If you are going to stay in USA for a while you should have a debit or credit card so that you can make payment using it and withdraw money. The cost varies considerably according to the type of transaction and card.
If you have a card from your country, talk to your bank to see if it works at American ATMs (most American banks support this system), but if you plan to stay in the US for a while, you should open an American account and apply for a card, this will save you transaction costs.
Here are the basics of credit and debit card, insurance and bank account.
In the United States you can use your credit card anywhere. The most common cards are MasterCard, Visa and American Express. There are stickers on store doors that show which cards are accepted. If you have a PIN code for your card, you can use it to withdraw money from an ATM, but keep in mind that withdrawal carrier charge which is usually quite high.
Most credit card companies do not charge you for the card. When you apply, compare several banks and department stores before deciding which one is best for you. Some banks do not give credit cards to immigrants who have just arrived, and remember that in the United States you need a Social Security number in order to apply for a credit card.
Most debit cards have a Visa or MasterCard logo indicating that they can be used in the same way as a credit card. The difference is that with them the money is debited directly from your checking account.
Once your bank account is opened, you will receive the debit card with its corresponding PIN code (usually a secret four-digit number). This card allows you to withdraw money from almost every ATM in the United States. If you take it out of your bank’s ATMs or from partner banks, it will be free with no commission charged (which is usually between $2 and $4).
You can also print your bank statement consisting of all the transactions. The income is receivables and the payments are debits.
Opening a bank account in the United States is quite simple, you just need to show an official ID such as a passport or driver’s license and make an initial deposit.
In the United States there are many banks and competition between them is enormous, so the customer has more options to choose from.
Most banks offer a wide range of banking, investment and insurance services, and many also offer home buying advice. As prices, services and conditions can vary greatly, it is best to do some research before making a decision. All banks offer online banking, and there are also some banks that are only online, such as ING Direct (www.ing.com).
You don’t usually need a social security number to open an account, so almost everyone can open a checking or savings account in the US.
The most common thing in the U.S. is to have a checking account. Most transactions, such as collecting wages or paying rent, are done through this type of account. In general, a checking account allows you to:
- Withdraw money from the ATM with a debit card. It’s usually free if you do it at your bank teller. But if you use another bank’s, they’ll charge a couple of dollars.
- Transfer money between accounts
- Pay by check
- Direct debit of receipts
- Using telephone or Internet banking
- At many banks you can choose between different types of checking accounts that offer different services (e.g. internet banking, interest, free credit card, etc.), but bank charges vary. If you are a student, you can request to be exempted from bank charges.
Before choosing a bank, make sure you can answer the following questions:
- Once my account is opened, can I withdraw money from the ATM immediately?
- Where can I get money without being charged (there are many banks that have agreements with other banks so that their customers can get money for free)?
- Can I pay my bills online?
- Will I receive a debit card immediately?
- When can I apply for a credit card and how long does it take?
- What expenses does my account have?
- Can I have low balance (less than the minimum required) and how much does this service cost? Being able to stay in the red (“overdraft protection”) allows you to have a negative balance in your account up to a limit set by the bank. The amount usually depends on your monthly income. The interest when you have a negative balance is very high, so it is recommended that you use it only in case of emergency.
Before providing you with any services, the bank will look at your account for the first few months to see if you have regular income. American banks are usually quite conservative when it comes to granting credit cards. In order to have a credit card in the United States you need a valid Social Security number.
If you want to save, savings accounts give you better interest rates, but a savings account can’t replace a checking account. Savings accounts do not allow direct debit, bill payment, and check book. Ask your bank what is the best interest rate it can offer you.
Opening Hours of Operation
Opening hours vary from bank to bank, but most are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, and Saturday from 9am to 12pm. Almost all branches have ATMs where you can withdraw cash, transfer money and view your bank statement 24 hours a day.
You can seek advice on the different types of insurance from a private insurance company or agent. Keep in mind that most insurance agents work on commission. If you want honest advice, you must find an independent insurance agent. Some banks offer insurance advice as part of their financial services.
In many US states it is mandatory to insure your car. Before issuing the policy, insurance companies usually do an exhaustive investigation that includes the driver’s background, driving history, etc. If you don’t have a good driving record in the US you will have to pay more for car insurance.
The landlord is responsible for insuring the home, but you will have to insure your belongings. Also, if someone has an accident in your home, you may be responsible for paying the medical costs. So even if the place where you live isn’t yours, it’s still worth checking out.
Home insurance covers the costs in the event of theft, vandalism, storms and other eventualities. It usually replaces affected items for their current value, including furniture, appliances and up to a cash limit. The insurance cover should correspond to the current value of the items insured in the home. If you have valuables, you may need an additional policy.
They are available for life (“Whole Life Insurance”), which guarantees the insured person’s family payment of a fixed amount if he dies, or for a fixed period (“Term Life Insurance”). This period can range from one year to 10, 20 or even 30 years. You can also insure yourself up to a certain age, such as 65 or 70. This type of insurance expires in the fixed time.
Life insurance for a certain period of time is usually done to protect the family from debt. For example, if you and your wife have a house and you die, your wife would have to pay the mortgage on her own. If you had a life insurance policy, she could use the money to pay the mortgage.