Banking in the U.S.

Here in the U.S., banks have many different types of accounts. The most useful accounts are the checking and savings accounts. With a checking account, you can use a bank card, commonly known as a debit card, to make purchases almost anywhere and the money will be taken directly out of your account. You can also write checks for rent, bills, and other payments using your checking account. Check to see if your bank has a special free student checking account. With a savings account, you can set aside the money you don't want to spend right away and earn some interest on it. You can also use your bank card to take money from it at an ATM and/or use online banking services to transfer money between your accounts.

Opening an Account

If you open your account at the Wells Fargo branch on Lehigh's campus (University Center 2nd floor), you will need your passport. If you open it off-campus, you may need additional forms of identification. You will have to make an initial deposit of $50 to $100 in order to open any account. Prior to going to a bank to open an account, gather some questions you have for the banking personnel who will help you open your account.

Banking Online

Banking online in the U.S. is very safe. You can look at your transaction history keep track of your spending and ensure no unauthorized person is using your bank card. If you find that someone has stolen money from you and you discover a transaction that you did not make, it is called fraud. You only have so many days to report fraud to your bank so be sure to do it in a timely manner.

Balancing an Account

It is your responsibility to make sure your account is balanced. Your bank can give you a ledger to write down all your transactions. Not everything is posted online (if you're using online banking to track your spending) right away so sometimes, you may end up overdrawing your account. There is usually a fee for an overdrawn account. Some banks will charge this fee every time you overdraw your account while other banks can charge you a daily fee for every day that you account incurs a negative balance.

Bank Card vs. Credit Card

If you open a checking or savings account, your bank will give you a bank card, also known as a debit card. If you have a checking account, the card can work like a credit card, drawing money directly from your account. When making a purchase, you can use your bank card as a debit or credit card. If you use it as a debit card, you will have to put in a password, or commonly known as a PIN, and you will be able to proceed with your transaction. If you use it as a credit card, there will be no password but you may have to show your ID.

On the other hand, credit cards are very different from a debit card. When you apply for a credit card, you will receive a line of credit, which is an amount that you are allowed to borrow from the bank. When using a credit card, your money is not directly taken out of your checking or savings account. Instead, you will receive a monthly bill of all the purchases that you have made during the month, which will require you to pay off at least the minimum payment or all of your balance. If you do not pay off your balance at the end of each month, your credit card will start incurring a monthly interest, which you will have to pay off in future months.