Frequently Asked Money Matters Questions
Fees and Payments
How do I pay my fees?
Fees can be paid by check, money order, credit card, and (in person only) in cash. It is easiest to make payments online, where, with the exception of American Express, we accept all major credit cards. To pay with an American Express card, contact USAC Accounting for payment processing.
Unless otherwise noted in the Program Fees and Options/Financial Agreement form, you will pay your program fees directly to the USAC Central Office. If your home university requires you to pay them directly, consult your home university for billing and payment details. If you receive financial aid/scholarships and submit a copy of your accepted award letter (prior to the balance due deadline), along with approximate dates of disbursement, the balance due may be deferred up to the financial aid/scholarship amount until the funds are disbursed.
What does the program fee include?
This varies for each program, and USAC provides detailed information on this website in each program section.
Does the program fee include airfare?
Airfare fluctuates daily and is not included in your program fees to give you maximum flexibility and control. However, USAC works with discount travel service providers and offers group flights with reasonable rates for most programs. Specific information on group flights is included on your USAC Student Gateway account.
Can I use financial aid to help fund my studies abroad?
USAC will accept financial aid, but you should check with the Financial Aid office at your home university for a financial aid application and more specific details.
How do I apply for financial aid?
You can apply for financial aid at the Financial Aid office of your home university or a USAC Affiliate University. It is important that you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) [link to: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/] every year to determine your financial aid eligibility based on family income and educational cost. Since studying abroad may have a different fee structure, you should print out the USAC budget sheet from your USAC Student Gateway account and give it to your financial aid advisor if you want to pursue a budget increase.
Will the financial aid be paid to USAC directly?
This varies depending on the policies of the funding institution. You should ask this question of your financial aid advisor. If possible, we strongly recommend arranging for financial aid/scholarship funds to be distributed directly to the USAC Central Office to prevent any complications due to late payments.
Will USAC accept all of my financial aid/scholarships?
You are welcome to use your financial aid towards a USAC program. USAC accepts any and all federal financial aid / grants / scholarships. However, in some cases state grants will not apply to USAC programs. It is up to the funding source to decide whether the money is allowed for the use of study abroad with USAC. If the financial aid is disbursed after the balance due deadline, USAC will need a copy of the accepted award letter in order to consider the possibility of deferring payment. However, the position hold payment is not deferrable unless your home university pays USAC directly on your behalf.
My school requires financial aid/consortium agreements, to whom and where should I send these agreements?
Send any financial aid/consortium agreements to the USAC Central Office. The USAC Central Office will then route the form to the proper USAC Affiliate University for processing. If you have any questions, please contact USAC Accounting.
What is a Consortium Agreement?
A USAC Affiliate University typically signs these agreements upon request by your home university. A Consortium Agreement is a contract between two colleges/universities that recognizes the registration of a student at each site for financial aid purposes. It also certifies that only one of the two colleges/universities will administer Title IV financial aid for the student. It refers to the two colleges/universities as the “Home Campus” and the “Host Campus.” The “Home Campus” is the school where the student is fully admitted and from which he/she will get a degree. The “Host Campus” is where the student temporarily takes courses, whose credits will be transferred back to his/her “Home Campus.”
How do I continue my financial aid after my USAC program ends?
Consult your Financial Aid office for specifics. It is important that you are aware of your financial standing as you return to your home university. Financial aid and loans that are time sensitive may need to be reinitiated or activated at the beginning of the semester. Loan organizations may need a statement from your home university affirming your continued enrollment and verifying your registration. If you receive such notification from your loan organization, you should contact the loan association immediately for specific directions. Discuss any concerns related to financial aid with your home university Financial Aid advisor before your study abroad program begins.
What happens to my financial aid/scholarships if I cancel or withdraw from my USAC program?
It is your responsibility to research the deadlines, terms, and conditions regarding your financial aid and scholarships. Accepting those funds if/when they are offered implies that you agree to honor those conditions. Therefore, if you cancel or withdraw from your USAC program, you may be required to immediately repay any funds awarded or dispersed. You are also still responsible for paying any outstanding USAC balance. More information will be available on your USAC Student Gateway account.
How will I get money while I am abroad?
Typically the easiest, least expensive, and most convenient way for you to access funds is to use an ATM card that has been approved for international use and has a PIN number. You should consult with your bank about setting up access to your account via the internet to check your balance, etc. Let your bank and credit card companies know when and where you will be traveling.
How do I use my ATM/debit card abroad?
ATMs are available for use in most countries worldwide. They often have the best exchange rate, 24-hour accessibility, and money from your home bank account can be withdrawn in the local currency abroad. Check with your bank at home to make sure your card is approved for use abroad and to determine any charges related to using it internationally, as there are usually currency conversion fees for each withdrawal. Be aware of the daily withdrawal limit for your debit card. In some countries, ATMs will not accept a PIN longer than four digits or that starts with zero. If your PIN is longer than four digits, contact your bank to ask how to use your card abroad.
Can I use my credit cards?
While credit cards are typically accepted around the world, VISA and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. You should let your card company know when and where you will be traveling and confirm that your card can be used abroad. Consider requesting a 4-digit PIN number to use (like you would with a debit card), verify your daily limit, and check if there are any service fees/restrictions. You may, for example, be charged a fee or percentage for the currency exchange rate. Just in case, be prepared to have another form of payment with you in the event you cannot use your credit card.
Can I use traveler’s checks?
We strongly discourage using or relying on traveler's checks, as they are not always accepted abroad. For more information, refer to your Arrival Guide, which will be available on your USAC Student Gateway account about one month prior to the program start.
Can I wire funds abroad?
Yes, Western Union (and many banks) can quickly wire money to most countries. To collect wired funds, you will need to show your passport or ID and the transaction record number that the sender was given when transferring the funds. You should expect to pay fees to send and/or receive funds by wire transfer. These fees can range from $50 to $100.
How do I avoid high banking fees?
Your financial institution may charge fees for each foreign transaction. Therefore, you should try to limit the frequency of your ATM withdrawals. Some financial institutions may also have global partnerships or alliances that will allow you to withdraw money from certain ATMs with little to no extra fees. Be sure to take note of all included, because they may have ATMs in multiple countries. Check with your bank, credit union, or financial institution for more information.
How do I file my taxes while abroad?
If you have earnings that require you to file federal and/or state income tax returns and you will be out of the country between January 1 and April 15 when taxes are due, you can file your taxes from abroad. You may need to arrange to have tax forms sent to you or have taxes paid for you while you are out of the country. It is also possible to ask for an extension. Be sure to know what your tax responsibilities are and how to comply while you are away. An official tax guide for US citizens and resident aliens abroad can be found on the IRS website.
What is VAT? How do I claim the VAT on the purchases I make abroad?
VAT stands for Valued Added Tax. Unlike the United States, where tax is added on at the cash register, many countries in the world include sales tax in the price tag. As a foreign national, you are not obligated to pay the VAT. Unfortunately, you cannot claim the VAT unless you spend a certain minimum amount in one location (store). These minimum amounts and the percentage of VAT added on to the price vary from country to country. In order to claim your VAT, you must first ask the shop staff for a Refund Cheque when paying for your purchases. When you are leaving the country be prepared to present your purchases, receipt, and passport to customs. They will stamp your Refund Cheque. Finally, show your stamped Refund Cheque, along with your passport and credit card (if you used it to make the purchases), to the Refund Office. The refund can also be paid in cash. The following countries offer tax free shopping: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom.