Financial fails to avoid as an international student

Milena Spremberg

Soon, hundreds of thousands of international students will start their first semester abroad. After months of preparing applications, documentation and dealing with the anxieties of moving to a new country, it’s time to immerse yourself in a new experience.

Studying abroad is usually wonderful, but even the savviest visitors must navigate a host of fees, forms and financial snags starting well before they arrive on campus.

Being prepared and smart about how you manage a new currency — and money transfers — will save you a lot. That’s why we’ve put together a few of the most egregious financial fails to avoid while studying abroad.

Don’t live like a tourist 🏖️

Regardless of where you’re moving to, you should start acting like a local quickly to protect your budget. This means opening a local bank account — even before heading abroad.

Madeleine Moberg, 24, a Swedish student who recently studied in London, bailed on opening a local account because she couldn’t get her hands on all of the documents required. Because of that she wasted nearly £300 in transaction fees on her Swedish VISA.

Don’t be fooled if your home bank tells you that there’s “no additional charge” when using your card abroad. These “traveller-friendly” banks may not charge an obvious fee on every transaction, but their unfortunate customers might be paying high fees, with exchange rates that are marked up heavily.

That’s where Wise is different. Wise was created to make moving and living abroad simpler. With our multi-currency account you can:

  • Get instant access to local bank details to receive money
  • Send and receive money with the real exchange rate and low fees (read our Terms and Conditions here)
  • Spend in the local currency with the Wise debit card

Set up a Wise Account

Don’t pay more than you have to in tuition fees 💰

Going to university can be (very!) expensive. Maybe you’ve been saving money to go and study abroad, or you have family and friends who are helping you out. Either way, sending money abroad can be a costly business for you and your family, so transfer carefully.

Banks and money transfer providers often give you a bad exchange rate to make extra profits, and most of them use intermediary banks to send your money across borders. All of this can add up pretty quickly. However, there’s an alternative.

If you need to make payments to or from your home country, Wise could save you tons of money compared to your bank. Our fees are completely transparent and they’re a fraction of what banks or brokers usually charge. We use the real exchange rate you'd see on Google, so you know exactly how much you’re paying every time. Try our calculator now!

Don’t miss out on student discounts 🤓

Many cultural attractions, sports centres and even clothing stores offer significant discounts for students, even when they’re not posted or advertised.

Danae Troukoudes, a Cypriot student who recently completed a medical degree at Cambridge, advised international students to consider loyalty programs that locals can’t live without.
"Always ask for loyalty cards at places like supermarkets, coffee shops and department stores," said Danae. "You can get serious savings if you use them consistently during your time abroad".

Wise is proud to help people living international lives. We're there to help you manage your money across borders. Join our 13 million customers at, or on our Android or iOS app.

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely.

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