Income and Finance

Opening and maintaining a checking, savings or credit card account

You should open a checking or 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 can 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 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 can be found here.

Employment options

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

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 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/practical-training/.

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.