“How much personal spending money should I bring to the US” was a question that haunted me for a long while before leaving for states. Even though it doesn’t look like a big deal, it can be a problem sometimes. For instance, if you bring too much cash with you and you put the actual number on the custom form, you might get into some trouble.
So, how much money international students should bring with them to the states? My advice is: never bring too much cash. Actually it’s not necessary to bring so much cash traveling to the US. An adequate amount, I believe, is around $3,000 to $5,000. Personally I brought $3,000 cash with me the first time I came to the states and I think that’s enough.
Except for cash, I also suggest that you bring a credit card with you. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express are okay. I myself brought a credit card that is linked to my mother’s credit card. Whenever I make a purchase, my mother would be notified by getting a text message. Sometimes this could get annoying, because after every purchase with that credit card, my mom would send me a message asking me what did I buy. But overall, bringing a credit card can be very handy. For instance, sometimes if you are short on cash, and you really need to buy something, you can use the credit card to make the purchase.
Now that you have some cash and a credit card with you, it is still necessary for you to open an account in a local bank. By doing that you can put your cash in the bank and when you need money, you can ask your parents to wire transfer some money to your account.
One thing you should be aware is that in the US, you can’t apply for a credit card unless you have a Social Security Number, known as SSN. In other words, you can’t have a credit card until you are able to earn money yourself. So now the only option left for you is to open an account and get a debit card.
There are a few major banks in the US. For example, there are banks like Bank of America, Citi Bank, Wells Fargo and TD Bank. Of course, there are many other banks out there as well. Most of the time you may want to open your account in a well-known bank. However, it really depends. I think it’s the best if you can choose a bank that has ATMs and branches inside or around your campus.
When you go to open an account, remember to bring your passport as well as I-20 form. Also, if possible, try to bring a document that can prove you are living at your current address. For instance, bring a piece of mail or a letter that has your current address on it. Sometimes the staff at the bank will ask you for it to set up your billing address. After you are done opening an account, the bank will give you a package which has all the information about the bank, their program and services, also the detailed information of your account. Remember to keep this package. This is very important.
Since you already have an account, now the only thing left for you to worry about is probably wire transfer. Making or receiving a wire transfer is quite different from doing it in China. If you are receiving a wire transfer, you will need your routing number of the bank in which you set up your account as well as the address of that bank. You will also need your account number (not your debit card number). All this information can be found in the package the bank gives you. If not, you can always go down to the bank and ask for the information. If you are making a wire transfer, you will also need the receiving person’s bank’s name, routing number and his/her account number. Here I’m going to provide you with a general list of the required information:
1. Beneficiary: (put your name down)
2. Beneficiary address: (your address)
3. Receiving bank: (your bank’s name)
4. Receiving bank address: (the address of the bank in which you open your account)
5. The bank’s telephone number
6. Routing number: (sometimes known as ABA number)
7. Bank account number
8. SWIFT code: (if applicable)
If your parents are going to transfer money to you, just give them all the information above. If you are making a wire transfer, just get all the information above of the person who is receiving your money.