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In which order should I do things?


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Hello,

 

I have to open a bank account, get a cell phone plan, and get a driver's license once I arrive in the US.

Should I go to the bank first? Will I need a phone number to open an account, in which case should I buy a cell phone first? Can I show my passport as ID or do I need to get a license (I have a US license, so I only need to renew it according to the DMV website) before doing anything else? 

 

Also, my university says that I have to report to the international service office once I arrive in the US. Do I have to do it in the same day I arrive or can I get a bank account, cell phone... first and then report to the university the next day?

 

Thank you!

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You can report to the university the day after you arrive, or the day after that. That's fine. You can run your errands first.

 

Your passport should suffice as identification to open a bank account. You shouldn't need a phone number. If they ask for one, give them your department's number and update it later. If you are an international student, they may want to see a lease or a letter stating that you are a student at a local school. It might also help to have a letter stating what your stipend will be. Large banks or alternatively credit unions or other banks that are near the university will have more experience dealing with international students.

 

To renew your license, you'll need to show your passport, as well as the lease for your apartment or bills sent to your new address to prove that you are a state resident. Sometimes they require two forms of ID. Consult the DMV website for your state to see exactly what is required. You might have to pay with a check, so make sure to read up on that and have one ready before you go.

 

You probably want to have your bank account set up before you try and get a phone contract, they may ask for that information. They may ask you for some kind of deposit, so be prepared for that.

 

If it were me, I'd do bank first, DMV second, phone last. 

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Here's what I'd do:

 

1. Sign lease for apartment (if you are not living on campus)

2. Bank

3. Set up utilities (electricity, gas, water, etc.)

4. Set up internet (it usually takes a few days or even a couple of weeks so set up the appointment first!)

5. Check in at school

6. Get phone set up

7. Get SSN if necessary

8. DMV (unless you are importing a car and need to get a US license right away, then do this right after the bank)

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About banks: check with your bank of choice what docs they need. e.g. the bank I want asks for 2 ids (passport and birth certificate or driver's license)

 

(I personally will go to the school first, ask for advice if they have any, then do the rest on the same day hopefully in the same mall or whatever so that I can change the order of things if needed.)

Edited by random_grad
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You may want to check credit unions as an alternative to big banks at the beginning. They may have more experience dealing with brand new international students and it is easier to get a secured credit card with them, so you can start building credit history sooner (provided the Credit Union reports to the credit bureaus). Later on, if you want to, you may change (or add) your banking to a bigger bank.

 

Is your current US driver license expired? I have a Washington State drivers license that expired on april and I will be moving back to the US in August, I am wondering if I will need to retake the driving test because of that.

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All banks allow you to cancel your account at any time. Personally, I would recommend one of the major banks (so that when you travel, you can easily find their branches or affiliates), such as Citi, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.

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Can anyone suggest a good bank for an international student where I can easily cancel the account after my studies?

 

I suggest asking current international students at your new department for recommendations. They will know who is good locally to you.

 

Another option other than big banks is local credit unions. My account was with my university's credit union, and I really liked their service. It was easier to get a credit card than with larger banks, they generally knew how to deal with an international student with no SSN and no credit history, and they were always available on the phone or if I needed something in person. They were recommended to me by other students.

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University affiliated credit unions are great because they are used to students :) But not every school has one and I found that non-University credit unions offer much fewer services and do not have the expertise to properly handle accounts from foreign persons. But maybe I just had a bad experience!

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Oh, I'm sure experiences vary. My good experience with a credit union and your bad experience mean very little in the grand scheme of things, especially since we don't know where GeoMex is going to be living. This is why getting recommendations from the locals is important :)

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Thanks for the credit union suggestion, I'll see with if there is one affiliated with my university.

 

 

Is your current US driver license expired? I have a Washington State drivers license that expired on april and I will be moving back to the US in August, I am wondering if I will need to retake the driving test because of that.

 

It is expired, but according to the DMV website of the state I will live, I don't need to retake the test because it expired less than 2 years ago. But that depends on the state where you will get your new license.

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All banks allow you to cancel your account at any time. Personally, I would recommend one of the major banks (so that when you travel, you can easily find their branches or affiliates), such as Citi, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.

 

 

I suggest asking current international students at your new department for recommendations. They will know who is good locally to you.

 

Another option other than big banks is local credit unions. My account was with my university's credit union, and I really liked their service. It was easier to get a credit card than with larger banks, they generally knew how to deal with an international student with no SSN and no credit history, and they were always available on the phone or if I needed something in person. They were recommended to me by other students.

 

 

 

Thank you all.

A friend of a friend who's also going to Austin, told her that wells fargo is a good option, which I have already heard before but until now it became relevant.

I'll ask about those credit unions, but the thing is that I want the account to give it to the institution funding me. I don't want to use my payroll account.

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I'll ask about those credit unions, but the thing is that I want the account to give it to the institution funding me. I don't want to use my payroll account.

 

I don't know what you mean by these two accounts. To be clear, a University affiliated credit union does not mean that your account at that credit union is the same account as your school's student account (where you might be charged for books, fees, tuition, cafeteria etc.). I also have a University affiliated credit union account and my stipend is direct deposited into my Citi bank account as well as my credit union account. Your University affiliated credit union account is as much a bank account as any other and is completely independent of your student account at the school.

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  • 1 month later...

Just wondering:

 

1. Do credit union accounts let you have a credit card without a credit history? What do they require?

 

2. @TakeruK - why do you have two accounts? Is that a necessity or a convenience issue? 

 

I'm just trying to understand what will be the best course of action for me (going to UIUC, it that matters to any relevant information you might have).

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Not TakeruK (or an international student for that matter), but I've had accounts at multiple banks for years. It's partially because in the event that my debit/ATM card gets stolen for one account, I still have access to money until I can get the other card replaced. I actually keep one account's card at home in a safe place in case my entire wallet gets stolen so that I'm not completely penniless while I await replacements.

 

Each credit union is going to have different requirements for getting a credit card. It's hard to generalize about what specifically is going to be required. If you go with one that is used to working with students, the requirements will probably be lower. 

 

Regardless of what bank/credit union you go with, pay attention to any account fees that you'll be charged. There can be fees unless you have a certain number of transactions per month, keep a certain minimum balance, etc. 

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I've had multiple accounts, for similar reasons to rising_star -- more ways to get at my money. Also, my first adult bank account was a credit union that didn't have a very wide network so I soon got a "big bank" account for use when I travel to a city without my credit union's network of ATMs. Then when my spouse and I decided to get joint accounts, she didn't like the bank I had and I didn't like the bank she had. And, we both didn't like the fact that our old banking plans didn't meet our needs so we now mostly do our banking through yet another bank that we both chose. But both of us still keep our old accounts (switched to low service free banking plans).

 

In the US, I first opened my big bank and then I opened my university-affiliated credit union account because I needed to have a bank account with them to access their very low rates for car loans (1.45 APR). My account with them is almost empty--each month, part of my pay check goes into that account and then it is withdrawn automatically a few days later to make my loan payment.

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