Financial management is a top concern for international students studying in the USA. Whether it is meant for tuitions fees, financial aid, scholarships, or one through which your part-time job’s pay is channeled, it is recommended that all international students open up US bank account once they arrive in the USA.
Why have a U.S Bank Account?
With so much to think and a lot of paperwork needed by both the government and school often it is easy to forget opening up an account. However, as far as may seem cumbersome and too procedural it is worth the hustle.
Having a U.S bank account will make managing your finances easier. With this account, you can also pay all your bills by check as well as managing your payments online. Besides making your financial management easier some banks offer international students with debit cards with Visa and Master Card emblems. You can use this credit cards to pay for services anywhere that accept credit cards.
When you make payments using a bank account or card that you own back at home you incur a lot of expenses. This includes wire transfer fees each time you make a transaction and currency exchange fees if your money is in a different denomination other than the U.S dollar. With a U.S bank account, same transactions don’t involve those fees.
Types of Bank Accounts
Typically there are two types of accounts you can consider here:
The checking account works as your daily wallet, it allows you to safely deposit and withdraw your money whenever you want. This account is ideal for managing your daily expenses especially when it comes to paying off your bills. You can use money in this account by writing off cheques, swiping your debit cards at various paying points or by making withdrawals through the ATM.
Once you open a checking account usually you get a bank debit card for ATM withdraws and debit card payments and a cheque box which you can use if you prefer making payments through cheques. Often, depending on the type of account you open there are monthly minimum balances and account maintenance fees incurred.
The savings accounts are meant to hold or accumulate money meant emergency or long-term objectives. Unlike the checking accounts savings accounts usually, accrue high-interest rates for the money deposited. So, if you have large sums of money you can open up this account or open both accounts. However, as an international student, there is no need for a savings account. Maintenance costs and minimum deposits apply depending on the bank you choose.
How to choose a bank
Being new here technically limits the selection you make you need expert guidance to determine the best bank to work with. Most institutions in the U.S have a special office catering only to international students you can visit the office or check out from their main website to find out if your school has a specific bank which they refer their students to.
Working with a bank that is used to dealing with international students is the best way to go, it makes the whole exercise of opening an account much easier. You will want to compare between different banks before settling on one. Basic things to look out for include: check whether the bank offers interest rates on checking accounts, what their interest rate is for the savings account and lastly how long it takes to clear a cheque. Usually, cheque clearing can take several days, week or even longer.
How to open a bank account
The toughest phase when opening an account in the US is making the bank understand your status as an international student. So as far as it may look easy opening on over the phone or online never go for this options. As an international student, you do not fit into this category of application. Plan to open the account in person this way it will be easier to solve complications that arise through the process. Aside from complications making face to face contact is crucial if you require additional bank services.
Basic things that you should carry with you include:
- Your full name, telephone number, home address, college address and your campus telephone number
- You will also need to carry your valid passport
- Any secondary form of identification that can include your college id, state driving license, birth certificate or a letterhead from the international student and scholarship office.
- DS-2019 I-20, or I-797 approval notice
- College Enrolment verification letter from your school
Every bank has their own requirement and regulations, it will be wise to ask beforehand so that you don’t forget anything.