged for fraud. Many banks levy fees each time a card is used at an ATM abroad - ask about the fees and if there is any way to have these reduced or waived. If your bank is charging more than $5 per transaction, consider changing your bank. In some cases, smaller banks and credit unions may be less punitive than commercial banks, but this is not always the case – check with your own institution. As always, be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM! 

Make sure you know your PIN number and sign up for online banking before leaving home to keep track of your balance and the fees charged for overseas transactions – and to help ensure you don’t overdraw.

Credit/debit card fraud is an issue at home and abroad. One particular scam involves the use of an “RFID” (radio frequency ID reader), which can pull the data from your credit/debit card even while it is in your purse or wallet. Consider purchasing an RFID guard card or scanner guard card to put in your wallet protecting the cards in between.


We are frequently asked how much students need for personal spending while abroad. This is difficult as “typical” ranges vary widely depending upon resources available and personal spending habits. Given that all basic needs are provided for and/or should have been pre-budgeted (books, meals, housing, etc), you actually NEED limited personal spending money. Those who like to shop or frequently go clubbing or dine at pricey restaurants will invariably spend more. You’ll also need more if you plan to stay to travel after the program. We advise students to discuss finances with their families and decide what you can afford. If you’re on a tight budget and finances are a concern please talk to us! It is entirely possible to have a fantastic experience abroad without breaking the bank.

Many students use a credit or debit card for every transaction, but this may not be recommended abroad. While some countries operate on a primarily card-based system, you might find that paying with cash is more common in your destination. Some merchants may refuse to accept cards for small purchases while others may charge an extra fee on top of any foreign transaction fee charged by your bank. Take the first week or so to get a handle on how much you need in a week, and after that plan to visit the ATM once per week and withdraw for the whole week. This will keep your fees down. 

Costs and Financial Aid

Students participating in semester-long HWS off-campus programs will be charged tuition and associated fees at the same rate as the HWS campus (with the exception of the Student Activities fee, which is not charged), plus an administrative fee of $600. Room and board charges vary, depending on what is provided as part of the program. Consult the individual program brochure pages on the CGE website for more specific information on costs. 

Students participating in semester-long HWS off-campus programs through the CGE retain financial aid on the same basis as previously awarded (with the exception of work study) as determined by merit or demonstrable need. Any student, even those not currently receiving financial aid, can apply for aid based on economic eligibility. Students interested in off-campus study who have questions about financial aid matters should seek the advice of the Financial Aid officers on campus well in advance of applying. 

Financial aid applications will be available in early January for the following academic year. Students desiring an early evaluation should have the application completed and submitted to the processing center by the deadline determined by the Financial Aid Office. A copy of the application must be sent directly to the Financial Aid Office on campus at the same time.

A variety of scholarships and grant opportunities are available for students going abroad, offered both through HWS and outside funding sources. For more information on these options, please see the Financial Aid/Scholarships page. 

Note that regular financial aid does not apply to short-term summer and J-term programs, although additional funding sources are available.

WithdrawAl from a Program

A student who withdraws from a CGE off-campus program once accepted and committed will incur a $500 withdrawal fee. Note that students also will be responsible for additional expenses if they withdraw from a program while it is in progress or within 120 days prior to the program arrival date. Specifically, students will be held accountable for any expenditures made on their behalf that the CGE is unable to recoup, including but not limited to housing, tuition and program fees paid to other institutions, and excursion expenses. A student participating in any off-campus program who withdraws from that program after arrival at the program site may not return to the HWS campus to take classes that semester except under extraordinary circumstances, as determined by the student’s Dean’s Office, the Center for Global Education, and the Vice President for Campus Life. 

Any student whose admission to a CGE off-campus program is rescinded due to a disciplinary violation, failure to comply with academic requirements (meeting GPA requirements, successfully completing courses, including program prerequisites), failure to submit required documents, and/or failure to attend mandatory pre-departure meetings will be responsible for all unrecoverable expenses. No refund will be provided to any student who is removed from a program in progress for a violation of the Behavior Standards Agreement.