New Comer > Bank Accounts

What you need to open an account

Most banks ask for Social Security Number and driver's license when you open an account. But some banks will accept just your passport. But you do need a US address and phone number. Sometimes the bank will ask for the name and phone number of your employer. Occasionally you may be asked to provide the name and phone number of a relative (or close friend) who live in the US but doesn't live with you. This is for the purpose of reference. 

Types of bank accounts

Checking Account
An account out of which you can write checks. It usually bears little or no interest. Some banks charge monthly service fee for checking accounts for low balance (say less than $500), or each check written. There may also be charges on each transaction done with the human teller. You may also need to pay for the checks the bank provides you. You usually receive an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) card to withdrawal or deposit money at such a machine. Most banks provide telephone banking services, meaning you can check account balances, transactions or transfer money between accounts via the telephone.
Savings Account
This account usually bears interest. You may need to maintain a minimum balance (say $500 or $1000). You cannot write checks out of this account. Some banks limit the number of monthly withdrawals you can make from this account. ATM and phone services should be available.
Money Manager Account (or Money Market Account)
This is a combination of the checking and savings accounts. You earn interest, can write check, but need to maintain a higher minimum balance (usually at least $1000). ATM and phone services are usually available.One restriction is that you usually can write no more than six checks per month.
Certificate of Deposit or CD
This is for saving money in a bank for a fixed period starting from three months, with higher interest. There is penalty for early withdrawal.

Not all banks are the same

Ask people what banks they use. The best deal you can often includes but not limited to:

  • Interest bearing checking account. Saving or money market account with interest rate of 3% or over.
  • No minimum balance requirement for checking account.
  • Free checks.
  • No service fee and no limit on the number of checks you can write.
  • Free transactions with human tellers.
  • Free ATM access, phone services, and Web services.

Direct Deposit

Once you have your bank account set-up, arrange to have you paychecks directly deposited to your account. This saves you trips for depositing your pay checks. It's very reliable. But be aware, after you fill out the direct deposit form, it may take up to 8 weeks for it to take effect. You may still need to deposit your paychecks yourself for several more times.

Bank Online

Online banks often have high interest rates. But you have less or no access to branches and ATM's. One thing to check out is whether the bank is FDIC insured, at If the bank is not listed there, try calling the FDIC at 1-800-934-3342.

Richer than most students?

If you have some serious cash, take a look at some of the articles under family finance, e.g. financial planning.

ChineseInUS Homepage
Related Information

Contact Us

Copyright © 2000-2011 by All Rights Reserved. Contact Us.