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Banking Services

They keep your money while they play with it, but they pay you for the privelege.

Banking Services | Credit Cards

Banks offer a wide variety of services to their customers. Some services cost you money; some services earn you money; other services cost you some money while making you more money. The most common services are savings accounts, checking accounts, and credit cards. The key is getting the services you need from the bank of your choice. Here are the basics . . .

Opening an Account

When you want to put your money into a bank, you need to get a few things together before you go:

  • Identification (Social Security Card, Taxpayer ID Card, or passport)
  • Student ID or I-20
  • Money (can be cash, check, or credit/debit card)
If you don't have a Social Security Card or Taxpayer ID card yet (and you probably won't), you should be able to open an account using your passport as temporary identification. If you open an account using your passport, you will need to provide a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN) to the bank once you get one.

Your student ID is proof that you are a student. Many banks offer special accounts and services to students, and these are usually better than standard accounts. If you don't have your student ID by the time you go to open a bank account, you may be able to use your I-20 as proof of your status as a student.

Finally, you can't open an account without any money, so you need to bring some money or method of payment with you. If you plan to deposit cash, make sure that you take precautions to keep both it and you safe. Banks vary in their initial deposit requirements, but in most cases, you will need to deposit at least $500, even for a student account.

When you open your account, the bank will have you fill out many forms. One of them will be used for reporting your tax status to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Make certain you fill out the proper form! A recent change in the U.S. tax code makes you exempt from tax withholdings on most types of accounts. To learn more, read our related tax article.

When you are all done signing up for an account, you will get an account number that you will need to know when depositing or withdrawing money. In most cases you will also be mailed a card for use in Automatic Telller Machines (ATMs). If you signed up for a checking account, you will have checks mailed to you and, in most cases, you will be able to use your ATM card to pay for purchases directly from your checking account.

Types of Accounts

The two most common types of accounts are savings and checking accounts. In their most basic form, this is what each does:

  • Savings Account

    A savings account gives you interest over your balance. It offers higher interest than the checking account, if the checking account pays interest. You can transfer and withdraw money freely from a savings account, but you must keep a minimum balance which is stated by the bank (usually $1,000 - $1,500).

  • Checking Account

    An account where funds are made available to the account holder and deducted when the account holder writes a check, uses a debit/check card, or withdraws funds from an ATM or branch of the bank. Usually a checking account does not pay interest; however, some checking accounts pay minimal interest on cash balances.

Helpful Tips

It is probably easiest to have one checking account and one savings account. Keep less money in the checking account and more in your savings account, so you can take advatage of the higher interest rate. You can transfer money back and forth according to your needs. For more detailed information about these accounts, check with your local bank. A New Accounts Representative will help you choose the appropriate account or accounts for your needs. He or she will also inform you of various free services that are available. Don't be afraid to ask questions of the bank employees; their job is to serve you.

Investment Choices

Now that you have opened a bank account, you may want to consider what to do with your money in order to maximize your return. Here is a list of some of your investment options, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Which one you choose will depend on factors such as your time frame and risk tolerance.

Options Advantage Disadvantage
Money Market Account
  • Offers a higher interest rate (market rate) on your cash balances
  • Tends to require higher balances and some charge a monthly fee
  • Check writing is usually limited to 3-5 per month
  • Certificate of Deposit (CD)
  • Pays a specified amount of interest over a specified amount of time
  • FDIC insured - no risk
  • Cash is locked up for a specified amount of time - lose liquidity
  • Brokerage Account
  • Offers convenience by combining check writing, ATM and debit/check card access, and brokerage services in one account
  • SIPC insured
  • Offers money market rates on your entire cash balance
  • Does not accept cash deposits -- wire and check deposits only
  • 5 day hold on check deposits
  • For more information on these or other financial issues, visit our Finance Center.
    Banking | | Credit Cards
    Online banking
    Do you know that you can earn much more interests by putting your money in online banks. It's save and convenient. Learn more about online banking...
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