Do I Need A U.S. Bank Account While Studying in the USA?

Finances are a top concern for international students whether it’s tuition, scholarships, financial aid, or finding a job to earn money. One of the more commonly overlooked questions regarding finances is whether international students should open a U.S. bank account while studying in the USA.

It is strongly recommended that international students open a U.S. bank account once they arrive to study in the USA. Managing your finances with a foreign bank account while in the USA will be difficult. It can also be quite expensive as many banks charge foreign transaction fees and ATM fees.

While there are many different types of bank accounts, it is recommended that international students open a checking account that offers them a debit or Automatic Teller (ATM) card. This will allow you to easily deposit and withdraw cash from an ATM.

No matter which bank you choose, whether it is a bank affiliated with your school, or a large national bank, they all require the same documents to be provided in order to open a bank account in the United States:

  • your unexpired passport
  • your I-20, DS-2019 or I-797 approval notice
  • your I-94 card
  • a secondary form of identification, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate
  • and for students not eligible for a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, Form W-8 BEN

In addition, most schools will provide you with a letter confirming your status as a student at their institution.

Opening a bank account in the USA may seem like a challenge, but there are many resources available to assist you. Check with your school’s international student office as they will have resources and recommendations for you in regards to opening a U.S. bank account.

Brianna Burrows is a freelance marketing specialist and alumna of Northeastern University. She specializes in event management, social media management, and content branding. She can be reached at briannaburrows@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

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