Bank Accounts Overseas
Most students wait until they arrive in the country to set up a bank account.
Your study abroad program coordinator and past visitors will likely have
advice on how and where to go about doing this. Become acquainted with
the banks and services closest to you, their hours of operation and the
various accounts available. Many foreign banks operate on very different
hours than in North America, or may only process certain transactions
during certain hours.
While you may be able to use your Canadian bankcard to withdraw cash at
some foreign banks, many foreign banks have their own bankcards that allow
you to make withdrawals from their bank machines without incurring huge
service charges. There are many advantages to having a foreign bank account,
depending on the duration of your stay. Ask around before deciding what's
best for you.
What are the options available in your host country and will best suit
your banking needs?
Transferring your Money Overseas
There are many ways to transfer the funds that you will need for a year
abroad overseas. Most importantly do not carry large amounts of cash with
you. ATM bank cards or travellers cheques are the safest and most convenient
way to transfer large amounts of money and keep it accessible. These will
allow you to bring your money with you overseas and then deposit it into
a local bank account once you are settled. Travellers cheques allow you
to carry your money and they can be replaced if they are lost or stolen.
Travellers cheques come in various denominations, in various currencies,
and can be obtained at most banks and credit unions.
Emergency Funds from Home
If you run short of cash abroad, money can be sent from home in a variety
of ways. The quickest, though most expensive way is by cable transfer
from your bank to a bank abroad. Ask your hometown bank about this process
prior to departure as they may have to process cable transfers through
an internationally recognized bank both at home and overseas.
American Express offers money orders that are relatively rapid. The transaction
must be initiated at an American Express office in Canada and completed
at one of their branch offices abroad; either could prove inconvenient.
Not all offices can prepare money orders or cable money, so find out about
this before you leave.
Most Canadian banks offer foreign currency drafts against a recognized
bank in a foreign country. This draft can then be sent to you by registered
or certified mail for cashing abroad.
"30,000 what?!" The currency conversion tables in the newspaper
or at the following website: http://www.xe.com/ucc
will provide you with the actual rate of exchange and help you understand
and anticipate fluctuation between the rates of your host and home country's
When you first arrive in a different country, you are in an unfamiliar
environment. Because you may not understand the relative cost of things
right away, it is easy to be confused. Learn the currency rate upon arrival
and if you feel more comfortable, carry a calculator with you to aid in
It is important to have some local cash before you leave the airport for
buses, taxis or food. Take some cash or travellers cheques with you, as
they can be easily exchanged for foreign currency at most international
airports, currency exchange booths and banks.
Credit and Debit Cards
If you have a credit or debit (ATM) card that is on a network, you should
be able to withdraw money from your Canadian bank account from most bank
machines in Europe and many other regions. Ask your bank before you depart.
You may need a special international PIN number. For example, your four-digit
PIN may work in Canada but not in Europe where five-digits are often required.
Also, keep in mind that bank machines in some countries do not have letters
on the key pad. If you remember your PIN using letters and not numbers,
you may be completely stumped by a keypad with no letters on it. Know
your PIN by both letters and numbers.
At many foreign banks it is possible to use a credit card to get cash
although the interest rates are often very high and compounded daily.
Credit cards can be convenient when making purchases, though not all merchants
accept them. Those who do may add on a service fee. The amount charged
to your credit card bill is based on the exchange rate on the day that
your bank or credit card company processes the transaction.
Keep a separate record of your debit (ATM) and credit card number and
the telephone number to call in the event of theft. You may also wish
to purchase extra travel insurance available through your credit card
Record of Financial Information
Tips for keeping your money safe
Use the Record of Financial Information to record
your credit and debit card numbers, trevellers cheque serial numbers and
the emergency replacement numbers to call. Fill it out and leave it in
a secure place such as a safety deposit box or a locked safe. Remember
anyone with this information can get access to your credit cards or even
steal your identity. Do not carry this form with you when you travel,
leave it with a trusted person at home. If you need any of the information
on it ask the person to send you only what you need and to transmitted
it in a secure fashion i.e. not by e-mail or to a public fax machine.
