One of the first things you'll need to do when you get to the US is open a bank account. A bank account is necessary in order to manage money, make deposits, transfer funds and use a debit card. In the United States it is considered extremely unsafe to keep large sums of cash at home.


The Dashew Center recommends Chase Bank for all of the UCLA international students. Chase has great customer service and thousands of ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) throughout Los Angeles. The Dashew Center has developed a close relationship with the Chase Bank in Westwood and we have worked hard to make it as easy as possible for an international student to open an account there. You do not need a Social Security Number to open an account (unlike at other banks) and your student checking account is FREE. Additionally, speak to a Chase banker, and they can provide you with details around a FREE GIFT for mentioning the Dashew Center when opening an account. If you have specific banking questions, you can contact our partners, Peter Orantes , at pedro.a.orantes@chase.com or Ricardo Olvera, at Ricardo.Olvera@Chase.com.

Westwood Branch:
10901 Wilshire Blvd
(on the corner of Wilshire Blvd and Westwood Blvd)
(310) 208-0196


When you go to the bank, you will want to open a checking account, which is a payment account that stores the money you will use to pay bills or make purchases. With your checking account, you will have easy access to your stored cash via checks, debit card, or online bill pay. When opening a checking account, you need to come in person to the bank with your student identification card, passport, and the funds you wish to deposit.

As many bank accounts charge monthly fees, you should also ask the banker about "Student" checking accounts because they usually have better rates and waive any minimum balance requirements. There are also certain checking accounts that will accrue interest if a minimum amount of money is kept in the account. Such accounts are known as "Checking with Interest." Please see the bank for more details on all types of accounts they offer.


Americans use debit cards much more often than cash and it is not unusual to use a debit card for something as small as a $2 purchase. Do not hesitate to use your card when making purchases, many vendors expect that you will use a debit card instead of cash.

You will receive a debit card in the mail several days after you open your bank account. Along with your debit card you will receive a PIN (Personal Identification Number), usually a four-digit number, to access your account with the card.

Always be mindful that the amount of money you have in your account should cover your debit card transactions. Spending more money then you have in your account will result in what are called “overdraft fees” which are usually between $30 - $50 (depending on the bank) so make sure you always know your balance!


Your debit card allows you to get cash, make deposits, transfer funds, or check your account balances at any time from an ATM (Automated Teller Machines). ATMs are usually located at the bank and at various locations throughout the campus and city. The money withdrawn from an ATM will be taken out of your savings or checking account immediately. Please note that using an ATM that is does not belong to your bank will result in charges from your bank (usually $2-$5) and the bank whose ATM you used so it’s better just to find and use an ATM of your bank if at all possible.


Checks are rarely used in the US anymore EXCEPT when paying rent at your apartment. Typically landlords only accept checks as the form of rent payment; however, some landlords are starting to accept credit cards. Upon opening your checking account, you will receive free starter checks but most likely you will need to place an order for more checks through your bank so you can pay rent for the whole year.

If there are insufficient funds in your account to cover the check, the check will "bounce" and your account will be overdrawn. This means that the bank will refuse to honor the check and will return it to the depositor. In addition, the bank will charge you a bounced check fee of $25- $50. If the payee tries to redeposit the check (sometimes the bank will do this automatically), you will be penalized with a second bounced check fee for the same check. Many international students expect the bank to pay checks even when their account is overdrawn but American banks will not do this and penalty fees can add up quickly if you are not aware of your balance!


If you are looking to open up a credit card and to build a credit history, the Dashew Center recommends SelfScore. SelfScore’s mission is to help international students access a U.S. credit card and start establishing a credit history early. As former international students, the company’s founders have developed a special approval process that goes beyond standard credit scoring. SelfScore identifies financially responsible international students by examining factors that traditional scoring overlooks including education, source of funding, and future employability — without requiring a Social Security number or a credit history to apply. For more information about SelfScore please visit their website

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