Skip to Content

How to Open a Bank Account

Before opening a bank account, you might want to go online and conduct research. You will save time and gain some basic knowledge about banks and banking in the United States.

Some things you might want to consider as you do the research:

  • Some banks will not provide service for international students who do not have a social security number. So make sure you call banks directly and ask if you are eligible to become their customer.
  • There is a difference between a checking, and a savings account:

You should learn about the different kinds of accounts, and decide whether you will need one or both. Checking accounts can be used to buy merchandise and services, etc., whereas a savings account is exactly what its name describes. It always good to have money saved in case of future need.

  • Look for common terms such as credit, debit, interest rate, etc., and learn what they mean.
  • Know your benefits and fee charges.

After doing research, you can locate the bank and its Automated Teller Machine (ATM) that is most convenient for you. Go to a search engine such as and type, for example, ‘Banks near [your zip code]’. After locating a nearby bank, take your passport, I-20, and driver’s license (or other official document that shows your name and address) with you to the bank. After arriving there, you will be helped by an employee to open an account. She/he will sit down and work with you privately. Therefore, feel free to ask questions you may have.

You will be issued a bank card called a ‘debit card.’ You can use this card to buy things if a seller accepts debit cards. You might want to practice using your card by starting to buy merchandise and services with it, and by using an ATM to deposit or withdraw money; and by paying online. You must also learn to protect your personal information, and bank account information from any kind of fraud. Ask the bank employee how to do this.