A few nights ago I called the friendly folks over at Citizen’s Bank customer service to have a chat about how my (and sometimes my parents’) hard-earned U.S. dollars will be able to metamorphose into lovely useful Chilean pesos and fly with me to Chile. I currently have the standard Visa Citizen’s Bank debit card as well as a Mastercard credit card. I spoke with Brad, who was very helpful, who told me that in terms of my debit card, the only fee Citizen’s will charge is a 3% currency conversion fee which is fantastic. Of course I will have to keep in mind any fees the merchants or ATMs might charge. His recommendation was to do one bulk ATM transaction say every other week, keep the money somewhere safe at home, and just take what I would need for the day with me. I know we will talk more about this subject at orientation, so I will keep you posted.
Then I was transferred over to the credit department to learn about my Mastercard. Brad was super helpful in getting me a real person to talk to instead of sending me into the automated robot system. I talked to Muriel, who told me that I would only have to worry about a currency conversion fee of 2.80% with a minimum fee of $1.50.
Overall I’m happy because lots of banks charge international transaction fees on top of currency conversion fees, but Citizen’s Bank doesn’t. Yeay for being able to keep my own money!!
Yesterday my mother and I went to the financial aid office at Roger Williams University to talk money matters and other logistics with the nice ladies there. Happily we found that my full tuition scholarship (the Harold Payson Memorial Scholarship) will cover my tuition abroad in the same way it does when I am studying at home! The only difference is paying room and board as well as meals, which I don’t typically do since I commute. However, we felt that commuting to Santiago was not very practical, so we will be able to cover th0se expenses with my regular Stafford student loans. Yeay!
We also had a chat with our friendly neighborhood Citizen’s Bank about how my debit and credit cards will function abroad. Turns out the international transaction fees and currency conversion fees are not too bad with they type of cards I have, so I may be able to just take them with me which is a bit safer than carrying cash around. The nice man at the bank did warn me that it is VERY IMPORTANT that I call ahead to alert customer service that I am traveling abroad or they might shut off my card when they see the international transactions. Eek!
My trip is becoming more and more doable and more and more real, although I don’t think I will be able to grasp the true reality of being away from home for so long until I land in Santiago. I feel sure that my host family and the great staff at IFSA-Butler will be able to help me transition and everything will be fine!