Dec 09, 2023  
International Student Handbook 
International Student Handbook

Financial Matters in the US

As an international student, you will encounter some expenses as soon as you arrive in the United States (US). These costs may include transportation from the airport, a hotel stay while you search for more permanent housing, or until you can move into housing, meals out, a deposit on a rental unit, first and last month’s rent, furnishings, etc.

 US Currency

US currency is based on a decimal system, with one dollar ($1 or $1.00) equal to one hundred cents. Coin currency is used for amounts less than one dollar; the most common coins and their equivalencies follow:

  • Penny equals one cent or 0.01 dollars.

  • Nickel equals five cents or 0.05 dollars.

  • Dime equals ten cents or 0.10 dollars.

  • Quarter equals twenty-five cents or 0.25 dollars.

Paper currency, all printed in green and white, is most often circulated in the amounts of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, or $100. The slang term for a dollar bill is a “buck,” so $50 may be referred to as “fifty bucks.”

It would help if you arrived with some US currency for any immediate needs upon arrival. Most banks, international airports, and hotels will exchange foreign paper currency for a service fee; very few exchange foreign coinage.

Pay attention to drastic fluctuations in the exchange rates between your home country’s and US currencies. If your home currency is decreasing in value, you may wish to conduct all transactions in US currency.

It is important to remember that bringing large amounts of cash is not ideal; some safe options include:
  • Traveler’s Checks - have them issued in US dollars; large denominations are harder to use. 

  • ATM/Debit Card - make sure you know your bank’s fees/charges and restrictions on using your card in US ATMs; alert your bank about your travel plans.

  • Credit Card - check for fees and restrictions, and alert your credit card company of when and where you will be traveling. 

  • Bank Check/Draft - helpful in transferring a large sum of money, but can take up to a few weeks to become available. 

  • Wire transfer - safe and available quickly, but a U.S. bank account must be opened first. 

 About US Banking

Within the first few days of your arrival, you will want to open a checking account with a bank on or near campus if you have not already opened an account online before you arrive or if your home bank account does not operate in the US. You will need to open a new account.

  • You may directly deposit traveler’s checks for free in most cases or arrange for a wire transfer from your home bank for a fee of about $35. 

  • Always have sufficient funds in your account to cover all outstanding checks; if you “overdraw,” the bank may impose expensive fees.

  • There is usually a waiting period of a few days before you may withdraw the money you deposit as a way for the bank to protect itself from fraud.

 Banking Requirements

Banks will generally ask for the following items but may request additional items: 
  • A current passport

  • A copy I-20

  • Proof of address (a piece of mail with your US address on it, preferably a utility or phone bill, or a copy of your lease for housing)

  • A letter of enrollment from your college (you may print an enrollment letter from your CAMS account or provide a copy of your admissions letter)

  • A personal identification number

* Some US banks may request an SSN or ITIN (if you do not have an SSN). As a non-US citizen, you are not eligible for an SSN unless you have been authorized to work, and you may apply for an ITIN only if you need to file taxes and do not have an SSN. There are US banks that will not ask for an SSN and may request other evidence of your status in the US once you identify your international student status.

 Banking Fees

Most banks offer several different types of checking accounts. One bank might bear interest if you maintain a minimum balance; another might provide a limited number of free checks. Learn about all options before deciding which type of account is best for you, and make sure you include fees in your research.

There are a few potential bank fees you might run into when you have a US bank account. Before opening your account, confirm with your bank if you will incur any of the following:
  • Account Fees: Some banks will charge you a fee purely for having an account with them; this is usually charged monthly (referred o as a “monthly maintenance fee”). It is recommended to research which banks charge monthly fees and those that do not.
  • ATM Fees: This is an extra fee to draw money from an ATM through a different bank. These fees can vary but are usually anywhere from $1 to $15 per transaction. ATM cards allow account holders to make deposits, withdrawals, and other transactions at any time, 24 hours a day, through machines located throughout campus and shopping districts. If you have an ATM card from a bank in your home country, ask whether the US bank will honor it; some Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) cross national borders, while others do not. As a safety precaution, most ATMs limit the daily withdrawal amount. If you lose your ATM card, report it immediately to your bank.
  • Transfer Fees: Sometimes, money transfers are necessary. Usually, transferring funds from one of your accounts to another through the same company (e.g., from your checking to your saving account) is free; however, a fee may occur when transferring to or from an account through a different bank.
  • Insufficient Funds Charge: If you pay with a check that doesn’t clear due to insufficient funds in your account or overspending on your debit card without an overdraft, you will be charged. Always check the fees before getting charged for an unnecessary transaction.
  • Overdraft: If you spend more than what’s in your bank account, you will incur an overdraft fee. Since the bank had allowed a payment to go through when there was a lack of funds, you will be penalized with an overdraft fee.
  • Paper Statements: Online banking has become the norm. As many banks strive to reduce their environmental impact, many are even starting to charge an additional fee for paper statements. Online banking will also give you access to your account information during non-banking hours.
  • Lost Card Fee: Make sure you keep track of your card, or you could have to pay to replace the original. One exception you will often see to this fee is if your card has been stolen.
  • US Checks: Generally, retail stores accept checks only if they are drawn from an in-state bank. Be prepared to show some photo identification, such as a driver’s license, student ID, or passport (though you may not want to carry such an important document with you all the time).
  • Wire Transfers: International money transfers through banks often come with a hefty fee; because of this, many international students choose to receive funds through a third-party wire transfer company. If you plan on using wire transfers during your time as an international student, make sure you research a variety of companies before committing to one.
Here are a few things to consider during the process to ensure you find the best company for you:
  • Fees

  • Available support

  • Minimum and maximum wire transfer amounts

  • Country restrictions

  • Exchange rates

  • Ratings and security qualifications

  • Transfer speed

Learn more about wire transfers as an international student.

 Choosing a US Bank


  • The convenience of location to you

  • If online and mobile banking services are offered

  • The minimum amount required to open a checking account

  • Minimum monthly balance required to avoid the bank closing your account or paying a service charge

  • Bank lobby hours of operation

  • Drive-in hours of operation

  • Monthly service charge

  • Charge on returned checks

  • Price of purchasing checks

  • The minimum amount required to open a savings account and the rate of interest

  • Location(s) of ATMs

  • The amount for fees such as the overdraft fee

Some US Banks specifically offer international student bank accounts, while most provide general student accounts that may or may not accommodate international student banking. 

 List of Banking Options

Below is a list of banks (in alphabetical order) that specifically identified international students’ banking services. You should conduct further research on all possible options for your banking needs.

Important: Florida Poly has not partnered with nor endorses the following resources. They are being provided as a tool and resource to assist international students. Banking services and criteria can change.


One payment option accepted nationwide is the credit card. You may find it challenging to make certain purchases without a credit card. In most instances, you may need one to place an order by phone, rent a car, or buy airline tickets. 

A credit card may become a costly payment option if you cannot pay the balance on the account within the specified grace period-typically between 20 and 30 days. Be careful to read all the details of the credit card offer before committing to it; also, know the structure of the credit card company’s annual fees, such as how much and when they charge it to your card. Learn all you can use so that you can make an informed decision. 

Please visit the following links for additional information about financial matters in the US:​
References: International, Money Matters, and, Looking for the best international student bank account in the US?

As an international student, you will encounter some expenses as soon as you arrive in the United States (US). These costs may include transportation from the airport; hotel stays while you search for more permanent housing or until you can move into housing, meals out, a deposit on a rental unit, first and last month’s rent, furnishings, etc.