Students need to rely on several sources of money (e.g., ATM/debit card, credit card, cash) to cover expenses while abroad. This will ensure that if one of your means for accessing money fails, you will not be stranded. Also, the amount of money you can access through any one source may at times be subject to limitations, so you will want to have a second source should you need a large amount of money immediately (e.g., for rent).
ATMs where you can use either a credit or debit card are common in cities and at most major airports (be sure you have an internationally valid PIN), although they may be less common elsewhere. However, ATMs are also subject to breakdowns, fraud, and other scams. It is strongly recommended, and in many places required, to use a card with a chip to make purchases, especially at self-serve locations such bus ticket kiosks. Another alternative is purchasing a prepaid microchip smart card, which can be done through companies like Travelex.
International money transfer services are also growing in popularity. One resource for comparing the different ways to transfer money can be found on the Consumer Affairs website.
Converting U.S. dollars is possible at many banks, exchange houses, and/or hotels. To do this, be sure to have newer bills in excellent condition. Traveler’s checks can be inconvenient and are therefore not recommended, since many establishments do not accept them, fees are assessed for converting them, and you are often limited to cashing them during banking hours. Depending on your location, you may be able to open a local bank account, but be sure to close it before you leave your host country so that you do not incur any long-term fees. To begin with, you may wish to exchange some money (a recommended amount is approximately USD $200) prior to your departure from the U.S. so that you don’t have to concern yourself with these matters immediately upon arrival. You will find further information on accessing money specific to your host country in your country-specific handbook.