A First-Timer’s Guide To Opening A Bank Account In The U.S. Of A.
Money: everyone likes to have it, but no one likes to talk about it (least of all college students). Whether you’re studying abroad in the US or a citizen looking to open your own account for the first time, having a bank account can lead to some pretty serious perks. The main pros of opening an account abroad, in addition to any you may have in your home country, include bypassing pesky international transaction fees and getting a grip on the organization of your money. In some situations, a debit card can even be used as a form of identification. WHO KNEW?!
“At Republic Bank if someone walks in with a check drawn off our bank then we can cash it for them even if they don’t have an account,” said William, a Personal Banker at a Republic Bank in Louisville. “We can do this as long as they present two forms of ID; One has to be state issued, the other can be a debit card from another bank!”
So you decide open a bank account. But like in any new environment, things can get a bit confusing. Or… maybe a LOT confusing.
Jordan, a US student abroad in Japan for 11 months, fortunately had help from his school when opening a bank account. But even with the support, Jordan ended up having to go to the bank 11 times. ELEVEN. He said getting a bank account was grueling in Japan because his signature had to perfectly match up with each curve.
In the US, you can walk into any bank and open an account – the difficult part lies in the preparation. There are more restrictions to an international student in the US, but we’re here to help you through it.
You may have to deal with things like international fees, legal documents, personal identification, freedom to move around on your own and everyone’s favorite bureaucratic process… waiting.
This is the most time-consuming step. You cannot rely on the bank your parent used previously and there are many banks to look through. Chester, a Korean student at Hanover College, prefers big banks because they can deal with international issues quickly and easily. She also got a local bank account to be able to withdraw cash easily when she needs it. When looking up different banks, make sure you ask questions before you decide on a bank.
Questions: Can this bank shift between currencies? Is there a fee for international wire transfers? Are there minimum balance requirements?
Restrictions: You cannot open an online account unless you are a US citizen, (but if we do find one, we’ll be sure to let you know). Also, every country has its own legal banking rules, so you can’t have one bank account for use in multiple countries. “Citibank in the US is not the same as Citibank in Korea,” said Chester.
Prepare your documents
This is small detailed work but it will pay off in the long run. To open a bank account, you’ll need to show two forms of ID. If the school you’re attending hasn’t provided you with a social security card yet, William provided the W8BEN form. Chester used her I-20 form to enroll in a bank. You can also use your passport and state-issued ID.
Unless it’s walking distance or you have your own car and driver’s license already, you’ll need a friend, public transportation or uber driver who will get you to and from the bank. However, any school with international students should make it a priority to accompany their students through the transition into the US. Be sure to ask your school if they can assist you in the process.
Once you have everything prepared, congratulations! All you should do now is show up at the bank and dump them with all of your information – it’s out of your hands now. You have the bank you want that will help you in future transactions. You have your personal documents prepared for the next thing you need to do. All that’s left is to put some actual money into the bank!