Opening a US Bank Account

September 1st, 2006 by admin

Why Open a US Bank Account?

A US bank account will make managing your finances a lot easier, and you should set one up as soon as you arrive. You can deposit your financial aid awards, loans and stipends, all of which are typically paid to you by check, as well as money from home. You can pay all of your bills by check, and with most bank accounts, you can even manage and make all of your bill payments online. In addition, most banks now issue debit cards with a MasterCard or Visa emblem, which means you can use the card to make purchases against your account anywhere that accepts credit cards, including online and in stores. Paying cash or purchasing money orders for payments is inefficient, carrying cash can also be dangerous and paying in cash doesn’t leave much evidence behind to prove your payment in case of a dispute. Certainly a bank account will make budgeting a lot easier.

How Do I Open a Bank Account?

Even though lots of banks now advertise that they allow new customers to open accounts online or by phone, as an international student, plan to open your account in person at a local branch. You do not fit neatly into a category for US banks, and if you need additional services it’s always good to have established a face to face relationship. When you go, make sure you bring your passport and the funds you want to deposit. In addition, you should bring as many of the following documents or ids as you have — although every bank has slightly different requirements, in addition to your passport you will likely need at least one of the following: your school id, your state driver’s license or id, your visa, your I-20, and your I-94. You do not need to have a social security number to open an account. If a bank asks for it, offer up your passport and any of the other id documents mentioned above.

Many schools have relationships with banks where they refer their international students. Ask your international student office or check their website for any guidance to a specific bank. If a bank is used to seeing international students for new accounts, things will go smoother. Here’s a good example of the guidance that an International Student Office can provide to its incoming students, from the University of Wisconsin.

How Do I Choose a Bank and an Account?

Banks offer many different financial services. You may wish to compare the services and costs of several banks before choosing one at which to open an account. If your school has a relationship with a particular bank for all of its international students, you should certainly consider that bank first. You will need a checking account for proper money management (for writing checks, online bill payment, debit cards, etc.), and if you have large amounts of money just sitting in your account, it may make sense to open a savings account as well. Investigate the accounts the bank has available, with an eye towards how much it could cost you to keep the account. Find out whether the bank offers interest on checking accounts, what the interest rate is on savings accounts and whether the account offers overdraft protection. Hopefully you never write a check, accidentally, for more than you have in your account — but if you do, does the bank pay the check and just fine you, or do they refuse payment to the company you wrote the check to (“bounce” the check)? If so, both the company AND the bank will fine you and that adds up quickly!

Ask how long it will take to “clear” a check — that is, how long from the time a check is deposited in your account until the time you are allowed to withdraw the funds. Typically wired funds are available immediately, but the “hold” on checks (local, out-of-state and foreign) varies by state and by bank, and can be several days to a week or even longer.

Most major US banks offer “student checking”, accounts and services designed specifically for students — here’s a small sample:

Wachovia Bank Student Checking
Key Bank Student Checking
Bank of America Student Checking

Initial Money Needs on Arrival

You should evaluate your needs for the first few weeks of school — most schools suggest bringing about $2,000 in readily available funds. You can bring this amount in traveler’s checks, or better yet, bring your foreign bank card, after checking that it will work in US ATMs (automated teller machines), to access an account at home. All other money can be wired to your new US bank account after you arrive. Remember, if you have a scholarship, assistantship or another form of employment, it will typically take a month or more to get your first payment, so make sure you have enough money to live for your first few weeks.

Before you arrive, find out from your bank at home how to wire money to the US, and how much it will cost in fees. After you have set up your new bank account, you can arrange the transfer by providing your home bank with your US bank details. You will need to provide your account number, the US bank’s name and address, and the US bank’s ABA number. Wire transfers typically take between 2-5 days. Ask your home bank for a confirmation once the funds are wired.

Check out our posts on Evaluating School Program Costs and on Creating a Realistic Budget.

School Estimated Budget vs. Reality

August 25th, 2006 by admin

When you are admitted to a US institution, take a close look at the international student budget provided by your school. These estimated expenses will also appear on your I-20, and they are usually accurate insofar as they go. International students are required to prove that they have funds to cover the full amount shown, and you cannot arrange for more financial aid once you arrive at school. Click here to see three samples of school-estimated international student budgets from our last post.

