When you first arrive in the United States, you may not know what to do with your money or who to trust. You may feel nervous about giving your money to a stranger at a bank. You may have never used a bank before and wonder why you need a bank account. This page will help you understand two of the most popular types of bank accounts. requirements to open an account, fees, and how to manage your account balance.
In the United States, there are different types of financial institutions such as commercial banks, thrifts (savings and loans associations, savings banks), and credit unions. Each of these institutions has different rules and regulations and different offers for their customers.
One of the most popular options is commercial banks. The Federal Reserve regulates commercial banks. If you have at least $250,000 and your bank belongs to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC, your money is protected.
Why you need a bank account
Keeping large amounts of money in your home or apartment or with you is not a good idea because it can get stolen or lost. It is better to store most of your money in a bank or credit union. Millions of Americans use banks; there are a few reasons why you should open a bank account:
- Your money is safe because federal laws protect your money from unauthorized transactions and errors.
- You can establish your credit history in the U.S.
- You can make money transfers safely and easily.
- You can keep a close eye on your finances.
- It makes it easier to receive money from your employer.
- It also makes it possible to pay for things through the mail or online.
Learn more reasons to open a bank account.
Bank information about accounts
You can open a checking account or a savings account.
Checking accounts allow you fast access to your money. You can write a check, use a debit card at an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), and make online transfers with a checking account.
Savings accounts help you save money for the future. You can earn interest by putting money in a savings account. However, most savings accounts only allow you to take money out a few times per month. If you have some savings or want to start saving, you can open a separate account.
Opening a bank account
To open a bank account, you will need at least a small amount of money, usually between $25 and $100.
Before choosing a bank, you should talk to friends and family for recommendations, search online, read reviews and once you find the right bank for you, ask questions about conditions, special fees, and the benefits that the bank can provide you.
Although it could differ depending on the bank you choose, generally, these are some of the requirements to open a bank account:
- To be at least 18 years old.
- Two forms of government-issued photo identification, for example, your driver’s license or your passport.
- Social security number or individual taxpayer identification number.
- Utility bill, this document needs to have your current address.
- Provide a phone number and email address.
- If you are opening a joint account (an account shared with another person, for example, your spouse), both people need to be present.
Checks and debit cards
After you open your savings or checking account, you may receive a debit card and checks. When you use your debit card or checks, the money comes out of your bank account.
A debit card is a plastic card you use to get cash out of an ATM. These machines are usually outside your bank. You can also find them in many stores and public places; some ATMs do not belong to your bank, and you may pay a fee to get cash.
You can also use your debit card to pay for things in stores, online, and over the phone. Be careful using your debit card online.
Learn how to be safe shopping online.
To protect your identity, you have to have a PIN (personal identification number) to use your card. You enter your PIN every time you take money out of the ATM or buy something. If you lose the card or get stolen, nobody can use it unless they know the PIN.
Checks are forms you fill in and sign to pay for things. The person receiving your check deposits it in their bank, and your bank pays them out of your account. You can use checks to pay bills, such as your rent and utilities. Local shops may also accept your checks if they know you.
Bank information about fees
Whether you choose a savings account or a checking account, ask whether you qualify for a free account. It is better to deposit money (put money in the bank) and withdraw money (take money out of the bank) without being charged a fee.
Bank employees should answer your questions and help you understand how banks and fees work.
Some banks will charge you fees if you use other banks’ ATMs and withdraw more money than what you have in your checking account. If you make too many withdrawals from your savings account, you might encounter extra fees.
Most banks have some form of a free checking account, so you should not need to pay a fee. You may get better rates at a credit union, a type of bank owned by its members.
Managing your bank balance
Once you have a bank account, you need to be careful to spend only as much money as you have in your bank. If you write a check but do not have enough money, you will be charged an overdraft fee of $50 or more. If you make a mistake, you can call the bank and explain it was a genuine misunderstanding and politely ask the bank to refund the fee, and they may or may not refund it.
To avoid mistakes, you can check how much money you have in savings or checking accounts at the bank, ATM, or online. The amount you have is called your “bank balance.” Overdraft fees cost a lot of money, so it is wise to keep a careful watch on your bank balance!