You will want to open a banking account soon after your arrival, to avoid keeping large amounts of cash on your person or in your room. There are a variety of banks and banking services in the area, some of which are listed below. To open a bank account, you will need to go to the bank with valid identification (Brandeis ID, passport, and I-20 or DS-2019 or I-797 Approval Notice), fill in an application form, and make an initial deposit. You do not need to have a social security number to open a bank account with most banks. You may need to complete Form W-8 BEN if you are a student not eligible for a social security number. It is possible to open accounts that combine features of both checking and savings accounts.
Your financial situation and needs will determine the best kind of bank for you. Hence it is worth comparing a few banks before opening an account. When choosing a bank, look closely at the fee structure, location of the nearest branch, access to Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), and particular services that might benefit you as an international student or scholar. Don’t be shy about asking questions — they want your business! There are two ATMs on campus; one is with the Sovereign Bank, and the other is with Citizen’s Bank. There are also ATMs for the Bank of America close to campus.
Checking accounts normally do not accumulate interest, but they allow you to write an unlimited number of checks. The cost of maintaining a checking account varies from bank to bank and with the particular type of account. Some banks charge a basic monthly fee or charge per transaction, while others are free if you maintain a specified minimum balance at all times. Be sure to keep close track of your checking account to avoid “overdrawing,” i.e. writing a check for which your account does not have the money. Banks charge substantial fees when this occurs. Many banks, however, allow you to apply for a line of credit known as “overdraft protection” (also called reserve credit). This credit provides an “instant loan” to your account when you overdraw it, thus allowing your check to be processed and waiving overdraft charges. Please note that most stores will not accept a personal check without at least two (and sometimes three) valid forms of identification.
Savings accounts allow you to save money and accumulate interest, which may be paid either monthly or quarterly. These accounts normally do not allow you to write checks. Note that banks do not automatically transfer money from your savings to your checking account when it runs low; you will have to do this yourself.