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It might depend on the bank but I was able to open an account with our university's Credit Union before I arrived (the credit union was recommended to me by many students in my department, you should ask students in your new department where they do their banking). In my case, I was able to apply online as a student at the university as soon as I got my university ID number and official acceptance, and when I arrived a debit card was already waiting for me and I could order checks and a credit card. It was very convenient.

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It might depend on the bank but I was able to open an account with our university's Credit Union before I arrived (the credit union was recommended to me by many students in my department, you should ask students in your new department where they do their banking). In my case, I was able to apply online as a student at the university as soon as I got my university ID number and official acceptance, and when I arrived a debit card was already waiting for me and I could order checks and a credit card. It was very convenient.

I recommend wells fargo in the US in general. Up until a few years ago wells fargo was the west coast bank and Wachovia was the east coast bank. Wells Fargo purchased wachovia,and I think that wells fargo has officially taken over most if not all of wachovia branches now. So if you have wells fargo, you can easily bank and use atms in probably all american cities and without extra fees.

Credit unions vs banks: Credit unions are good if you want to take out loans and start a savings. There are often fees or restrictions to get accounts there. They usually require higher minimum amounts to keep account open. These are less in banks but you pay higher interest and save at lower % rates. I personally have a credit union and a bank. I do most of my banking at the bank and keep savings in the credit union.

Check with people in your program though too. They may have deals or suggestions on what to do.

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