A Student's Guide to Opening a Bank Account in USA

Opening a Bank Account in USA
International Students usually open a Checking Account in USA for savings and expenditure; Image Courtesy: blog.sprintax.com

It is easier for a student to handle finances if they have a bank account in a USA bank. Anything from money deposits to receiving loans can be done with the help of a bank account. Since most of the banks issue a MasterCard or Visa card, it is easier for a student to use those anywhere that accept credit cards.

Types of Bank Accounts in the US

There are 2 types of bank accounts in the United States of America.

  1. Savings Account: Where you can put money for long term purpose and accrue interest on the same.
  2. Checking Account: Which you can use for payment of bills and for your spending needs.

Most international students prefer to open a Checking Account.

A student must have funds available, in order to open a Checking Account. If you make a deposit with an overseas draft or a cheque, it might take days or weeks before the funds are available to you. Hence, it is advised that you have some exchange currency with you, so that, by the time the overseas cheque clears, you have an account up and running.

After opening a checking account you will be given temporary checks and you should order checks with your name and address printed on them as well as debit cards.

Documents Required for Opening a Bank Account in the US

To open a bank account in the US, you need to carry a few documents. Mentioned below is a list of documents that an international student might require, to open an account in an American bank.
While the documents required for identification may vary from 1 bank to other, the Department of Treasury regulations set forth the following minimal information that the banks must obtain from you before allowing you to open an account:

  • Proof of your name
  • Proof of your date of birth
  • Proof of your street address
  • An Identification number

For a non-U.S. citizen, any one of the following serves as an identification number:

  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Passport number and country of issuance
  • Alien identification card number
  • Number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or other similar safeguard.

In addition, an international student is required to fill out Form W-8 BEN. The W-8 BEN form is necessary to establish that you are not a U.S. citizen and determine if taxes should be withheld from your account. This form is available at the bank itself or on the Internal Revenue Service website: www.irs.gov

Important Points to Remember While Using Your Bank Account

  • Be sure to have adequate funds in your account, when you write checks.  Spending more money than you have available can be very expensive. There are fees charged by both, the bank and the vendor, in case a cheque bounces.
  • Never sign a check before you are ready to use it, and never give someone a cheque with just your signature on it.
  • You should also record all checks and ATM transactions, as soon as you make them. 
  • You should watch your monthly statement carefully to see that all transactions are parallel to your deposits and withdrawals.
  • If you wish to deposit money in your account, you can take cash to the bank, mail a check to the bank, or use an authorized ATM. Never mail cash to your bank.
  • To deposit a check made to you, you must first sign the check on the back. You should always print “For Deposit Only” and your account number with your signature, so that the money will be placed into your account.

If you attend a large college with a lot of students, you likely will have many banks from which to choose. You can visit each bank and ask for more information before you decide where to open an account. Other international students as well as international student services also may be able to advise you on which banks are accustomed to working with international students.

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