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You've arrived in what will be your new home for the next semester. You take a deep breath and admire the beauty of your new surroundings. After all of the planning, the long flight and clearing customs, you've finally made it. But before you rent a moped for a trip around town after class, you realize that you still need to worry about something - money.

Studying abroad takes a lot of preparation and a lot of money, but a few simple precautions before you leave home will save you some trouble down the road. Here are several tips that won't leave you being caught penniless in a foreign locale.

"It's a good idea to have some cash currency of the country you're traveling through," said Mark Giddens a Kiwi now working in Los Angeles. Big cities are fairly worry-free but tiny towns and villages with owner-operated businesses can be another story. "Some small shops and markets won't even accept traveler's cheques." If you don't have time to exchange some money into the local currency, the best currencies to pack with you are U.S. Dollars.

Debit Cards
The best way to withdraw money from an ATM is by using a debit card. This money is immediately deducted from your bank account and you won't be charged interest. However be sure to find out from your bank before leaving whether or not you will have to pay an additional fee to get different currency. Keep in mind too, that the instructions on the machine may be in the language of the country you're studying in. It might be wise to learn a few key phrases before your term begins.

Be aware of these three things when using an overseas ATM machine:

1. Your card must have access to the Cirrus network. Check to see if the logos on your card match those displayed on the ATM machine.
2. ATM charges can be costly so minimize your fees by minimizing your transactions. Check with your bank before leaving to see if additional fees will be charged for overseas transactions.
3. Be aware of how much you're taking out. ATMs have daily limits on how much you can withdraw regardless of how much money is in your account.

Be prepared for the unexpected. "I had problems with ATMs because my Visa card wasn't accepted everywhere - even machines that carried their logo rejected the transactions," said Jan van den Broek, who traveled to Taiwan and Singapore. "After that experience, I decided that I would have some emergency cash on me before I got on the plane, and when using the ATM, I'd be sure to get a sufficient amount because you never know when your card, or anything else is going to act up!"

Credit Cards
Throughout the world, Visa and Mastercard are the most widely acceptable credit cards. American Express and Diner's Club are also accepted in some countries.

To be safe never just assume that you can use your plastic to pay, always ask first. One benefit to carrying a credit card is that in addition to being covered for emergencies you didn't budget for, you can also use them like a debit card to get cash advances from ATMs when credit is not accepted. Be aware though, that you will be charged interest on the amount you withdraw from the moment you make the transaction.

You should also make copies of all your credit cards and carry these copies away from the originals, along with contact phone numbers for all of your credit cards and debit cards. This information will make it easier to get your credit cards cancelled and reissued.

Foreign Currency
Become familiar with the local currency and get over the fact that it isn't like yours at home. Also, separate your larger bills from your smaller bills so that you won't have to fumble around to pay for those everyday supplies.

"I think the toughest part, at least in London, was the exchange rate," said Karen McInnes of Littleton Colorado. "For example, I'd go to McDonald's and get a Happy Meal which would cost 2 pounds, and I'd think 'cool, it's the same as at home'. But then it'd dawn on me that since it was 2 pounds, I was paying $3 for it. At least by being there for awhile I was able to start thinking strictly in Sterling rather than constantly converting ... that's when it got easy."

Traveler's Cheques
Traveler's Cheques are insured which means that if $400 worth of travelers cheques are stolen from your accommodations, $400 worth are replaced. You are not out any money- which is a very good thing when on a student budget. Although the exchange rate for travelers' cheques maybe a bit lower than for cash, most students consider it worth it just for the added security.

When you use travelers' cheques remember to:

1. Sign all of your cheques before you leave the bank.
2. Keep track of the cheques you use.
3. Store your cheques in separate places.
4. Call American Express or your provider immediately if you discover any have been stolen.

Overseas banks are always a safe place to exchange money for obvious reasons. Just be aware of their hours of operation and expect to wait in line. But the one sure fire way to make sure you're not caught penniless overseas is to never carry your Travelers Cheques', ATM card, credit card and cash all in one place.

By: Olivia Neri

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