I’m not an expert of everything so if you have any correction of what I said or have better tips or other suggestions, please do ;) Today I only share to you guys what I’ve known so far about our “financial blood” needed to live in the United States: credit cards.
PREPARE your DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS . A LIL ADVICE
DEBIT CARDs: is like the money in your purse. You can only use what you have in your pocket. Once you put (deposit) your money in it, you can only use up the maximum of that amount. Nothing more than that
You can choose any banks that offer Student Account to avoid monthly fees. A quick research on Google can tell you which bank in your local area that can offer the service. My case ? I’m using Chase and Citibank Student accounts.
–> Documents needed to open such account:
- I-20, SEVIS
- Cash deposit
CREDIT CARDs: is like the money you borrow from s1 else when you need to spend more than what you have. The bank pays your purchase first then you pay then back later. Thus, you have to pay back within certain amount of time (6 months for example) and that’s how you built your credit history. If you want to prove that you’re a trustworthy payee/tenant, you must have a good record of credit history, SHOWING you have not had any LATE payment and ALWAYS pay back on time to the bank.
Why does it matter ?
A good credit score/credit history will allow you to rent an apartment (later on when you need to move out of campus) or help you avoid 3% transaction fees when you go abroad a long period of time (exchange semester, i.e.) and rewards points/discounts on other purchases.
Unfortunately not a lot of banks allow international students to open a credit account. But there a still a few. The one I’m using is Citibank. You can take a look at their Credit card program for international students here. You can try Bank of America (Call them and ask what to bring to open the account). Instructions below is for Citibank:
–> Documents needed to open such account at Citibank:
(*For other banks, please contribute if you have reliable information by commenting below)
- Student ID
- Social Security Number (SSN). This is OPTIONAL. They still open the account for you without SSN.
If you have one? Bring it and show them.
Wonder how to get an SSN ? Get an on-campus job is the fastest and easiest. Once you have such job. Talk to your International Student Services and they will guide you from there.
They would ask you to pull up 3 recent bank statements of ANY of your debit card accounts. You can show them online. No need to print out anything (Remember to get a debit card first. Then apply for a credit card at least 3 months later)
Then, you have to log in to your school internal site, navigate to wherever on the site that has your NAME and ADDRESS on it. Show it to them and you’re done.
Why do you need a US-issued debit/credit cards ?
Imagine you lost your card and you have to call the bank. Yes, you now have to call your bank back home using international line and wait at least 2-3 weeks until they mail the new cards to you to United States. That would not be fun. Thus, there are stores or ticket machines that don’t take such cards.
*Below are some benefits of having a US-issued-credit card which have been kindly shared and contributed by my friends living the United States for a while:
“it might be different for a domestic student- with SSN-but if we lose, hypothetically 2 cards, and we freeze both of them only after a few transaction has been made. the money lost in debit will be ours and is unlikely to be reaccredited, but the amount in the credit will be the bank’s and if we call in and negotiate, more than likely we can get the full amount back. I still think credit is a bit more secured that way.” [K.H, Atlanta]
“You don’t have to deposit any amount for your credit card. you can spend to the maximum quota of your card (i think starting amount for BoA credit card for student is $500). after a while if you make your payments on time, they will raise your credit (i’m at 1.4k now).
I recommend using U.S.-issued credit cards as much as you can simply because transactions made with credit cards are safer. if something happens to the card and you report it immediately, the bank can remove charges for you because it’s their money still, as opposed to debit cards that have direct access to your checking accounts.
Another reason is that when you use U.S.-issued credit cards, you can build your credit worthiness, which will be useful later on when you need to buy cars, insurance, rent houses, etc here.
As students, you probably will get denied by most credit card companies if you apply for regular cards. but BoA has a student card that doesn’t require credit score, so they approve all applications as long as your debit card account doesn’t look too sketchy. no perks for this card, but it’s a good start. then move on to Chase or Amex. Amex actually has good insurance coverage and point bonus for traveling plus perks and extra guarantee period for shopping despite having a card fee. i think it’s pretty worth it if you spend >5k a year on traveling and shopping.” [C.L, Connecticut]