Although the summary budget provided by your school and shown on your I-20 is helpful in outlining some of the bigger expenses, like tuition, fees, and if you live on campus, room and board, it does not tell the full story. For instance, if you are not planning to live on campus, you should check carefully what your accommodations will cost. There is always a range of off-campus housing, and costs vary widely. Some students want their own luxury one-bedroom condo, while some are happy to share an old 2-bedroom apartment with 3 other students. Perhaps the biggest variant is the “Personal/Other” category, for which most schools include a budgeted amount between $1,000 and $2,000. For many students who intend to travel, who may need clothes, who have taxes to pay, who call home frequently, or who like to eat out, or who spend money in any other myriad ways, this number may not be realistic at all.

Use this list to help you think about all the possible expenses you may have. When you prepare your own realistic budget, make sure you have considered all of the following categories:


* Tuition
* Fees
* Rent
* Meals (Board)
* Health Insurance
* Medical costs (doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and eye care)
* Books and supplies (computer equipment, etc.)
* Communications (cell phone, internet, home phone, international calling)
* Utilities (electric, water, gas, cable)
* Car ownership (insurance, registration, gas, parking, repairs, etc.)
* Other transportation (buses, trains, etc.)
* Clothes
* Personal Expenses (laundry, haircuts, contact lenses, eyeglasses, etc.)
* Family Expenses
* Entertainment (shows, restaurants, nights at the pub, dates, movies, cds, music, parties, etc.)
* Recreation (gym fees, club dues, hobbies, teams)
* Travel
* Taxes (you will pay US taxes on assistantships, scholarships, job income, etc.)
* Bank fees, credit card payments, etc.

Preparing a realistic budget can be an uncomfortable experience, as it forces you to examine how you spend your money. However, going through the process will ensure that you have a good handle on how much money you actually need to live. Or you will understand much better that you’ve really got to cut back in certain areas to make your budget hold up in the US.

Having a US bank account can really help you stick to a budget. You can set bills up for automatic payment, write checks or use a debit card instead of carrying cash, and track all of your expenses much more accurately and easily.

Next Post: Opening a US Bank Account

Evaluating School Program Costs

August 18th, 2006 by admin

International students spend a lot of time and energy trying to find enough financial resources to fund their foreign study. An important part of this effort is understanding exactly how much money you will need for your time overseas, and then carefully managing your finances to stay within your budget. Dealing with a new currency and cost of living add to the challenge, but with a little effort and planning you won’t have to spend your academic experience in a constant state of panic over money.

Evaluating School Program Costs

The first step is to carefully evaluate the cost of your program, and be realistic about your ability to afford a particular school. Many students are amazed at the range of cost for the same basic product — a US post-secondary education. To give you some idea of the range of cost you can expect, here are the 2006/2007 estimated annual international student budgets at 3 schools — Harvard Law School ($59,300), the University of Washington ($38,312), and Western New Mexico University ($14,867):

Harvard Law School

Tuition $ 37,100
Room/Board/Personal $ 16,966
Health & Insurance Fees $ 2,606
Books and Supplies $ 1,050
Travel Allowance $ 1,578

University of Washington:

Full-time Tuition & Fees $ 23,113
Health Insurance (required) $ 1,536
Room & Board on Campus $ 9,902
Books & Supplies $ 1,100
Transportation (local) $ 396
Clothing, Entertainment,
Personal Items $ 2,265
Total Annual Expenses $ 38,312

Western New Mexico University (Graduate):

Insurance, Health and Accident $ 500
Tuition and fees $ 7997
On-campus room and board $ 4,370
Textbooks/supplies $ 1,000
Other/personal living expenses $ 1,000
(*not including travel)

A 3-year program at Harvard Law School would cost close to $200,000, while a 3-year graduate program at Western New Mexico University would cost less than $50,000. Remember, these estimated budgets, though usually fairly accurate insofar as they go, do not necessarily cover all of your needs, as the personal living expenses are unlikely to capture all of the travel and basic needs you will face. Also, the cost of living is much greater in urban areas like Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and you’ve got to take that into account when evaluating personal needs.

Next topic: Preparing a realistic budget

Last minute funding?