- Keep a separate record of the serial numbers of
your travellers cheques, as you will need to have these numbers available
to obtain a refund.
- Remember that getting a refund for your travellers
cheques is not usually as hassle-free as the commercials might have
you believe. Make sure your know the policies and procedures regarding
refunds before you leave.
- Be sure to keep your travellers cheques and registration
numbers separate. It is imperative that you record every travellers
cheque you have spent as well as have a record of those you have not.
- If travelling in North America, Europe or Australia
it is best to take traveller cheques of high denominations. This will
save you from paying the high service fees charged for cashing them.
- If the local currency is unavailable, travellers
Cheques based in Canadian and American dollars can usually be exchanged
overseas. US dollars are more common and will give you a higher exchange
- Try to avoid exchanging money at hotels, airports,
or retail shops where the exchange rate will usually be highest. Banks
and credit unions offer the fairest exchange rate. You can expect to
pay a commission every time you exchange currency.
- Avoid black market money dealers. They may offer
exceptional rates of exchange, but the potential for being ripped off
is high, and the police may not look upon your transaction with humour.
Will you require money deposited, withdrawn or transferred for you while
you are overseas? Will your student loan forms or tax forms become due
while you are overseas? If so, it is very important that you arrange for
a power of attorney. This gives your representative
the authority to sign forms on your behalf. There are many reasons to
consider a power of attorney. If your signature will be needed for any
official or legal document while you are away, you should make arrangements
for a power of attorney. This enables a responsible and trusted person
(your parents are usually the best option) to act on your behalf. Write
out in detail the specific duties, such as signing of documents, bank
transfers, payment of credit card bills, filing of income taxes and other
legal matters that the chosen person may have to execute in your absence,
in detail and have it notarized.
A power of attorney is required for all students with student loans.
This can be arranged through a lawyer. Banks also have forms to arrange
a power of attorney for their services only.
If you are out of the country during the tax season (i.e. until April
30) and have earnings from the previous year, you are required to file
federal and provincial income tax returns. Contact the Canadian embassy,
high commission, or consulate in your host country for information on
your tax obligations. If you do not owe money to the government, you do
not have to file tax returns. Of course, if you do not file, you will
not get a refund owed to you either.
Revenue Canada has an informative website that will help clarify your
income tax obligations. The website is http://www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/menu-e.html
or call 1-800-959-8281.
Student Line of Credit
A student line of credit
is a more manageable and less expensive form of cash advance than using
a credit card. Most major banks and Credit Unions offer a Student Line
of Credit to students who are enrolled full-time at a post-secondary institution.
Although similar to credit card cash advances, the interest rate on a
student line of credit is slightly above prime and thus, a lot less than
that of credit cards. When borrowing from a student line of credit you
are obligated to pay off the interest, not the balance while registered
as a student.
Use your creativity to develop fundraising strategies and plans. The task
of raising the necessary funds for your trip may seem daunting at first
but can be quite fun if you organize yourself early enough. "Early
enough" means at least four to six months ahead of time, depending
on the amount of money you have to raise. Fundraising will require your
energy, creativity and time. It can be very time consuming and stressful,
so make sure that you plan and manage your time effectively.
As well as helping finance your trip you will:
Asking for or raising $$$
First Steps to Fundraising:
There are many ways to raise money. These include writing grant proposals
to governmental and non-governmental agencies and letters to private institutions
requesting financial contributions and/or organizing activities or presentations
to raise money. It is also possible to get donations of equipment or supplies
from donors who can't offer financial support.
- Build a list of potential resources and sponsors.
- Approach the community
- Contact the local paper to write an article about you.
- Speak at Local Service Clubs, Community Groups and High School
- Start Planning an Event.
Examples of Sources of Funding
- Personal: employer (past and present), parents, relatives and friends.
- Old Alma Mata (highschool)
- On campus organizations: student associations, Alumni, Deans of (undergraduate
and graduate) Faculties, on-campus student groups and clubs, etc.
- Community: charitable service clubs such as Rotary International,
Lions Club, Shriners, Kiwanis, local businesses, place of worship, banks,
media such as the local newspaper, radio stations, etc. A list of local
service groups may be available through your City Hall, Chamber of Commerce
or United Way.
