How to Open U.S Student Bank Account & Avoid Scams

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Finding a Bank

As a new student studying in the US, you may be wondering, how do I set up a bank account? There are a ton of different banks across the US, and you want to be using the best one, right? A simple Google search will show you the closest banks in your area. Most of them will have a student checking account as well, usually with no fees and other benefits. To open a new bank account as an international student, you do not need a Social Security number.

If you are under 24, these banks offer better benefits: 

  • Bank of America (offers no monthly maintenance fee for eligible students along with no overdraft fees and checkless banking). 
  • Chase (offers no monthly service fee for up to 5 years for students and a $100 bonus when you make 10 qualifying transactions).
  • Capital One (this is not a student account, but actually a regular checking account with no minimums, no fees, and over 50,000 ATMs).
  • TD Bank (offers a $100 bonus after 15 debit card transactions within 60 days and a usable debit card on the spot when you open an account in person).

Questions to ask yourself before selecting a bank:

  • What’re you looking for in a bank account? Do you need a checking or savings account? Would like in-person branches or digital banking only?
    • These questions are necessary to ask yourself before choosing a bank, as checking accounts are mostly for using the money that is transferred or deposited in. Savings accounts are mostly for saving them money and usually have a certain number of transactions a customer can make per month.
  • How much money will you be transferring to the bank account every month?
    • Some banks will have limits on how much can be transferred in or out, make sure those limits work with you!

Some banks have fees on transfers and have minimum

    • Some banks have a minimum amount of money that needs to be kept in an account, so they do not charge you a monthly fee. Others may have a limit on how much can be transferred in or out.

Is this bank FDIC insured?

    • This means the bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for up to 250,000 US dollars per bank account. Even if the bank goes bankrupt or goes out of business, your funds are protected up to $250,000 and you will be able to get your money back up to that limit.

Opening an account

After finding your preferred bank and setting up an appointment, you’ll have to bring the following items:

  1. Passport
  2. Visa
  3. Second form of ID (such as I20)
  4. Proof of enrollment in a college/ university
  5. Starting money to open an account

To open a new bank account as an international student, you do not need a Social Security number. Also, you can send a direct international bank transfer thru every bank, but there are usually fees associated. For example, Bank of America lists their fees for an outgoing international wire transfer sent in foreign currency as $0, but their fee for outgoing international wire transfers is $45.

Common Scams

There are multiple scams that target new international students in the US. Look out for very common ones such as getting a call from the FBI, IRS, ICE, or USCIS. The IRS will never call to inform someone of a case against them BEFORE they send you physical mail and will never ask for payment information over the phone. Scammers can spoof phone numbers to make them look like you’re getting a call from a legitimate source, but instead, it’s a scam. Lots of scams will ask for money in exchange for a document or application to be processed. United States government officials will never ask for a sum of money in exchange for resolving issues in paperwork. If you ever get any suspicious phone calls, emails, or mail, you should report it to the IRS, FBI, or USCIS via phone or mail. You can find common IRS scams here and other examples of common schemes here.

There are a few well-known scams:

  • Getting a check for a job you didn’t do.
    • In the past, some students have gotten checks with large sums of money for a job that they didn’t do, and when they deposit it, the scammer gets all their bank information and wipes their account clean
  • Paying someone unfamiliar with CASH to purchase items before you have a bank card.
    • The person can do a chargeback dispute on their credit card and get the money back, which will also void the transaction/ purchase.
  •  Tax scams
    • There are plenty of scammers out there who take advantage of people around tax season. They will call someone and tell them they are being audited by the IRS, and that person will have to give up a certain sum of money in gift card format in order to “fix” the issue. The IRS will never call you, and they will never request money from you in an unofficial manner.
  • H1-B visa lottery winner scams
    • In 2020, a new scam popped up which had scammers emailing new visa holders or people that have recently applied for a visa and telling them they had won the H-1B lottery. The scammers then gave a number and email to contact them for help with immigration.

Remember, NEVER click on a link if you don’t know where it leads to, or you don’t know the person sending it to you. If you ever get any suspicious phone calls, emails, or mail, you should report it to the IRS, FBI or USCIS via phone or mail. You can also check with an immigration officer or with US customs if the call, email, or physical mail is legitimate.  


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