Resources > Section 17 > Orientation > Living in the US
#17-174Banking & FraudPDFReturnURL
This section has a variety of information that is useful to know when living in the United States.
Open a local bank account so that your host can pay you conveniently and so that you don’t need to carry around extra cash around or keep it in your residence. Rules and service vary from bank to bank, even branch to branch. You may start your search early even before your arrival in the States.
Step 1 Choose a bank. Before arrival, research the different banks in the area that you will be interning in and ask questions via the online chat and 1800 (tollfree). The largest banks in the US are Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup. For online banks, the common ones are Capital One, CIT Bank, and PurePoint Financial. Each region has banks that are more prevalent than others (e.g., in New York, Chase and Bank of America are among the most prevalent, while in Boston, Bank of America and Citizen Bank are more popular). While most banks charge a fee for using another bank’s ATM machine, some online banks do not charge any additional international ATM withdrawal fees.

• Most banks have student checks – this way, you can avoid fees required by normal accounts
• Most banks’ checking, savings, bank money market accounts, and CDs are covered by FDIC (up to a limit)
• Location of different branches/ATMs, usability of the online banking/mobile app
• What are the fees involved? Do they offer “student checking”? Is it easy to close the account?
• Can you use payment apps (e.g., Zelle or Venmo) with the bank account? Is there a monthly maintenance fee?
• Is it easy to speak to a real person online? Are they helpful?
• What are the required documents for exchange visitors with a valid Form DS-2019?

Step 2 Apply. After confirming your local US address, gather the required documents. SSN is not required to open a US bank account. It is only required when banks or vendors need to check your financial credit history (e.g., for credit card). Go to your chosen bank to open at least a checking account to pay bills (e.g., rent or utilities) and receive your salary. Below lists the required documents for opening a bank account (varies by bank).

• Account opening form (vary by bank)
• Photo ID 1 and 2, i.e., passport and permanent resident ID
• US address proof, e.g., phone bill, lease, or utility bill
Form DS-2019 and/or Form I-94 to prove your immigration status
Student ID to prove your student status
Form W-8BEN in place of your SSN

Step 3 Wrap up. After opening your bank account, download the mobile app, choose paperless statement, and obtain an ATM/debit card that allows you to manage your account at an ATM and pay for items and services (note that debit and credit cards are different although a debit card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it). The bank may automatically enroll you in overdraft protection which may incur penalties and recurring interest charges without being aware of them – opt out if you don’t need it. Identify theft and bank fraud are common in the US – read through the rest of this section/document for more.

• Download the mobile app, sign up for SMS notifications, and allow push alerts
• Do not write down your PIN or passwords (memorize them)
• Choose paperless statement to prevent identity theft resulting from stolen mail
• For excess money not needed for daily expenses, put them in your savings account
• Keep excess money in your savings to minimize unauthorized use of your debit card to pay for items and services
• Opt out of the “overdraft protection” if you don’t need it
1COVID-19 updatesTravel alertsCBP
2To report a scam, a company, or an unwanted call, and find out what you can do to protect yourself.ComplaintsFTC
3If you have a complaint about your car, file it with the dealer, lender, or manufacturer but don't get results.ComplaintsFTC
4To report scams and identity theft.ComplaintsFTC
5Guidance to air travelersTravel alertsFAA
6Arrival restrictions for foreign nationalsTravel alertsDHS
7Poison Control Center - 1-800-222-1222 (24/7)EmergenciesPoison
8Environmental emergenciesEmergenciesEPA
9Fire safetyEmergenciesFire Admin
10Requirements for air travelers to the USTravel alertsCBP
11Response to COVID-19Travel alertsTSA
12Apply for state-ID or driver’s licenseLiving in the USDMV
13File tax returnsLiving in the USIRS
14Apply for Social Security CardLiving in the USSSA
15Agency within the HHS that focuses on behavioral healthLiving in the USHHS
16National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)Living in the USHOPE
17Locate health centersLiving in the USHRSA
18Resources to find and understand the government services and information.Living in the
19Emergency preparedness and responseEmergenciesCDC
20To report a bad landlords.ComplaintsHUD