- Governmental organizations: the host country mission in Canada, your
MP and MPP as well as other political parties, ministries, municipal
- Non-governmental organizations (CIDA, IDRC, HROC WUSC) who may be
interested in the nature of your project.
- Private institutions: local and national corporations that may do
business with the country you are visiting or are part of your community.
- Associations and community groups related to host country.
- Charitable organizations: refer to the Canadian Directory of Foundations
for an extensive list of granting agencies. Note that many of these
agencies do not grant to individuals and have specific requirements.
Read the instructions carefully.
- Foreign governments, schools, or businesses.
If you are applying to organizations for support
- Check deadlines and apply to more than one funding source.
- Develop a back-up plan in case funding falls through.
- Start the application process well in advance, as you normally have
to get reference letters from your host country. This takes time.
- Apply for the necessary visa and research permits early; some funding
agencies will want proof that you have permission from the host country
before they'll give you the money.
- Talk to other students who have applied for the same kind of funding
in the past-they may have valuable suggestions.
Once you've decided to whom you are going to write, it is important to
send your letters as soon as possible. Writing to request funds is an
art and deserves the time it takes for careful wording. Many of the places
you are contacting will receive a great number of requests for funding.
Word your letter genuinely and include the following details: who you
are and what your project is, the length of time you will spend overseas,
the total amount of money you need to raise, and when you will be leaving.
Keep the letter concise (three to four paragraphs, maximum). In the first
paragraph, indicate the purpose of the letter (i.e. request for funds
or other donations). Keep the tone professional. Focus on what you can
do for them i.e. a presentation upon your return. Emphasize how you will
contribute the rewards of your experience to your community.
Research the prospective donor and try to include information that is
most relevant to whom you are writing. Your letter will be better received
if it shows that you've taken the time to learn about those who may be
funding your project.
After sending your letters, allow approximately one week for them to be
received. You will need to phone the recipients to draw their attention
to your request; otherwise you risk having your letter tossed onto a "to
do" pile. Start to make follow-up phone calls. Keep your call brief,
identify yourself and simply ask if your letter was received and if any
additional information is required. Don't press for an answer at the time
of your call.
Once you receive confirmation of funding, send a letter thanking them
for their support, stating the sum or specific donation they have made,
and promise to contact them upon your return. Consider sending a letter
or a postcard to them while you are overseas.
When you return, send your sponsors a letter, briefly outlining your experience
and thanking them again for their support. In the letter, arrange for
the delivery of your promised presentation or report, or offer to share
Organizing a community event to raise money can be a lot of fun and need
not necessarily take more planning than writing a letter and calling on
the phone. It is also a great way to raise a substantial amount of money
all at once. Try to think of something original and as relevant to your
project as possible.
Planning the Event:
Make a list of all the resources you have. When compiling your list brainstorm,
be creative and do not rule anything out!
- Monetary and Non-Monetary Resources
- Potential Volunteers
- Target Sponsors
Ideas for Events:
- Bingo (check the gambling regulations in your area first!)
- bake sale
- Raffle of personal work (i.e.: paintings, services etc.)
- movie night
- car wash
- open stages, benefit party and/or concerts (especially if you have
connections with a band!)
- asking large corporations to have a dress down day for you
- hold a public slide/information/cuisine night of your host country;
charge for admission or ask for donations
- design and sell an item such as t-shirts
- A-thons: volunteer-a-thon, bike-a-thon, walk-a-thon, dance-a-thon,
- hold a silent auction of items and services donated by your community
- garage sale
- murder mystery dinner
Publicize the event:
An event can only be successful if people know about and are interested
in attending. Keep in mind the What - Why - When - Where? For example
if you are having a car wash, put flyers on the windshields of cars in
the neighbourhood where you will be holding the car wash.
- Personal hand-written thank you to every person who has provided sponsorship
or donated their help to you.
- Once overseas it is highly recommended that you send the same people
a postcard to update you on how you are and what you are experiencing.
- Upon your return complete the responsibilities you have promised (i.e.;
doing a presentation or writing an article)