Banking

Students must open an account at a US bank in order to receive wire transfers of the monthly salary. Salaries will NOT be sent to accounts in the UAE. Having a bank account in the US would also allow the student access to that money, as well as a safe, reliable facility for students to manage their finances.

Accounts should be opened as soon as possible so that stipends can be wired without delay.

Choosing your bank

In the United States, there are many different types of banks. Some banks are large banks with have branches throughout the United States, as well as some countries abroad. Other banks are local or regional banks, with branches only in some states or cities. The benefit of a larger bank would be the convenience of finding branches in more places, as well as more services offered to customers. However, some larger banks may also charge more fees compared to smaller banks. Smaller banks, on the other hand, may be more focused on the community they serve and be able to provide more specific services for the community. For example, some smaller banks are partnered with the university and may have a branch on-campus, if not an automatic teller machine (ATM) available to specifically serve students.

Students should do their own research by asking the international students office, as well as other students. Students may also go directly to banks to ask about services such as free checking accounts for students and fees such as minimum balance fees, withdrawal fees, and wire transfer fees. Students should know that they are not obligated to open an account at the bank after visiting them, and should instead open an account after they know that the bank can provide what they need.

What do I need to open an account?

This will vary depending on the bank and its location. Most banks will need students to show a photo identification document like a passport and university identification card. Some banks will require a proof of local address, like a postmarked envelope addressed to the student. Some banks may also require a Social Security Number. Students who just arrived from the UAE will not have this number as this number is only issued by the US Federal Government to students who have authorization for employment. In this case, some banks may be able to use student identification numbers issued by the university instead for opening new accounts. Students should ask for the list of specific documents they need to open an account during their visit to the bank.

What do I get when I open an account?

Students will usually be offered a student checking account. A student checking account typically does not have a minimum balance that the student must maintain each month, nor have many fees for most of the services that come with the account. Students usually will be given a monthly statement on paper, or can view them online. Money can be withdrawn at the bank or through ATM’s by using a debit card issued by the bank. Students are also given a book of paper checks to make payments (hence the name checking account). A common feature at almost all US banks today is the issuing of debit cards by Visa or MasterCard, allowing students to directly use money from their checking account to make payments by using the debit card anywhere Visa or MasterCard cards are accepted. With clearance from the bank and for a fee after each use, students can also use their debit cards abroad anywhere Visa or MasterCard are accepted to make purchases or withdraw money from an ATM.

Depending on the bank, students may also open a savings account along with a checking account. Checking accounts do not earn interest, but savings accounts allow for balances to collect interest. Savings account also cannot be accessed for payment use through checks or debit cards, but may be withdrawn from through a visit to the bank or the ATM.

Students should also find out about the type of fees charged by banks. Most banks will charge a “wire transfer fee” any time money is transferred by wire to their accounts by deducting a percentage from the total money sent. This fee will vary at different banks. A bank may also charge a few dollars for withdrawing money from ATM’s that do not belong them. Also, students should verify whether their checking account has a minimum balance fee/maintenance fee, which charges students a fee for keeping less than a certain amount in their accounts.

Other services, fees, and conditions may apply, but will vary from bank to bank. It is best for the student to ask about the services at each bank that is being considered.

Account information for academic advisors

In order to process the disbursement of salaries, academic advisors need students’ checking account number, bank routing number (which can be obtained by asking the bank teller) and student’s current address. This information should be passed to the respective academic advisors as soon as the student has an account opened.

Are US banks safe places for keeping my money?

For the most part, US banks are safe. Almost all US banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), meaning that if customers have less than $100,000 dollars at the bank, the US Federal Government assures that customers will get their money back should the bank go out of business. Students can ask bank staff about this, if they have further questions.

US banks also do their best to protect customers from fraud and identity theft. Identity theft is where another person assumes the identity of another person to access their money, whether through bank accounts or credit cards. It is almost standard today that banks provide secure websites for customers to view their accounts online. Banks may not release certain information through the telephone or email to avoid fraud. Some banks even let customers use their thumbprints to digitally sign in when they see a teller.

As a precaution, students should be aware of fraud and identity theft. As much as banks take steps to prevent it, it is also the responsibility of students to protect their financial information against fraud. Students should never give out their Social Security Number, bank account number, ATM personal identification number (PIN) and credit or debit card numbers to anyone who has no business knowing it, especially through the internet (an exception would be your MOHE academic advisor, who needs this information to process your stipend/salary). Students should also never loan out their debit or credit cards to anyone. Banks and other companies would NEVER ask for those numbers through email. Past banks statements should be shredded, as well as any credit card offers that come through the mail. Students are encouraged to have the habit of regularly checking their accounts to ensure that there are no mistakes in the amounts. More information about protecting against financial fraud can be obtained through the international student office as well as the university police department.

What about credit cards?

This is a personal choice. Almost all banks now offer Visa or MasterCard credit cards. Other US credit cards exist, such as Discover and American Express. Large retail stores may also offer Visa or MasterCard credit cards that allow customers to use their cards anywhere, but give the extra perk of having discounts whenever they use their cards at their stores. There are also charge cards issued by petroleum companies and large stores that allow customers to use their cards for purchases specifically at their stores.

To open a credit card account, students must fill out an application and have a Social Security Number as credit records are tied to that number. The application will typically ask for information like income, monthly bills and any other debt that an applicant might have. This is to verify if the applicant can afford monthly credit card payments. Applications may be rejected if the company has reason to believe that the applicant cannot afford to make the monthly payments. Students should further consult available financial advisors at their banks on this matter.