Opening a U.S. Bank Account

US News International Student Blog: Handle Money Matters as an International Student

Disclaimer: ISS is not affiliated with any of the banks mentioned on this page. It is purely informational and we encourage all students to conduct their own research before committing to a financial institution.

We recommend you reach out to the bank directly to verify the documents they require from you to open an account with them; it can vary institution to institution.

There are two general bank accounts to choose from: checking or savings. Checking accounts allow you to pay bills, pay with a debit card, and write checks; when choosing a bank, research if they charge monthly fees on their checking accounts, or if they charge any overdraft fees (money charged to you when you try to withdraw money that isn’t in the account), and if they have convenient ATMs. Savings are for storing money without easy access to withdraw, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a specific goal; you’ll want to see if they offer high interest rates or if they charge fees. 
We recommend that you open a U.S. bank account during your studies here in the U.S. Here are a few reasons: 

  • Safety: It's not advisable for most Americans to store large amounts of cash, whether in a suitcase or a sock drawer in your college dorm room. A local bank account provides a secure place for your money.
  • Accessibility: Depending on a family member or sponsor for financial support may result in delays during emergencies, and certain establishments may not accept credit card payments. A local bank account ensures that your funds are readily accessible when needed.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Expenses related to bank transfers, ATM usage, and international currency exchange can become quite burdensome. A local bank account helps you minimize these costly fees.
  • Employment: If you intend to work on campus or pursue a paid internship or job off campus, your earnings will be deposited directly into your US bank account once it's established.

Below are some things to consider when comparing banking products: 

  • Minimal or no fees: This implies that you won't encounter significant charges for activities such as monthly maintenance, maintaining a minimum balance, using a debit card, accessing ATMs, or conducting money transfers.
  • Convenience: Look for local banks that allow you to manage your finances through your smartphone or computer. You may also consider opening an account with a bank situated either on or in close proximity to your campus.
  • Transfers: Thoroughly investigate the exchange rates applicable to money transfers from local banks to ensure that you're not burdened with excessive fees.
  • Security: Ensure that your bank is FDIC-insured, guaranteeing that your bank account is safeguarded by the US government against events like fraud or cyberattacks.
  • Perks: Many banks extend incentives to students when they open accounts. Be sure to carefully review the terms and conditions of any bonus offers to ascertain their suitability for your needs. While some banks may necessitate a minimum deposit to initiate an account, others do not impose such requirements.