Bank Account and Debit Cards

If you've traveled thousands of miles to study in the US, you may be feeling a little bit of culture shock. On this page you will find basic  information about banking in the US. Having a local bank account will make your life here a whole lot easier.

How to Choose a Bank?

It's best to check which banks are around campus. This will make it easier for you to apply for an account in person and withdraw money from ATMs.

  • Ask about monthly fees, fees for withdrawals & transfers, over-withdrawals, minimum required balance, etc.

  • Banking hours typically are Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Some banks are open Saturday mornings 9:00am to 12:00pm. Please consider calling customer service to schedule an appointment to ask about their services.

  • Most banks offer online services that you can access after you have opened an account so you do not have to go in person.

How to Open a Bank Account?

Most banks will require you to be physically in the US before you can open a local bank account. This means you may need to live off your bank cards from back home and/or cash for a couple of weeks.

  • Speak to someone in customer service.

  • Show two forms of identification, usually a visa document (Forms I-20 or DS-2019 ) and a passport.

  • A local address is required.

  • Have money to deposit.

Checking and Savings Accounts

These are two basic types of accounts you can open:

  1. Checking Account

The first thing you want to do is open a checking account. This is necessary for day-to-day money management. You'll need a checking account to make purchases, receive money, and pay bills and rent. Make sure you regularly monitor your account to ensure you have sufficient funds for every check/online payment. If not, your account will be considered overdrawn, and you will incur additional charges.

Here are the usual features of a checking account:

  • A debit card to make purchases and withdraw cash from ATMs.

  • A checkbook to pay bills.

  • Most banks offer online banking services, allowing you to pay bills and monitor your bank account online.

  • Every month your bank will send you a statement that lists all account activities and a photocopy of all the checks you wrote in the previous month. You can sign up for paperless statements and view these online rather than receiving them in the mail.

 2. Saving Account

You may be asked if you want to open a savings account along with a checking account. A savings account is used for keeping extra money you won't need for everyday expenses. They usually offer a little bit of interest to help grow your money. You cannot write checks using a savings account.

Debit Cards

  • Most banks issue a debit card with the opening of a bank account.

  • A debit card looks like, and for the most part functions like, a credit card. The main difference is that money is taken directly from your bank account when using a debit card.

  • Most businesses accept debit cards. Your account may be limited to a certain number of daily withdrawals.

If your checks or debit cards are lost or stolen, notify your bank immediately!