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Americans don't usually carry a lot of cash. They prefer to pay by check, even for small purchases, or by credit card.

To function efficiently in the U.S. economy, you will need to open a checking account at a local bank.

This section introduces you to a few of the basic banking options available.

When selecting a bank, you should compare services and choose one whose offices are conveniently located.

When you open an account with a bank, most require two pieces of identification. You do not need a Social Security number to open a bank account. Use your passport.


The major banks and credit unions located near Wayne State include:

Chase Bank
(313) 833-1900
Cultural Center Office
5057 Woodward

Michigan First Credit Union
(313) 345-7200
5057 Woodward
(You must be employed at Wayne State to utilize the credit union.)

Standard Federal
(313) 875-2248
3031 West Grand Boulevard Suite 128

Comerica Bank
(800) 643-4418
3750 Woodward

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1) Checking Accounts
Banks offer different types of checking accounts designed to fit individual needs.
The cost of having a checking account varies from bank to bank. Some banks charge per transaction, some have a basic monthly fee, and others offer free services if you maintain a certain minimum balance in your account at all times.

Your canceled checks and a list of all the account activity of the preceding month will be sent to you in a monthly statement.

Be careful to keep an accurate record of every check you write in order to avoid having checks returned and incurring additional charges.

"Bouncing" a check (writing a check for more money than you actually have in the account) can cause a major expense and a great deal of trouble.

Checking accounts allow you to write checks or use debit cards against the balance of your account.

Merchants generally treat transactions paid for by debit card or check as if they were cash transactions. This means you will not owe interest on anything paid for by check or debit card. You will, however, be assessed a fee if your account is overdrawn - unless you have overdraft protection.

2) Savings Accounts

A savings account enables you to save money and accumulate interest on your money.

Interest is paid either monthly or quarterly.

Although you can withdraw money from your savings account, this service is limited. Ask your bank for the number of monthly withdrawals permitted without penalty.

The difference between a savings and a checking account is that you receive higher interest in a savings account, and fewer transactions take place since the purpose is to "save your money."

Savings accounts allow you to keep an amount of money in the bank and earn a small interest rate.

They are generally completely liquid, meaning you can withdraw money at any time without a fee.

A savings account is not a place to invest, as interest rates on these accounts are extremely low compared to investments in stocks or bonds.

3) Interest Checking Account

Interest checking accounts provide the services of both a checking and a savings account.

This means that you can write checks and also collect interest on the money in your account.

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Cashing Checks

To cash a check after endorsing it (signing your name on the back), you will most often be asked for two pieces of personal identification. The primary piece of ID must be a driver's license, State of Michigan ID card, or a Wayne State ID card. The second piece of ID is usually a major credit card.

ATM Bank Cards

Many banks issue cards that make deposit and withdrawal services available 24 hours a day by use of an automated teller machine (ATM).

These machines, which are frequently located outside the bank, are very convenient. You can avoid waiting in line at the bank and have access to cash after the bank closes or in an emergency.

Banks that are members of a national ATM network allow you to access your funds with your bank card at selected ATM's throughout the country. However, there is often a service charge of approximately $2 when you do not use the machine owned by your bank.

A note of caution : When withdrawing cash from an ATM, be aware of your surroundings to prevent an assault.

Protect your bank card and your secret access code as you do your cash and credit cards.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are convenient, especially if you unexpectedly have a major expense.

You can usually pay medical fees, airplane tickets and car repairs with any major credit card.


But you must remember that credit cards are seductive - and before you know it you may be in debt. Be sure to understand all your obligations.

Most banks charge an annual fee of $20 to $40 to obtain a credit card.

If you are unable to pay your full balance, you will be charged high interest rates (usually 18-22%) on the remaining balance and any additional charges you make.

Debit Cards

Debit cards provide an alternative payment method to cash when making purchases.

Similar to the credit cards, a debit card's functionality is more similar to writing a check as the funds are withdrawn directly from the cardholder's bank account.
Some debit cards are referred to as check cards.

Planning Ahead

If you deposit a check drawn on a foreign bank in your U.S. checking account, the check may have to go through a collection process.

This means that the money will not be available to you until the U.S. bank has collected it from the foreign bank and several weeks may pass before the money is credited to your account.

You may want to consider having monies wired to your account. This process takes less time and is very safe.

In countries with restrictions on foreign exchange, you may need to provide your sponsor or family with a letter of certification of enrollment in order to receive monies from your home country.

The application forms for letters of certification are available from OISS.

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You will need the following documents to open an account

  • valid passport
  • valid visa
  • your I-20
  • your I-94

3 Easy ways to open an account

  • Apply online.
  • Go to any branch location of the bank where you want to open the account.
  • Call the bank's toll free number

When choosing between different banks and different types of accounts, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How many ATM transactions are free?
  • Is there a monthly maintenance fee?
  • Are there any service fees?
  • What other fees might I incur?
  • What is the fee if I use an ATM from another bank?

  • Is the ATM card also a debit card?
  • Can I apply for a credit card?
  • What is the minimum balance?
  • What is the interest rate?
  • Are there any benefits? Such as online banking and bill pay?

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