Income and Finance

Bank Accounts

You should  open a checking and savings account with a bank. These accounts are places to store your money. They help you keep track of money you are spending, earning and saving.

This is different from a credit card. With a checking or savings account, you can only spend money you actually have.

Checking and savings accounts allow you to deposit money you have earned.  When you open a checking account, you get paper checks. You can use them to pay for goods, services, or bills. The business you have paid will have to process your check first. That amount will then be deducted for your checking account.

You will also get a debit card. A debit card can pay for things without writing out a paper check.

This card is similar to a credit card. It is plastic and equipped with a number. But when you pay with a debit card, money is immediately deducted from your checking account. On the other hand, a credit card balance can be paid later.

You can remove money from your checking account in the form of cash from automated teller machines (commonly called the “ATM”). Your debit card can be used for this.

You can also open a savings account. A savings account is good for storing money that you don’t wish to immediately spend. This money is good to save for emergencies or special occasions.

You might have to remove money from your savings account. You might also want to move it to a different account. This requires either a transfer, which your bank can help you with. Money from your savings account can also be removed as cash from the ATM.

Most banks have websites. These websites can let you do many things through the Internet, like:

  • Check your balance
  • Transfer money between accounts
  • Pay bills on the Internet

These websites can also let people you trust access your account. You might want to give your parents access. That way, they can deposit money into your account(s) in case of emergency. Choose these people carefully.

Some of the more popular U.S. banks for these purposes are:

These banks are large, national companies. They have with branches, offices and ATMs throughout the United States.

There are also smaller, local banks where you can open checking and savings accounts. They can be found through your college or university’s Student Services office. You can also find them through Internet research.

Employment options

Employment options for undergraduate students are to a largely limited to on-campus employment. The office of International Student Services can provide you with detailed information.

At a later time during and after graduation, the type of employment you can pursue depends on your visa and there are some conditions. Information about employment for international students can be found at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/employment.

Many student will also consider You can also complete OPT. OPT stands for Optional Practical Training.  For OPT, you have to be studying in the U.S. for at least 9 months. You will need one of these visas:

  • F-1
  • H-1B

OPT will let you get hands-on work experience in your field of study for generally one year.

More information about OPT can be found at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/opt.htm.

Credit Score

A credit score is a number that says how timely you pay your bills. Credit card companies look at this score before they decide whether or not to give you a card.

You might ask:

“How can I get a credit score if I haven’t used a credit card yet?”

“And how can I get a credit card if I don’t have a credit card?”

It might seem complicated. There are always solutions.

You can open a credit card account with a co-signer. A co-signer is someone with good credit. This person’s name will go on the credit card account with yours. If you can’t pay your bill yourself, your co-signer has to. Being a co-signer is a big responsibility.

You will build a good credit score if you always pay your bill on time. With a good credit score, you won’t need a co-signer.

Social Security Number (SSN)

A Social Security Number is a nine-digit number issued by the United States Government to track contributions for Social  Security, which provides future pension payments. Many organizations ask for this number as a form of identification and it is required for employment.

You do not need a SSN to open a bank account. Other identification in combination with your visa will be sufficient.

At a later time, you may consider or need to apply for a SSN. In order to apply for a SSN, you must have permission from the Department of Homeland Security to seek employment. The type of visa you have usually defines this permission.   For further information, you can check the official government information [English only) at:  http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10181.html