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
- 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
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
- Free transactions with human tellers.
- Free ATM access, phone services, and Web services.
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.
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 http://www.fdic.gov.
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