Planning your finances is one of the biggest and most important tasks when living abroad.
You may come from a country with a different cost of living; you may not be used to paying your own housing, food and utilities expenses; you may be unsure how much to calculate for transportation or taxes. And you're doing it all in a new currency.
Be ready to meet many basic expenses at the beginning. Don't worry—things will get less expensive after you have set up your new life!
You will need to have US funds and a local bank account to meet those initial expenses, because long delays are possible with international banking.
Before you arrive, you will need to pay for
- tuition & fees
- health insurance
- books for your classes
- apartment security deposit (if applicable, usually equal to a month's rent)
- first month’s rent
You must figure your finances carefully and plan on these expenses without help from the university.
You should also set up your local bank account at least one month before you arrive in the US.
Plan to bring at least $2,000 in United States currency or traveller’s checks to cover your initial expenses on arriving at UC.
Even if you will receive financial aid from UC, your first check will not be available immediately.
UC issues paychecks on the first of the month for the previous month. Therefore, it will be at least a month after your arrival before you receive your first stipend check.
You may have added expenses in the first few months of your life here. Read your residence hall or apartment contract carefully to see what is provided and budget for any other items you will need in addition to food or other basic necessities.
Setting up bank accounts
To prepare to meet your financial needs for the entire year, you should make the necessary arrangements with your government, your sponsor and any banks involved to ensure that the funds you need will be available to you locally.
Remember that checks drawn on foreign banks will require several weeks to clear, and therefore you will not have access to those funds right away! In order to have money available to you upon arrival, the necessary funds should be transferred to a local bank in Cincinnati at least one month prior to your arrival.
While there are several banks near campus, PNC Bank has a full-service branch on campus and ATMs around campus. They are accustomed to helping UC's international students.
US financial institutions are required to verify the identity of anyone who opens an account. The identifying information each institution records about users may differ but for foreign nationals includes at least
- Your name
- Your date of birth
- Your street address (not a post office box)
- Passport number and country of issuance
- Alien identification card number or the number and country of issuance of any other government document that shows your nationality or residence and that bears a photograph or similar safeguard of identification
- Taxpayer identification number—Social Security Number (preferred) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number—as soon as you have one (You can open your account before you receive the number.)
To assist you in opening a bank account, 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. Take the letter and the following documents with you when you 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
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 only you can access.
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).
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.
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 often located outside the bank or inside stores, are convenient and accessible outside of bank hours.
Banks that are members of a national network allow you to access your funds at selected ATMs throughout the country, though you may pay a fee if the ATM is not your own bank's ATM.
There are many ATMs located on UC's campus.
Like a bank card, a debit card (also known as a check card) allows you to withdraw or deposit money to your bank account using an ATM.
You can also use it directly to make purchases at stores that accept the card, instead of using a check or a credit card.
Some debit cards carry a credit-card logo (such as Mastercard or Visa). Debit cards are not credit cards, however. They can be used only to pay with funds you already have in your account.
Credit cards are 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. However, make sure you stay within your budget when making credit card purchases. You can easily accumulate large bills, and before you know it, you may be in debt.
Before you accept a credit card, be sure you 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.
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.
Dealing with emergencies
If you encounter major financial hardship, there are some safety nets for you at UC.
Please note that COVID-19 has caused exceptional drains on funding, as many students are facing serious hardships.
The University of Cincinnati has established an emergency fund for international students who have a severe and unforeseen economic hardship as a result of emergency circumstances in the home country that are beyond the control of the students or their sponsors.
Emergency circumstances can include:
- a severe devaluation of the home country’s currency,
- natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis,
- civil unrest, or
- other special circumstances deemed legitimate by UC.
Students must be in good academic standing to qualify. When necessary, preference will be given to students based on GPA and students in their final term of study.
Before requesting emergency funds you must make every effort to obtain support from family, friends, and other sources. You must demonstrate that you have actively pursued funding from your college or department.
In addition, you need to have realistic expectations of what this emergency fund can do for you. The emergency fund is meant to be a temporary (1-2 semesters), supplemental fund. It is not meant to be a significant, long-term funding source. A typical award would not exceed a maximum of $5,000.
You must document to UC International Services the “severe” and “unforeseen” economic hardship. Significant supporting documentation is required, as detailed on the application form.
A special committee consisting staff from UC International, Enrollment Management, The Graduate School, the Bursar’s Office and the VP for Finance will review all requests for emergency funding.
Questions about the emergency fund can be addressed to Ron Cushing or 513-556-2879.
The Bearcat Emergency Fund (BEF) is a partnership between the Division of Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, and Office of the Bursar. The BEF is designed to provide assistance with unexpected emergency expenses surrounding situations such as accidents, illness, death of a family member, fire damage, medical deductible, or need for temporary housing or food.
Students may apply for funds when they have exhausted all other resources. The application will ask for details on how the expenses were unanticipated and why the student is unable to meet the expense. All BEF applications are reviewed on a case by case basis. All BEF applications are typically limited to $500.00. Special circumstances may be approved for funds exceeding $500.00. Under normal circumstances, students needing emergency funds exceeding $500.00 are encouraged to consider alternate emergency funding and apply for an interest free short term loan.
A UC Short-Term Loan may be available to help with tuition or related educational costs. Under this program a maximum of $2,000 may be borrowed for no more than 90 days. No interest is charged during this 90-day period but there is a $50 processing fee.
The UC Bearcats Pantry provides free food, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, and professional clothing to students of all backgrounds with food and other insecurities. The pantry also provides meal vouchers that can be used at campus dining halls and To-Go Bags that can be conveniently picked up at locations across campus.
The subject of taxation can be complicated for Americans, let alone visitors to the United States.
UC International is here to help you in any way we can. Our responsibility in this area is to assist individuals and hiring departments understand and comply with US Treasury regulations.
View our taxes section for more detailed information on paying your taxes in the US.