Money Information

Money is important. Here’s some advice on how to handle, carry and budget it during your time in the United States.

You may ask yourself, “How much money will I need?” or “How much is enough?” The answer to these questions will vary depending on your own situation, but the best response we can give you is, “Have more than you need.” Anything can happen.

So, now that you know that you’ll be prepared financially, what else do you need to know about money in the United States? Below you will find useful information about the U.S. dollar and the ways you can save and spend it.

Traveler’s Cheques

Many people find traveler’s cheques to be a safe way to carry money around the world. This is true for California and the United States as well. These cheques may be taken to United States banks in exchange for cash, and many businesses accept them. However, you should purchase these cheques in U.S. dollars because of the difficulty and time involved in exchanging money outside of major cities. Traveler’s cheques in U.S. dollars should be easily exchanged for United States currency at the time of your visit to the bank. It is advisable to carry at least several hundred dollars worth of traveler’s cheques with you to pay for any upfront personal expenses.

U.S. Currency and Cash

It would be prudent to carry a small amount of United States currency with you when traveling to the country. $100 to $200 is a reasonable amount to carry from your home country to your study destination unless you plan to take long taxi or shuttle rides from the airport to your school. This should be carried in denominations smaller than $100 bills. Many merchants will not accept $100 bills, but they will be happy to accept any smaller ones.

Debit Cards

It is probable that your bank has issued a “debit” or “check” card to you if you have a checking or savings account in your home country. At nearly any cash machine in the United States, you will be able to use a debit card to easily withdraw cash from your bank account. You will need to make sure that the back of your card had at least one of the following symbols: Interlink; Plus; Star; or Cirrus. These symbols indicate that the card can be used through certain banking networks and having one of these symbols on your card ensures that you will be able to access cash at a cash machine, in even the most remote locations. You should know that this is a convenient way to obtain cash, but that small fees usually apply to international transactions.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in the United States. You may make purchases almost anywhere with credit cards and it may be more convenient for you to have a credit card from your home bank. It is sometimes difficult for non-U.S. residents to obtain a credit card once in the United States. The most common credit cards in the United States are: MasterCard; Visa; American Express; and Discover. It is only necessary to have one of these cards in very few instances – for example, car rentals.

Personal Checks and Currency Not in U.S. Cash

United States banks will accept checks and large denominations of cash not in U.S. dollars. However, you will usually have to wait a week or so for the checks or conversion to take place. So, if you open a bank account here and try to deposit either of these, you should expect a waiting period. Only major United States banks (usually found in bigger cities) can exchange currency the same day.