August 15th, 2006 by admin

Did you know that you can apply for funding with and receive preliminary approval in as little as 15 minutes? With the International Student Loan for international students studying in the USA and Canada you can apply as long as you meet the following guidelines:

– An Undergraduate or Graduate Student
– Enrolled at least half-time
– Attending a Teri-Approved School
– Proof of Enrollment
– An eligible US Cosigner

For full information about the eligibility guidelines and to apply please visit:
International Student Loan Program

Which US Schools Offer Financial Aid to International Students?

July 3rd, 2006 by admin

Lots of research and early planning are the most effective tools for figuring out how to afford a US higher education. If you are a good student, there are lots of US colleges and universities that want you to enroll — but which ones are more likely to offer you a financial aid package that will make it affordable for you? Although the amount of financial aid offered to international students shouldn’t be your only criteria for choosing a school in the US, it is helpful to know before you apply what type of aid is typically offered. The link below will take you to’s searchable list of US schools that award financial aid to international students. The list shows the number of international students, the number of international financial aid awards, and the average amount of the award — use it in your early planning:

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June 29th, 2006 by admin

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Still Time to Apply for Junior Year Abroad Reality Webshow

June 26th, 2006 by admin

If you plan to study abroad this fall, check out this show that NBC Digital Studios has planned. You still have a week to get your audition in — this would be a great way to pay for your time abroad!

J.Y.A. (Junior Year Abroad), a new show from NBC Digital Studios, chronicles the first-person travel escapades and cultural discoveries of ten college students living and studying in all corners of the globe. With camera-wielding students in five unique continents, the show will capture all facets of life abroad, as lived and breathed by our cast. Our audience will experience the journeys vicariously through our young travelers, while learning interesting country facts and meeting colorful locals along the way. J.Y.A. and its accompanying website will soon become the definitive on-line destination for anyone with a penchant for global travel and a voracious appetite for adventure!

Could be you! Are you planning to study abroad in the fall of ’06? Do you love to be in front of the camera? Do you thrive on the adrenaline of foreign travel? Do you have charisma oozing from your ears? Then we want YOUR audition tape! NBC Digital Studios is currently casting for the premiere season of J.Y.A.. We’re searching for bright, articulate college students who wish to self-document the adventure of a lifetime. Cast members will receive cameras, tape stock, monetary compensation, and possible cash bonuses. Sound too good to be true? It isn’t!

Click here for more:

Better Resources for US Students Abroad

June 21st, 2006 by admin

US students that want to spend their college career overseas have difficulty finding funding at the right levels. Here’s the press release where made a splash with higher loan limits of $50,000 per year for undergrads, and $70,000 per year for grads. Stafford loans alone just don’t do the trick. Announces Higher Loan Limits for Foreign Enrolled Students
To see the original release, go to:

For US students that enroll directly in a foreign school for their undergraduate or graduate education, costs are higher and funding options are much more limited than for domestic study. Federal loans can only cover a portion of the cost, and other aid is often not available. To address escalating funding needs, has introduced higher funding limits for the Foreign Enrolled Loan for US students studying at approved foreign schools, allowing students to borrow the full cost of their international education.

Quincy, MA (PRWEB) June 20, 2006 — For US students that enroll directly in a foreign school for their undergraduate or graduate education, costs are higher and funding options are much more limited than for domestic study. Federal loans can only cover a portion of the cost, other aid is often not available, and the weakened dollar puts many already expensive but popular destinations for US students, like the United Kingdom and Western Europe, out of reach. Private student loans have become an increasingly popular and available method to finance an international education.

We are delighted to offer a loan with higher funding limits that are more realistic considering all of the costs associated with an international education. Although we encourage students to avail themselves of federal aid and scholarships whenever possible, the shortfall can be quite dramatic. Our Foreign Enrolled Loan can fill the gap, or can be the sole funding source when necessary.

To address escalating funding needs, has introduced an improved Foreign Enrolled Loan for US students studying at approved foreign schools. The Foreign Enrolled Loan now has high funding limits of $50,000 per year for undergraduates and $70,000 per year for graduate study, allowing students to borrow the full cost of their international education. Keith Clausen, President of, commented “We are delighted to offer a loan with higher funding limits that are more realistic considering all of the costs associated with an international education. Although we encourage students to avail themselves of federal aid and scholarships whenever possible, the shortfall can be quite dramatic. Our Foreign Enrolled Loan can fill the gap, or can be the sole funding source when necessary.”

