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How to Manage Finances as an International Student in the US

POSTED ON 05/15/2023 BY Zolve

Life as an international student in the US is exhilarating. But managing money can be overwhelming, particularly while dealing with a new currency and banking system. With steep tuition fees and living expenses, having a solid grasp of financial management fundamentals is essential.

Here are 5 ways to manage finances as an international student in the US:

1) Understand the US currency

Before diving into money management tips in the US, it is important to understand the country’s currency. The US currency comprises paper notes with denominations ranging from $1 to $100 and coins. It uses a decimal system, dividing each dollar into 100 cents. International students in the US will come across some common slang terms, like “Benjamins” for $100 bills, “Lincolns” for $5 bills, and “dimes” for 10-cent coins. 

Pro tip: Having cash on you at all times is a good idea. But only carry the amount you need.

2) Open a US bank account

US bank accounts for international students are crucial as they provide a secure and convenient means of managing finances. Better still, it can save significant expenses in terms of fees and exchange rates that one may incur if they rely on their home country’s bank account. Several US banks offer accounts designed specifically for students or working professionals. But choosing the right one after considering factors such as fees, minimum balance requirements, and account maintenance fees makes all the difference. 

Zolve, a trusted financial partner for international students, simplifies the process to help them select the right bank with no minimum balance. It opens a bank account for international students in the US within five minutes, even before they arrive in the country. To open a bank account, students must share their passport, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or Social Security Number. 

Pro tip: Opening and funding a bank account before leaving your home country gives you one less thing to worry about when you arrive. 

3) Get a US debit and credit card

Credit and debit cards have become more prevalent in the US than cash. A debit card is linked to the bank account of international students in the US and allows them to withdraw cash at ATMs, make purchases, and pay bills. But a credit card is a valuable tool, especially since the country has a credit-based economy. It allows international students to borrow money, establish credit, and receive rewards. However, obtaining a credit card isn’t easy for international students in the US. It requires a social security number and a history of responsible credit behaviour. Unfortunately, the US doesn’t consider the credit score from a student’s home country. 

Thankfully, Zolve offers secured and unsecured credit cards for international students powered by Mastercard. These cards enable them to build their credit history from the moment they arrive in the US. With a notably high credit limit, these cards offer several student-oriented benefits and up to 10 percent cashback.

Pro tip: Use your credit card in the US as much as possible and make your payments on time to build a good credit score that will help you later. 

4) It’s important to build credit

Establishing a solid credit history is essential for a comfortable life in the US, without which renting an apartment, buying a car or securing certain jobs can be challenging. Unfortunately, when international students move to the US, the credit history from their home country doesn’t come with them. So, those dreaming of a life in the US after graduation, must build their credit as soon as they arrive. 

Depending on certain factors, there are several ways to build credit in the US. The easiest way is using a credit card responsibly and make timely payments. Additionally, it’s essential to have one’s positive credit behaviour reported to all three major credit bureaus in the US (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion). Zolve sends this report for all its international students. 

Pro tip: Get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus in the US and stay on top of your credit game.

5) Be smart about remitting money internationally

Remittance involves sending money from one’s home country to the US (and vice versa), which can be complex and expensive. Various remittance options are available, including wire and online transfers. Before selecting one, compare costs, time, and safety to avoid unnecessary fees or delays. Zolve has partnered with some of the best global remittance providers, such as Wise, to ensure cost-effective, safe and timely money movement. 

Pro tip: Opt for a service that provides mid-market exchange rates, representing real-time rates between different currencies to save on conversion fees. 

Being an international student in the US and managing your finances can be daunting. However, with proper planning, the right tools, and smart decision-making, you can overcome these challenges and gain financial independence. 

Zolve is a trusted partner for international students, providing convenient and affordable financial solutions. They offer seamless cross-border financial services.