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Opening a Bank Account in the US

It is extremely advisable to open a bank account with any of the local banks as soon as you arrive in the United States. When you open an account, you will be issued a Debit Card immediately. This can certainly facilitate easy and convenient transactions as you settle in a new place and shop for all your necessities. 


Most of you will probably be traveling with a travel card or a foreign currency card when you first enter the United States. If you want to withdraw cash from the ATM machines using your travel cards, please note that most US ATMs are free only when you have an account with the bank. If you don't have a Debit Card with the bank you are using the ATM from, you will be charged a small fee, commonly in the range of $3-$5 per withdrawal.


The International Student Orientation by the Directorate of International Students and Scholars Advising (DISSA) will be an excellent source for more detailed information on banking in the US. But if you want to get a headstart...


  • The most common type of banking account international students open upon arrival is a 'Checking Account'. This is a basic transactional account that often has the least maintenance requirements. If you are looking for an account to simply pay your utility, restaurants and grocery bills with your debit card, choose a checking account.

  • A Savings Account in the US offers a nominal interest rate but is frequently limited for the number of withdrawals per account cycle. A savings account can also have monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. If you are interested in building a saving over time, choose a savings account.

  • Unless you have another preferred banking option, it is advisable to open an account with either PNC Bank or Santander Bank while in State College. A PNC Bank branch is located right across the campus; a Santander Bank branch is located very close on College Avenue. The staff at the bank can assist you with the specific needs you may have.

  • When opening your first bank account in the US, you will have to visit the branch in person. Please carry your passport, I-20/ DS 2019 and a copy of your apartment lease as a proof-of-address with you. Refer to the bank websites or to the information provided at the DISSA orientation for the list of required documents to open a bank account.

  • Once you have a bank account, you can choose to download their App on your phone for easy banking solutions. Most of your everyday banking needs - paying bills, sending money to friends, depositing checks can be completed from the Apps.

  • While PNC bank is popular in Pennsylvania, they have fewer branches in other states. Choose your bank based on your personal needs and preferences.

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