Hundreds of foreign schools are approved for the Foreign Enrolled Loan, including medical, dental, business and law schools, with more schools being approved all the time. There are no application fees or out-of-pocket costs, borrowers can apply online or by phone, and the entire process can be completed in as little as 2 weeks.

“As the value of an international education continues to grow, and demand for internationally-trained graduates soars, more and more US students are enrolling directly in foreign schools. These students need realistic financing options. With deferred repayment, competitive rates and a simple application process, foreign enrolled students can access private loans just as readily as domestic students.” added Mr. Clausen.

Undergraduate and graduate students can apply for the Foreign Enrolled Loan at or by calling (800) 926-3069.

Contact Keith Clausen at e-mail protected from spam bots for more information. is owned and operated by Envisage International Corporation and has been helping students from all over the world achieve their goals of international education since 1998. is a proud member of the International Student Network and the Student Loan Network, which can be found on the web at and


Private Student Loans for International Students

June 20th, 2006 by admin

Financing an education in the United States is difficult, even for a US student.For international students, paying for college in the US is even harder.Almost two-thirds of all students enrolled at private four-year US schools receive loans of some type.US students can receive loans guaranteed by the government (Stafford loans, among others), but these valuable loans are not available to international students.Luckily, private student loans are available to international students on the same terms received by US students.

Before applying for a loan, you should exhaust the following potential funding sources:

1. Apply for international student financial aid from your school.Here’s a searchable list of schools awarding financial aid to international students:

2. Research and apply for international student scholarships on your own:

3. Carefully evaluate how much money you or your family can provide towards your education.Every dollar you can pay directly is one less dollar you have to borrow.

Some international students can fund their US education simply using the sources above.However, like US students, most international students will need to fund at least a portion of their US education, if not the entire amount, with loans.

·US Co-Signer Required.International student loans require a US citizen or permanent resident (Green card holder) as a co-signer.The loans are credit-based, meaning the co-signer must have good credit history, good employment history (or other income history if the co-signer does not work), and must have lived in the US for the past two years.Although not everyone can find a family member, friend or other US citizen or permanent resident to co-sign for them, for those that do, they can access private student loans on the same basis as US students.

·Funds Paid Directly to You. Loan funds are paid to you, not to the school.This is a great feature in that you can use the funds for living expenses – but it also means that it is up to you to use the funds responsibly.Pay your tuition, room and board, health insurance and books first – anything extra is a luxury!

·Repayment. Repayment of an international student loan can be deferred while you are in school, and for six months after you finish school.After that, you will have up to 20 years to repay the loan, with a payment due every month. You are also eligible for hardship extensions if you run into unexpected circumstances that prevent you from being able to repay the loan for a short period of time.

·Proof of Finances. One nice feature of international student loans is that you can use the initial loan approval to satisfy the school and visa requirement of showing one year’s financial resources. You can apply for the loan without the proof of enrollment from your school, and receive conditional approval. Then you can provide your school with the conditional approval from the lender, and the school will see you have the necessary funds. Typically, a financial aid officer or international student advisor at a US school is quite familiar with this process and will help you. After admission and enrollment, you can complete the loan process and receive your funds.

·Interest Rates. Interest rates are variable, based on the LIBOR plus a margin.LIBOR is always several points below prime, so the margin is from 3.5% to 7.75%, and will be set by the lender based on the credit history of your co-signer and the repayment plan you select.The better your co-signer, the better your rate! LIBOR changes monthly, up or down, so the rate will be reset monthly. Click here for repayment examples for a $10,000 undergraduate international student loan:

·Online Application.You can apply online or by phone, and receive an almost immediate response as to whether you are conditionally approved for the loan.Then, you will need to sign the promissory note, and provide proof of enrollment and immigration status to receive your funds.

·No Application Fees.There are no application fees to apply for an international student loan.There is an origination fee if you actually receive the loan, but that amount is rolled into the loan amount and does not have to be paid out of pocket.

For more information on international student loans, visit

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