Let’s face facts; living abroad can be expensive and sometimes it can cause challenges with payments. Here is a helpful guide to assist you with different payment methods that you can use while abroad. Living overseas, you will still need to purchase many of the same supplies you consume in your home country like food, housing, toiletries, and internet access plus the added expenses of your student fees for your chosen ESL program or school. There are a variety of payment methods abroad that you can use to make sure you maintain a steady supply of pizza or hamburgers (or perhaps, a more balanced diet) while you’re away from home.
If you will be renting an apartment or room in a house, you’ll need to pay for this arrangement either on a monthly basis or all at once, depending on the preference of your landlord or apartment management company. Depending on where you are located, they may have preferred payment methods that they recommend. Some larger apartment communities have the ability to receive payment directly from a bank account or to take payment from a debit or credit card over a website. If you’re dealing with a smaller company or individual landlord, you’ll probably need to pay them with a check. These items are normally used for larger purchases, and allow the payee to draw a specific amount of money from your or your supporting family member’s bank account. Many landlords may not take a check from a foreign bank, so it’s normally a good idea to set up an account in the country you’re going to be staying in. Many landlords will not take normal checks, and prefer to be paid in a cashier’s check, money order, or bank check. These items are sometimes preferable because they offer the person receiving the payment guaranteed funds. You can normally get a money order, cashier’s check, or other form of guaranteed funds payment from your bank, a money order service, or a post office. Many landlords or management companies have specific ways that they want to be paid, you should ask the person you’ll be directly dealing with what their preference is before you attempt to make payment. If you’re going to be staying on your school’s campus, you will likely be able to pay the school directly for your housing expenses. We recommend contacting your housing facility before arriving so that you can set up your payment methods abroad so that you can arrive with little to no hassle.
Tuition and Student Payments
You may need to pay your tuition or student fees depends on the amount and the school’s preference. As with housing, you should always ask or find out the preferences of your specific school before you try to pay. Some schools and programs that you pay in advance of your arrival, whereas others will have you pay any outstanding tuition upon arrival.
Some some schools prefer US checks, while others will request a wire transfer or check from your home country bank. Many schools with experience working with foreign nationals have the ability to accept foreign checks, or wire transfers from abroad. Wire transfers or electronic direct payments are sometimes a better bet than writing a check from your home country bank, as the funds get to the payee directly and are generally quicker. You will also want to check with your bank about any exchange rate charges that may apply, which will generally help you determine your payment methods abroad.
Groceries, Household Supplies, and Recreational Payments
As far as groceries and other household supplies, you’ll generally have three payment methods available to you.
1. Cash, or physical currency of the country that you’re going to be living in is normally accepted everywhere you go. The drawbacks to using cash is that it isn’t guaranteed or insured in any way. If you lose your wallet or your money is stolen, all of the cash you had may not be replaceable.
2. A more secure option is to use a debit card, which is a plastic card that allows you to use money inside a bank account wherever you choose. You can also use a debit card in an automatic teller machine (ATM) or cash machine if you would rather take cash as needed to make purchases. The issues with using a debit card include potential transaction fees if you are using a card from your home bank, which can be anywhere from 1.5% to 10% more money charged to your account than the purchase price. Additionally, if your debit card is lost or stolen and funds from your account are used without your consent, your bank may have to conduct an investigation before the funds are returned to you.
3. Lastly, you can use a credit card to make small purchases as well. Credit cards allow the payee to be paid immediately, while offering you the flexibility to pay later. The money you use with a credit card is generally due at the end of the month in which you made the purchases. If you are unable to pay, or pay a lesser amount when the money is due, you may be charged late fees and interest fees, which will continue until the credit card company is paid. If you use a credit card from your home country, you will also likely pay transaction fees anywhere from 1.5% to 10% for your purchases, which would be added to your balance due.