Things to Consider When Choosing a Bank
- Location: Look for a branch near your home or school.
- Services needed: Checking or savings accounts, safe deposit boxes, overseas wire transfers, foreign currency conversion, etc.
- Accessibility: Saturday banking hours, availability of ATMs.
- Requirements: Minimum balances (initial and maintained), monthly fees.
- Interest rates: For invested funds
Common Types of Accounts
Checking account: Useful if you have bills to pay on a regular basis (credit card, phone, rent, utilities). There is usually no minimum balance required but no interest earned either. A monthly fee may be charged. Some checking accounts earn interest but usually require a larger opening balance. A check book is typically provided to be able to write checks for certain transactions. The ability for online checks may depend on the bank's services or online platform's software.
Savings account: Can sometimes earn interest but cannot be used to write checks. If opened at the same bank as a checking it can be easy to transfer money between a checking and savings account.
Banks’ Customer Identification Programs (CIPs)
U.S. financial institutions are required to verify the identity of individuals who opens a bank account through a Customer Identification Programs. Below is the minimal information a bank must obtain from you before allowing you to open an account:
- Your name
- Your date of birth
- Your street address – not P.O. Box
An identification number An identification number can be one or more of the following:
- A taxpayer ID number (Social Security number or individual taxpayer ID number)
- Passport number and country of issuance
- Alien identification card number
- Any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard.
What to Bring When Opening an Account
- Money to deposit into the account
- Your passport and one other form of identification
- Printed I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
- Form I-20 (F-1 status) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 status)
- Local mailing address: Be sure you know all address details (street name and number, apartment number, city, zip code). Bring proof that this is your address, like a signed lease or a letter you have received there.
- Your mother’s maiden name (your mother’s family name before she was married) or some other family name. This name is used as a security check when you contact the bank with questions.
- Taxpayer Identification Number – Required by some but not all banks. The following are acceptable to use:
- Social Security number (SSN)- if you have applied but not yet received your SSN, bring your receipt
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)- issued by the IRS to those not eligible for an SSN.
- Form W-8 BEN (for those not eligible for an SSN or ITIN)
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)
Most banks offer ATM bank cards which enable you to use ATMs to access your account at any time. You can request an ATM card when you open your account or later if you decide you would like one. You will choose a private code called a personal identification number (PIN) to type into the machine each time you access your account. There are ATMs located on Babson’s campus in Reynolds Campus Center and Olin Hall.
ATMs on Campus:
Santander Bank, Reynolds Campus Center, 1st floor
Citizen’s Bank, Olin Hall, Lower Level
International Banking Services
Larger banks tend to offer more comprehensive international services: wire transfers, international drafts, foreign currency exchange, and foreign traveler’s checks. It may take longer to complete such transactions at smaller banks.
Debit cards allow you to pay for goods and services directly from your bank account, reducing the need for cash. You can request a debit card when you open your checking or savings account or later if you decide you would like one.
Requirements for obtaining a credit card and interest rates charged on unpaid balances vary among banks. Keep in mind that it is common to have a checking or savings account with one bank and a credit card with another.
Most international students find it difficult to get a credit card in the U.S. because they have not established a credit history and because they are not U.S. residents. For newly arrived students, you may want to try using a "secured credit card". These cards offer some of the conveniences of a credit card, except that you secure your credit card with a deposit that becomes your credit line. The best part is that your secured card is reported as a regular credit card on your credit report. Check with your bank on the secured credit card. Because getting a major credit card is very difficult, international students should take every opportunity to establish a good credit history. For international students who have been here a little longer, obtaining credit cards becomes a little easier once they have established some sort of credit history.
- Do shop around. If you get a solicitation in the mail, on campus, on the Internet or at the local bank, compare rates and fees. The credit card industry is very competitive so interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions vary. Check out www.creditcard.com or www.bankrate.com to compare rates.
- Do read the fine print on the credit application. The application is a contract, so read it thoroughly before signing. Watch for terms such as "introductory rate" and periods that expire.
- Do ask questions. You are the customer and the bank is providing a service. If you don't understand something, ask.
- Do be wary of anyone who claims they can "fix" your credit. The only thing that can fix a credit report is time and a positive payment history.
- Do promptly open and review your bill every month. This helps you pay your bill on time and protects you from identity theft and unauthorized charges.
- Do be careful with your credit card. Keep it secure. Always have your bank's phone number available in case your card is lost or stolen.
- Do view credit as an investment in your future. By using credit wisely, you can build a good credit history.
- Do order a copy of your credit report annually. Your credit report is like an academic report card -- it evaluates your performance as a credit customer. It needs to be accurate so you can apply for other loans such as a car or a condo.
Credit Card Don'ts
- Don't feel pressure to get a credit card if you don't want one. A credit card may not be right for you. Don't be afraid to say no to salespeople. It's okay to walk away.
- Don't pay your bills late. Late payments can hurt your credit rating.
- Don't spend more than you can afford. A credit card is not magic money; it's a loan with an obligation to repay. Realize the difference between needs and wants. Do you really need that CD or pizza? If you charge these items and only pay the minimum, you could be paying for them months from now.
- Don't apply for more credit cards if you already have balances on others.
- Don't ignore the signs of credit trouble. If you pay only the minimum balance, pay late or use cash advances to pay living expenses, you might be in the credit "danger zone."