Managing your finances is one of the most important and challenging aspects of a successful and enjoyable academic experience. Dealing with a new currency and cost of living are the beginning of the challenge. When you are admitted to a US institution, take a close look at the I-20 that will accompany the letter of admission and the budget you prepared for yourself based on estimated expenses. Use the list below to help you think about all the possible expenses you may have.
The estimate that appears on the I-20 is usually accurate, and international students are expected to have funds to cover the full amount shown. It is not possible to arrange for more financial aid once you arrive at an institution. If you are a graduate student and are awarded an assistantship, be sure you understand what it will include and what you will be expected to pay from your own funds. If you will receive a scholarship or fellowship, determine ahead of time what portion is taxable and include the necessary taxes in your budget.
You will need to transfer large amounts of money for your expenses for the year. The best ways to transfer money are:
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Banking: There is a variety of banks available in Salisbury. The University has an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) on campus, located by the Guerrieri University Center. It belongs to State Employees Credit Union, but can also be used with the PLUS, MOST and CIRRUS systems, as well as MasterCard and Visa credit card (there is a small charge for using those services.)
Opening a Banking Account: Once you arrive in Salisbury, you will need to open a bank account. When doing so, bring your student ID, passport and funds you want to deposit. Different banks offer different services; you may wish to compare costs of these services. You may ask your International Student Services office for recommendations. A checking account will permit you to write checks to make purchases and pay bills. Many stores will accept a check with proper identification (driver's license or passport). Checks are a good way of keeping record of your money. A savings account usually earns a better interest; you may withdraw money from a savings account, but may not write a check. After opening an account, make yourself familiar with all the services and options available to you from the bank.
Banks offer a variety of services including safety deposit boxes for storing valuable possessions, "debit cards,' also known as check cards, which allow 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 cards, and credit cards that allow you to make purchases even when you have no money immediately available. Credit cards are convenient, but unless you are careful you may be unpleasantly surprised when you get your monthly bill. Interest rates on credit cards can be high.
Transferring Funds to the US: You need to bring enough money to meet the initial costs of getting to campus and at least one month's expenses. Travelers' checks are the safest way to carry money, but be sure to record the checks' numbers and keep that record separate from the checks. Do not carry large amounts of cash; do not send cash through the mail. When you transfer larger amounts of money, explore the options available to you and learn whether your country has restrictions on sending money abroad. Keep in mind that exchange rates change daily, and you should check with your local bank on what they are. You can also check them on the World Wide Web: http://www.oanda.com/cgi-bin/ncc. Keep in mind that the first month is likely to be among the most expensive periods of your stay in the United States. Keep this in perspective; it will not be as expensive after you settle in.
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Be careful about lending or giving money to anyone, especially strangers. If you are reluctant in the face of a request for money, just say: "I am sorry but I cannot help you," and politely close the door or hang up the phone.
Unless you have initiated a transaction to obtain a product, service or benefit, never give your credit card number, bank account number, or Social Security number to anyone. You may be giving it to a person who will use the information illegally.
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