Having a checking account will assure safe and quick deposit of foreign checks and free the account holder from carrying large amounts of cash. Banks provide monthly and/or online records of individual transactions from the checking account, thus allowing easy tracking of one's finances. Checks are typically used to pay monthly bills like rent, telephone, and electricity or certain retail purchases if accompanied by identification. Cashed checks are often returned to the account holder after they are cleared by the bank, and may serve as proof of payment. Some banks will post scanned copies of the cashed checks in the online account statement. It is a serious matter to write a check without having sufficient funds in the account. In addition to various fees the bank will charge, the individual may suffer serious financial consequences and may be subject to legal action.
Savings or investment accounts are used to hold money that won't be used immediately. Such accounts bear interest which may be taxable. Some savings or investment accounts have penalties for withdrawing funds before a fixed amount of time elapses but many will allow holders to withdraw or transfer funds to other accounts at any time without penalty.
Teller Machines (ATM)
Basic banking, such as deposits, transfers and withdrawals, is available 24 hours a day at computerized banking machines (ATM or MAC machines) at most banks. These machines can be found throughout the city. It is recommended to only use ATM's located in safe and secure places indoors and to avoid making withdrawals after dark. Some banks charge a fee each for each ATM transaction.
Credit cards are used often in the United States but are sometimes difficult to obtain for international students who have not yet established good credit in this country. For this reason, some students choose to apply for credit cards in their home countries rather than in the United States.
Major credit cards in the United States are Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover, but businesses do not always accept all cards. Credit cards issued by department stores or oil companies are usually easier to obtain and can be used to establish credit.
One should use caution in using credit cards as a means of postponing payment for purchases. Almost all credit cards charge interest, which may range from 12% to 22% per year. If a credit card is lost or stolen, it is important to file a report with the police and notify the company that issued the card immediately.