Travel Advice: Money

Thanks to the digital age and the euro, managing your funds has never been easier in Europe. But this is entirely a personal decision – what works for some, may not work for others.

That being said, you’ll always need some cash…especially if you want to enjoy a café at the bar!

“One of the factors of study abroad that helps with personal independence is learning how to manage your money. I took Bailly’s suggestion of opening an account with Bank of America for the trip and I haven’t regretted it. Not only was opening an account with BoA easy to work with abroad, it allowed me to gain my own financial independence and manage my money without my parents constantly checking my charges and balance. I recommend opening an account a couple of months in advance to avoid rushing at the last minute and getting a max of 200-300 euros from your bank before you leave for the trip. That usually takes a week or so to process so doing it with time is highly recommended. There’s a huge risk with taking too much money on you so just take a small amount for the beginning and get the rest of the cash from the ATMs in the country. Along with cash, I also applied and received the BoA Travel Rewards card and took that along with my BoA debit card and an emergency AMEX credit card. Take photographs of your cards and upload them to Google Drive just to have them on file. While on the trip, I would take a certain amount of money out at the beginning of the week or before we would leave Paris for the trips to Lyon, the Alps, or Normandy so I didn’t have to worry about taking money out while outside of Paris. It helps that there’s a BNP Paribas ATM on the CIUP campus and also one near the Porte d’Orléans metro station, which is just a five-minute walk from CIUP. If there was ever an emergency with my account and I was running low on funds, I was able to use the BoA app and request a Zelle transfer from the joint Wells Fargo account I have with my family. Another tip is to hold onto your coins and put them in a coin purse! The washing machines in the Parisian dorms require €3.50 for each use and having coins on hand helped a ton. Also, always carry cash on hand!! Cash will make getting that life-saving expresso way easier.” – Isabella Marie Garcia

Here is what has worked for me. I make sure my US bank has an affiliation with a French/Italian/Spanish bank. Students should ask their banks and/or credit card companies about ATM withdrawal fees and foreign transaction fees. The easiest manner to manage money during travel is with cash. I prefer to withdraw 300 euros (usual daily maximum) on my debit card, and then spend this on all minor expenses. For larger expenses, I often use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. I always travel with both cash and card in order to guarantee I am never stranded. You should keep track of your withdrawals and expenses through online banking. Find a secure network connection to access your bank. Review charges regularly. For security, always withdraw funds from an ATM that is physically connected to a bank. Only withdraw funds when the bank is open. If the ATM machine takes your card, you can simply walk into the bank to retrieve your card.

Credit Card: I recommend Bank of America. For large purchases, use the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card. Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card has no international transaction fees, and one earns points on every transaction. Those points can be redeemed for travel credit on card account.

Debit Card: One should also travel with a Bank of America Checking Debit card. Use this Debit Card only to withdraw cash from a Bank of America Sister Bank (BNP in France, BNL in Italy, and Deutsche Bank in Spain). Withdrawing cash from a sister bank avoids certain ATM bank fees. Bank of America is part of the Global ATM Alliance. I strongly suggest to never ever use a Debit Card for international transactions. The international fees are quite high and it is not wise from a security point of view. (

Banking App: The Bank of America App is a must. Use Touch ID to increase security. While traveling, I check my account daily. It only takes a minute and is crucial in managing your funds.

Cash: I always always have cash on me. In Europe, small transactions (coffee, street food, taxis) are generally paid in cash. Having cash is also crucial if your card is denied for whatever reason. I think having €50 as a back up is safe.

I write this on 13 February 2019. Bank policies may have changed. Check with your bank!

This travel advice is primarily directed to students participating in Professor Bailly’s FIU Honors College EspañaFrance, and Italia, Study Abroad programs. It is intended to help twenty-somethings explore, seek adventure, and truly immerse themselves in a culture. The goals are to travel affordably, travel safely, and live like a local. Always remember,  however, that what works for some, may not necessarily work for you. Ultimately, your decisions are your decisions.

Stephanie Sepúlveda & John William Bailly  09 February 2019

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