Transferring Tuition Payments to the U.S.

on March 10, 2017

A common challenge faced by international students is how to transfer money from their hometown bank to the U.S. High fees and exchange rates can increase the cost of paying for tuition by thousands of dollars.


Top Money Transfer Tips

  • Check with the college to see which money transfer services they accept. This will help protect you from fraudulent services, since the colleges will know which services are legitimate
  • Learn about the fees in advance, so that you transfer enough money to cover tuition even after the fees are deducted
  • Most U.S. colleges require tuition payments to be made in U.S. dollars, so you will need to convert your currency into dollars
  • Monitor currency exchange rates. Changes in currency exchange rates can affect the cost for international students to study in the U.S.

International Wire Transfers


Most colleges accept international wire transfers. Ask the college for its international bank wire instructions, which will include the college’s SWIFT code and other bank account information.

A wire transfer can involve fees based on the amount transferred, typically as much as 3 percent of the transaction amount. However, you might have to pay this fee multiple times in a bank-to-bank wire transfer because both the sending and receiving banks might charge it. Some bank-to-bank wire transfers might go through an intermediary bank, which will add its own fees as well.

You might be able to save money by wiring the money directly to the college’s bank instead of setting up a U.S. bank account and transferring the money to that account. Some colleges have special arrangements with their bank that waive the bank’s fee for an international wire transfer.

Foreign banks might have limits on the amount of money you can wire per day. In the U.S., wire transfers of $10,000 or more can involve additional paperwork.

Money can sometimes get “lost” when the money is transferred to the college’s bank account, but there are intermediary banks. The money still reaches the destination, but gets separated from the student’s name and identification number. Notify the college when you are making a wire transfer, so they can expect the funds. Provide the college with information about the bank from which you are making the wire transfer.

Opening a U.S. Bank Account

If your bank has offices in the U.S., it might be possible to withdraw funds directly from your bank, avoiding international wire transfer fees. Some banks may even allow you to maintain the funds in a U.S. dollar denominated account.

If you open a U.S. bank account, some U.S. banks will allow international students one free incoming wire transfer per month. However, in most cases, you will need to open the bank account in person, so you cannot wire the funds in advance of your arrival in the U.S.

Paying by Credit Card

Paying by credit card can be convenient, but can cost the most.

  • Colleges might charge a convenience fee for payments by credit card, to cover the transaction fees they are charged by the credit card issuers
  • You might need to contact the credit card issuer to enable the card for purchases outside your home country
  • Credit card issuers might limit the number and amount of international purchases
  • Currency exchange rates might vary by credit card issuer
  • You might need to arrange to have automatic transfers from your bank account to the credit card issuer to cover the credit card bills

Other Money Transfer Services

There are many other money transfer services. Some of these transfer services provide discounts by bundling multiple transactions together.


FlyWire by PeerTransfer is one of the most popular, since it charges lower fees than most banks.


Other popular money transfer services include Western Union,  PaytoStudy, FairFX and TransferWise.


Transporting Cash in Person


If you will be bringing money and other financial instruments into the U.S. in person, you must file a report with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) if you will be transporting more than U.S. $10,000. The money is not subject to any tariffs, duties or fees. However, if you do not report this money, it is subject to confiscation and you might be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Specially trained dogs that can detect currency screen luggage.

Transporting large amounts of cash on your person might not be safe. Luggage also can get lost during travel.

Exchange only a minimal amount of money at the airport, since airport currency exchange services often charge higher exchange rates.

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