First Steps in Financial Awareness: A Guide for International Students in the US

Embarking on an academic journey abroad, specifically in the US, brings about a whirlwind of emotions - excitement, curiosity, perhaps a little apprehension, and an eagerness to embrace a new culture. For international students, this journey also involves navigating the complexities of a new financial landscape. Here are a few crucial things to be aware of in the financial arena when you first arrive in the US.

Understanding the Basics of US Banking

One of the first tasks you will need to tackle upon arrival is setting up a US bank account. This will facilitate easy management of your finances, including receiving money from your home country, paying bills, and handling day-to-day expenses. Take the time to understand the difference between checking and savings accounts, the concept of credit and debit cards, and how to use ATMs.

Familiarizing Yourself with the US Currency

The US uses dollars and cents as their currency. Coins are available in denominations of 1 (penny), 5 (nickel), 10 (dime), 25 (quarter), 50 (half-dollar, though less common), and 1 dollar (coin). Paper bills come in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollar denominations. Familiarize yourself with these to avoid confusion during transactions.

Building a Credit History

In the US, your credit history plays a pivotal role in various aspects of your life - renting an apartment, getting a cell phone plan, or even applying for a credit card. As an international student, you start with no credit history. Consider getting a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on a trusted person's credit card to start building your credit history.

Budgeting and Living Expenses

The cost of living can vary significantly depending on your location in the US. Hence, it is essential to create a budget that takes into account your tuition, accommodation, meals, transportation, textbooks, and personal expenses. Apps and online tools can help you track your spending and manage your budget effectively.

Understanding Taxes

While international students may not earn income, it's important to understand the basics of the US tax system. If you do start working, whether it's a part-time job or internship, you will need to file an income tax return. Even if you do not earn, you may still need to file a form each year with the IRS to maintain your visa status.

Learning about US Student Loans

If you are considering a student loan to finance your education, it is crucial to understand the terms and conditions. Be aware of the interest rates, repayment terms, and the difference between federal and private loans.

Navigating the financial landscape as an international student in the US can be challenging, but with the right information and guidance, you can make informed decisions and effectively manage your finances. Remember, the key is to ask questions, do your research, and seek help when needed. Welcome to your exciting new journey in the US!