Financial Challenges Faced by Indian Students Studying Abroad

A study conducted by Wise, the global technology company, highlighted the significant financial challenges faced by Indian students when pursuing higher education abroad. Beyond tuition fees and living expenses, Wise’s research revealed that Indian international students are also losing around Rs 548 billion in foreign exchange fees, an often overlooked expense.

According to the study, with close to 133,135 Indians studying abroad, this is an average of 41 lakhs lost annually per student from transfer-related fees. These fees, which often include hidden fees in marked-up exchange rates charged by most traditional providers, usually come into play during transactions involving a different currency.

The research ranked the 10 most expensive destinations to study abroad, both in terms of tuition costs and money lost to hidden fees, and found international students globally overpay approximately RM5.3 billion annually in hidden transfer fees when moving money across borders.

Costliest Destinations for Indian Students

Destination Average Annual Expenditure (Rs) Transfer Fees Lost per Year (Rs)
United States 2,262,676 75,799
New Zealand 48,086 N/A
Australia 46,725 N/A

Indian students studying in the United States lose the most in transfer fees. According to internal Wise data, Indian students studying abroad spend the most money on education in the United States, with an average of Rs 2,262,676 spent per year. The United States also proved to be the costliest in transfer fees, with students losing Rs 75,799 on average per year. Popular study destinations New Zealand and Australia are next on the list where international students pay Rs 48,086 and Rs 46,725 respectively for transfer fees.

As per RBI data, spending on global education fees and expenses exceeded Rs 5165 million in 2022, reflecting the growing demand among Indian students for overseas education. This highlights the need for transparent and cost-efficient payment solutions tailored to the needs of students and families.

For instance, assuming an average annual outward remittance of Rs 800,000 per student, currency conversion fees alone can add up to Rs 24,0001 – exacerbating an already stressful financial situation.

Surendra Chaplot, head of global product, Wise, said, “Studying abroad is a big financial investment for students and their families, and inflated exchange rates and high transfer costs for moving money internationally only add to their burden. Students and their families deserve to know how much they’re being charged, so that they can make informed decisions about how they manage their money and minimise unnecessary fees.”

“It is crucial to be aware of potential hidden expenses, which often include foreign transaction fees and undisclosed exchange rate markups that can often be charged by most traditional providers. At Wise, we are transparent about the fees and use the mid-market exchange rate so students can make the most out of their money and their study abroad experience,” Chaplot added.

Tips to Manage Money Wisely When Studying Abroad

  • Watch out for hidden fees: Check the total cost, including upfront fee and exchange rate, before moving money internationally. Don’t assume that a service advertised as low or even “free” is the best deal as it may not represent the actual total cost. Hidden fees can lie in the exchange rate, where providers tend to add an undisclosed markup on top of the market exchange rate. This practice leads to many people unknowingly paying more than they should.
  • Compare cost among options: Exchange rates and foreign transaction fees will rack up quickly over time. Don’t rely on traditional credit or debit cards from home while living overseas. Always compare the actual total cost across traditional and digital alternatives.
  • Make use of student discounts: Never underestimate the benefits of student-only offers and loyalty programs. Make a habit of checking for available student deals.


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