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Opening a Bank Account

When you open an account with a bank, most banks require two pieces of identification, such as your passport and UC ID. Before you go to the bank, you need to be familiar with the basic customer identification programs that financial institutions must follow in opening any new accounts.

Bank Customer Identification Programs (CIP)

In an effort to reduce money laundering, U.S. financial institutions are required to verify the identity of every individual who opens a bank account. In compliance with federal regulations, all banks operating in the U.S. have established Customer Identification Programs (CIP) that they are to follow for anyone who seeks to open an account. While the specifics of the CIP may vary from one bank to another, Department of Treasury regulations found at 31 CFR § 103.121 set forth the following minimal information that the banks must obtain from you before allowing you to open an account:

  1. Your name
  2. Your date of birth
  3. Your street address (P.O. Box)
  4. An identification number

The regulations 31 CFR § 103.121(b)(i)A)(4)(ii) clarify that for a non-U.S. person, the identification number shall be one or more of the following:

  • A taxpayer identification number (see discussion below).
  • A passport number and country of issuance.
  • An alien identification card number.
  • Number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document showing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard.

It is important to remember that banks establish their own customer identification programs and may ask for additional documentation because they are ultimately responsible for establishing the identity of their customers.

Documentation to bring with you

Documents you should take with you to open your account:

  • Your unexpired passport
  • Your I-94 card
  • Your I-20, DS-2019, or I-797 approval notice
  • Any secondary form of identification you may have
  • Form W-8 BEN if you are a student not eligible for a SSN or ITIN

To assist you, the UC International Services will provide you with a letter to the bank confirming your status at UC and asking for their assistance in opening your account.

* Opening a Bank Account
A letter from UC International Services to help you open a bank account in the U.S.

Types of Accounts & Cards

Checking Accounts

Banks offer different types of checking accounts designed to fit individual needs. The cost of checking varies from bank to bank. Some banks charge per transaction, some have a basic monthly fee, and others offer free services if you maintain a certain minimum balance in your account at all times. You should be able to access information regarding your personal account, including all transactions and deposits, through the bank's website. This will be secure information that you you can access. Be careful to keep an accurate record of every check you write in order to avoid having checks returned and incurring additional charges. “Bouncing” a check (writing a check for more money than you actually have in the account) is illegal and can cost you time and money. Through some banks, you can apply for a line of credit attached to your checking account that provides overdraft protection.

Debit Cards

A debit card, also known as a check card, allows you to withdraw or deposit money to your bank account using an automatic teller machine (ATM) and to make purchases at stores that accept the card. Some debit cards carry a credit-card logo (such as Mastercard or Visa), and can be used in place of a check or credit card. Debit cards are not credit cards, however, and they can be used only to the extent that you have funds in the account to which they are linked.

Savings Accounts

A savings account enables you to save money and accumulate interest on your savings. Interest is paid either monthly or quarterly. The difference between a savings and a checking account is that you cannot write checks on a savings account.

Cashing checks

To cash a check, you will need to endorse it by signing your name on the back. In addition, you will be asked for personal identification in the form of a driver’s license, a State of Ohio ID card, or a UC ID card. Some stores will cash a check for you if you shop there regularly. Supermarkets may allow you to pay by check, with authorization from their credit department, if you present the ID they request (usually an Ohio driver’s license).

Bank Cards

Many banks issue cards that enable you to deposit and withdraw money 24 hours a day by use of an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). These machines, which are frequently located outside the bank, are very convenient. By using a bank card, customers avoid waiting in line at the bank and have access to funds or money after the bank closes. Banks that are members of a national ATM network allow you to access your funds with your bank card at selected ATM’s throughout the country. There are many ATM’s located on campus.

Credit Cards

Credit cards may be convenient, especially if you unexpectedly have major expenses. You can pay University and medical fees, airplane tickets and car repairs with any major credit card. You must understand that you can easily accumulate large bills with credit cards, and before you know it, you may be in debt. Before you accept a credit card, you must be sure to understand all your obligations. Most banks charge an annual fee. If you are unable to pay your full balance each month, you will be charged high interest rates (usually 18% or higher) on the remaining balance and any additional charges you make. Make sure you stay within your budget when making credit card purchases.

Foreign Currency

If you deposit a check drawn on a foreign bank in your U.S. checking account, it may have to go through a collection process. This means that the money is not available to you until the U.S. bank has collected it from the foreign bank. It may take several weeks before the money is credited to your account.

In countries with restrictions on foreign exchange, you may need to provide your sponsor or your family with certification of enrollment in order to receive money from your home country. The application forms for letters of certification are available in UC International Services office. Please allow five working days for processing.