How to prep your finances before studying abroad

Oct 27, 2019

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If you’re going to study abroad, start preparing for your semester away by planning how to finance this rewarding, but expensive, opportunity. Although weekend trips and dining out aren’t typically part of a college semester, they are aspects of the whole experience abroad. A semester overseas comes at an extra cost but there are ways you can prepare for the expenses and even reward yourself for them. Here’s how.

Save your funds for the trip

Image by Tomasz Zajda / EyeEm / Getty Images
(Image by Tomasz Zajda / EyeEm / Getty Images.)

Save your money for the trip and don’t go overboard on buying things beforehand. Be realistic and take a good look at what you have in your closet and evaluate what you actually need. If you end up really needing something, odds are that you’ll find those items, or something similar, wherever you’re going, especially if you’re studying in Europe.

Apply for a travel-rewards credit card

Getting a travel-rewards credit card is the best thing you can do before leaving to study abroad, because your study-abroad experience will inspire you to keep on traveling. New travel adventures require money that most college students don’t have, but a travel-rewards credit card can earn you points for future travel. It’s a win-win.

Further reading: How college students can maximize travel-rewards credit cards, Best credit cards for students studying abroad, The beginner’s guide to points and miles

A big advantage to having a travel-rewards card is that they earn you transferable points. During your time abroad, you’ll likely take lots of cheap flights on budget carriers like Ryanair or hop on the train. Neither of these options earn you any sort of valuable loyalty points, but you can earn transferable points for future use when you purchase the tickets with a travel-rewards credit card.

Here are a few recommendations:

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Although this card isn’t necessarily a travel-rewards card on its own, it can be turned into one.The Freedom Unlimited earns a flat rate of 1.5% cash back that you can later transfer as 1.5x points when you add another Ultimate Rewards earning card to your wallet.There’s no annual fee and the minimum spending requirement for the $200 bonus is very reasonable at $500 on purchases within the first three months.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: The CSP is the perfect card if you’re getting started in the points and miles game with its generous 2x points earned on travel and dining, and 1x on everything else. If your study-abroad program doesn’t include the flights to and from your new university, book your tickets with CSP so you can earn the points. That purchase can help you reach your minimum spending requirement.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: The Venture card has a flat earning rate of 2x miles per dollar spent and a current sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. The nice thing about the Venture is that you earn the same amount of miles on every day purchases.

Ask to be added as an authorized user

Parents can help students build credit by co-signing on accounts.
Parents can help students build credit by co-signing on accounts.

If you’re not confident you’ll be approved for a credit card of your own, ask your parents to add you as an authorized user to one of their existing credit cards, or to a new card.

Further reading: Building credit history: adding your kids as Authorized Users to your credit cards

Should your parents add you to an existing card or open a new card? Parents should go with the first option if they’re over Chase’s 5/24 rule, or if they’ve already got the perfect collection of travel-rewards cards.

Parents should sign up for a new credit card if they want to visit their student abroad courtesy of a generous welcome bonus like the 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months) you get from the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Users and authorized users get access to the 1,200+ Priority Pass lounges across the globe with this card. Additionally, Global Entry membership (for the parent or student) is a perk on the CSR

Related: The best travel credit cards of 2019

Notify your bank

Finally, after you’ve figured out everything else, don’t forget to notify your bank that you’ll be abroad with details about the places and dates you plan to visit. Keep them updated as you revise your schedule.

Bottom line

Studying abroad is an experience you’re sure to remember for the rest of your life, but not being prepared financially could put a real damper on things. Bon voyage!

Featured photo courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.

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