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Money and Banking Matters

Carrying Cash Upon Arrival

The International Center recommends that you carry only a small amount of cash when you come to the US. Take note that there are US Customs regulations that limit the amount of cash you can carry into the US. If you bring cash, we recommend using traveler's checks as these can be replaced if lost or stolen. An alternative is to carry an international bank card that can be used at a US automated teller machine (ATM) or bank.

Opening a Bank Account

You should plan on opening a US bank account soon after arriving in the US. You will need a bank account especially if you will be working or receiving financial aid at Tufts, since Tufts will directly transfers wages, salary, and other payments into your bank account - you will not receive any payments in cash. To open a bank account, you will need the following documents. Also consult with the bank to determine their requirements.

  • Your passport
  • Your Form I-20 or Form Ds-2019 or I-797 Approval Notice
  • Your I-94 admission record (available only after you arrive in the US)
  • Proof of your local address (e.g., letter or form with your name and US address; copy of lease)
  • You are not required to have a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer ID Number to open a simple bank account; however, you may be asked to complete IRS Form W-8BEN

Types of Accounts

Most students and scholars will only need to open a checking account or a combined checking / savings account.

Checking accounts: These allow you to deposit or withdraw money and to make payments either electronically or using paper checks. The money in a standard checking account does not collect interest. Checking accounts also come with debit cards that allow you to get cash from automated teller machines (ATMS). Many basic checking accounts will carry service fees and charges. These allow for easy access to your money to pay bills and make purchases. Most banks charge a monthly fee, so be sure to compare bank rates and fees. Also inquire about the locations of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for your convenience.

Savings Accounts: Savings accounts are designed to allow you to save money and earn interest on your savings. Checking and savings accounts are often linked together, so talk to your bank about options and fees.

Choosing a Bank: Questions to Ask

There are many banks (as well as related financial institutions such as credit unions) in the Boston area. When choosing a bank, we encourage you to do your own research by asking questions such as:

  • What types of accounts does the bank provide, and how much do they charge? Most banks provide simple checking and savings accounts, but some may charge a monthly fee if you do not maintain a minimum monthly balance.
  • Does the bank have options for students and scholars? Many banks provide services and benefits (such as credit cards or low-fee accounts) for students and scholars and first-time customers.
  • Does the bank allow you to wire or transfer money from overseas? Ask about services for wire transfers of funds from overseas, and if there are any fees associated with these services.
  • Does the bank charge fees for using their ATM (automatic teller machine) to obtain cash? Do they charge fees for using the ATM of another bank? If you expect to withdraw cash on a regular basis, consider researching the location and fees for using ATM cash machines located close to you.
  • Does the bank allow for electronic bill pay? You can now pay for many bills online from your bank account. Does the bank charge any fees for using this service?
  • Will the bank provide a debit card and/or help you obtain a credit card? Debit and credit cards can be useful in helping you to manage your expenses without using cash. A credit card, if used responsibly, can help you to establish a good US credit history which may make it easier for you to obtain other kinds of financial services or products in the future.

Bank Options

The following is a list of some banks that many Tufts international students and scholars have used. These have multiple branches or ATM (automated teller) locations across the Boston area, including some in various campus locations. The International Center does not recommend or endorse any particular bank.

Many banks charge additional fees if you withdraw machine from an ATM machine owned or operated by an outside bank or ATM company. Where possible, withdraw cash from a local branch of your bank or an ATM owned by your bank.

Student Money Matters