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Opening a Bank Account

International students who open a US bank account have convenient access to their money and an easy way to receive funds from other countries.

But deciding which bank to use can be confusing when they all seem so alike!

Don’t worry. Here’s what you need to know about opening a bank account as soon as you arrive in America.

Ask a Bank These Questions.

Before I opened an account in college, I visited each bank I could walk to from my university. I requested brochures and other information about the accounts they offered. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • How much do you need to deposit to open an account?
  • What is the minimum balance you must keep in the account?
  • Are there any fees?
  • How long does it take a check to clear? (In other words, when a check is deposited in your account, how many days will you have to wait before you can withdraw the money?)
  • What are the interest rates on the savings and checking accounts?
  • What happens if you accidentally write a check for more than you have available in your account? What fees must you pay?

Open Your Bank Account.

After you decide where you would like to do your banking, visit that bank in person.

You will have to complete some paperwork and show the banker one or more forms of identification. As an international student, this could include your passport, student ID, visa, driver’s license or something else with your name and address on it.

Bring several forms of ID with you, or call the bank before you visit to find out exactly what you need. Don’t be like me! I didn’t bring any forms of identification with my photo and address on it and had to hike back to my dorm room to get my driver’s license.

Use Your Bank Account.

Funds can be wired to your account from other countries. In addition, scholarships and paychecks (if you get a job) can be directly deposited into your account.

You can pay your bills by check if you open a checking account, or you can have them paid automatically online. Your bank may also issue you a debit card which you can use instead of cash at many stores. Just be sure to keep a budget!

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