Before you leave home, there are a few things you should do to ensure you can easily access your money while in the U.S. First, consult your bank to see if your ATM or cash withdrawal card will work overseas and if any fees will be charged for international use. You should also have a few other ways to access your money when you arrive. Some good options are Traveler's checks or a credit card.
It is a good idea to bring a small amount of cash in U.S. dollars with you for things you will need to purchase as soon as you arrive, such as transportation from the airport to your hotel or housing and food. You can also exchange currency at the airport upon arrival-note that airport currency exchange centers will charge a commission and may not give you the best exchange rate. Usually, you will get a better exchange rate if you use your cash withdrawal card to take cash out of your account. U.S. dollar bills come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations-there are no coins in denominations larger than $1.
You can use traveler's checks in almost any store, just like you would use cash. You do not need to visit a bank or pay any commission charges with traveler's checks. Just make sure you have a passport or photo ID with you. If your checks get lost or stolen you can have them replaced, if you have the receipt(s).
In the U.S., you can withdraw money from an automated teller machine (ATM). You will need a pin code, so make sure to confirm with your bank whether you will need a new pin to access your account in the U.S. If your bank has branches in the U.S., you should be able to withdraw money without paying the fees. However, ATMs that are not affiliated with your bank will typically charge a $1-$2 fee, sometimes more.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the U.S. Just remember you will have to pay your credit card bill late. Most cards only require a minimum percentage to be paid each month, but you will be charged interest for anything above the minimum amount that is unpaid. If you have never had a credit card before, it is recommended that you select a card with a low credit limit or one that requires you to pay your bill in full every month. This will help you to manage your money without accruing debt, interest charges or late fees. If your credit card is lost or stolen, call the credit card company, let them know you need a new card and they will send you one in the mail.
How to Open a Bank Account:
Even if you are not doing a paid internship or training program, you may way to consider opening a U.S. bank account to help cut down on fees your own bank may charge for international use. If you are doing a paid program, you may want to choose the bank that your employer uses, especially if your employer offers direct deposit, a process through which your employer will electronically transfer your paycheck directly into your checking account.
Most checking accounts are free to open. While at the bank, you may want to ask a couple questions, such as; Do you have a minimum to open an account or a minimum daily balance? Do you have a monthly maintenance fee? Do you have online banking? What additional fees do you charge?
Things you should bring to the bank to open your account:
- DS-2019 Form
- Your Social Security card if you have already received it.
The bank will have you fill out some paperwork and then give you checks and an ATM card.
How to Keep Your Money Safe
Know how much money you have in your account and never spend more than that amount. You should never carry around large amounts of cash because it cannot be replaced if lost or stolen. Credit cards typically have fraud alert systems that will help them to alert you if there is unusual activity on your card. Further, if someone steals and uses your card, your card provider can help you to remove those charges so that you won't have to worry about losing money.
Never give out your ATM number, account number or passwords to anyone. You should never deposit money from someone you don't know into your account or transfer money for someone else. Finally, it is important to record the phone numbers for your bank and credit card provider in case you need to contact them quickly in an emergency or report fraudulent activity. You are working hard for your money--keep it safe!
To learn more about estimated costs throughout your program, you can also visit our Resource Center.