Studying abroad is a life changing decision for every student. The experience not only gives students the best of opportunities to build a career, but also a chance to gain a global perspective, boost future prospects and indulge in new cultural experiences that can be an education in itself.
Indian students have been travelling abroad to study, in record numbers. A recent report says that Indian students have now become the largest group of foreign students in the UK.
According to the Immigration Statistics Report, 127,731 visas were granted to Indian students in September 2022, which is an increase of 93,470 (+273 per cent) against 34,261 in 2019. As per data from the Bureau of Immigration (BoI), 6,48,678 students have gone abroad on student visas up to November 30, 2022, which is an all-time high compared with the student movement figures in the past five years.
Students in India, planning to pursue a higher education abroad, require some planning and preparation to make the most of their experience and achieve their academic and personal goals. Presumably, many, this is the first time they will have full ownership and responsibility over their day to day lives, away from the comfort of home and the familiarity of living in India. Hence, it is imperative therefore to learn to manage one’s finances.
As students prepare to study abroad, here are some important tips for them to manage their finances:
Budget it out
Factor in your monthly rents, travel, utility bill payments, study material, data and entertainment expenses, along with a monthly saving for emergency travel etc.
Medical expenses abroad can be heavy on the pocket, and it is wise to get insurance for the time that you will be living there as a student.
Student discount cards
These can get you discounts at restaurants, shops, movie tickets, inter city transportation, museums, and other local attractions. Likewise, with a student travel pass, which provides local public transport at concessional rates. You can apply for and get these cards while you are in India, with some payment networks offering these as bundled propositions for students.
Minimize cash spends
As you set budgets, try to minimize withdrawing and using cash, as it makes it harder to stay within budget. Most places accept your debit, credit or prepaid cards from your bank in India, or your local bank cards if you plan to stay on for longer and choose to open a bank account. Cash withdrawals from your international card also come with ATM withdrawal fees, which is alright to keep for contingency.
Getting a local bank issued card
If you are getting yourself a local bank credit card, remember that it will be at the highest interest rate on offer, considering you will have no prior credit history in that country. Therefore, remember to pay your credit card bills on time, as you build up a good credit history for the future. A poor repayment discipline will not only incur additional interest and charges, but also impair your credit history in that country.
Savings account over a checking account
If you want to earn interest on the money you have in your bank. There is a monthly charge for maintaining these accounts unless a certain minimum balance is maintained. Find out the one with the least monthly charges. If the minimum balance for savings accounts is higher than one can afford, you can opt in for a basic checking account. Here too, remember to find out about special rates and fee waivers for students.
If you have signed up to a foreign bank account, Use your own bank ATM, or you will find yourself getting charged both by the other bank as well as your own. It is also advisable to stay on top of your account balances or you will run up expensive overdraft charges. A good way to do this is to set low balance alerts.
Use forex cards
These are prepaid foreign exchange cards that can be loaded with foreign currency and used to make purchases in a foreign country. If you plan to travel to nearby countries during your stay abroad, you could look at multi-currency forex cards to prevent FX charges on two legs of currency conversion.
If you plan to continue using your India issued Credit / Debit or Forex card, Make it a point to learn how to enable / disable your card controls for international point of sale (POS), contactless (Tap to pay) and e-commerce transactions from your bank app. This is also a useful tool to have in case a card gets stolen or lost, allowing you to turn off payment functionalities at the click of a button.
Studying abroad comes with several challenges but managing finances does not have to be one. Keep these tips handy as you plan your life abroad and pave the way for healthy financial management, while you focus on your studies, setting yourself up for an illustrious career, and more importantly making memories and friendships that will last you a lifetime.
Sridhar Keppurengan is Business Head, Cross Border payments, India & South Asia at Visa