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International Students & Scholars

MONEY MATTERS & Banking in the U.S.

New York can be expensive. Here are some tips on managing your money in the U.S. and building credit.

There are many banking options in New York, shop around before choosing a bank. Look at what services are offered like online banking, ATM locations, bank locations and hours. Not all banks charge fees, but many do. Pay special attention to any monthly fees that will be charged.

To open an account, you will have to present your passport, an I-20 Form, an I-94 arrival record and a letter from ISS which will certify your legal status and local address in the U.S.


Money-Wise Tips

  • Keep track of your accounts. In addition to checking your account online, you will receive a monthly statement detailing transactions. Check it regularly.
  • There are often limits on ATM withdrawals - check with your bank about limits.
  • ATMs will charge a fee if it isn’t operated by your bank.
  • Late fees are charged for bills that are not paid on time.

Financial Planning for your stay in the U.S.

Creating a budget will help you track your expenses and ensure your money lasts. Once you have settled, look at your expenses to create a budget. Include the following: tuition, fees, rent, meals, health insurance, books, transportation, communications (i.e. cell phone), clothes, personal expenses, travel and recreation.


Building Credit

As an international student, you might not have any established credit in the U.S. This means you may have to pay a large deposit on a cell phone or have lower maximums on credit cards. Here are a few ways in which you can build your U.S.

  • If you live off-campus, have some of the utility bills (i.e. electric, gas, cable) listed in your name. Paying bills on time and in full builds credit.
  • When you rent, ensure the lease agreement is in your name.
  • Credit card payment history. Paying bills on-time and in-full will build your credit.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, social security number, or other personal information to commit fraud or crimes. Some common ways this information might be used are: using your credit card information to purchase items, opening a new credit card in your name, establishing phone service in your name, opening a bank account in your name and not paying the bills.


Are you are a victim of identity theft?

You can tell if you have been a victim of identity theft by tracking your finances and your bills closely.

  • Review your monthly bank and credit card statements for charges or withdrawals you did not make.
  • You receive credit cards for which you did not apply.
  • You stop receiving your bills in the mail.
  • You begin receiving phone calls from debt collectors for merchandise or services you did not purchase.

If you experience any of these, you may be a victim of identity theft. Each of these things may occur because of a simple mistake, always follow up with the business to investigate.


Protecting yourself from identity theft

Unless you initiate contact with a person or company, never share the following information with anyone:

  • credit card numbers
  • bank account numbers
  • social security number 
  • your mother’s “maiden name”

Carry only necessary information with you in your wallet and do not carry any passwords or PIN numbers. Notify credit card companies immediately if the cards are lost. Keep extra checks, credit cards and other documents in a secure place in your home, and tear up any receipts or anything else bearing personal information before throwing them away.

Information adapted from Managing Your Money, National Association of International Educators (NAFSA)