Banking and Finances

Common Types of Banking Accounts
  • Checking accounts are the best choice for most students. They allow people to pay for their expenses by check or debit card. Many banks have special “college” checking accounts that charge no monthly service fee, regardless of your balance. Checking accounts are convenient, but most do not earn interest.
  • Savings accounts earn a modest interest, but the money is usually only withdrawn in case of emergencies. Many banks require a minimum balance and if the amount of money you have in your account drops below the minimum, then the bank will charge you a fine or penalty. If a customer has a savings account and a checking account at the same bank, then the customer can usually transfer money from her savings account to her checking account.  
What to Bring When Opening an Account
  • Money to deposit
  • Your passport and school ID
  • Form I-94
  • Form I-20 or Form DS-2019
  • Proof of local mailing address (either a phone bill sent to your Agnes Scott address or a letter from the Registrar’s Office verifying your address)
  • Your mother’s maiden name (The bank will ask you for your mother’s family name before she was married to use as a security check when you need to contact the bank with questions.)
  • Social Security card. If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you will need to open your bank account and then apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which is issued by the IRS. Once you are assigned an ITIN, you will need to contact the bank to provide them with the number.
  • Important Note: When opening a bank account, use your name as it appears in your passport to avoid any confusion.
Banks Convenient to Campus
  • Wells Fargo,  250 East Ponce de Leon Ave, (404) 929-7676
  • Bank of America,  163 Clairemont Ave, (404) 371-6930
  • SunTrust,  198 W Ponce de Leon Ave, (404) 370-3000
Online Banking/Account Balancing
The bank sends a monthly statement of all account activity, including withdrawals, deposits, service charges and interest earned. We recommend that you also create an online account through your bank so that you can continuously keep track of all banking activity without having to wait for the monthly paper statement. Transactions usually appear a day or two after they are made. Although you have the option to cancel the monthly paper statements, you may want to keep them coming as another reminder to check your account.

It is important that your record of the amount remaining in the account is the same as the bank's record. Be sure to enter banking transactions in your checkbook's check register when they are made so that you will have an accurate record of your account balances. This is very important when using an ATM, because it is easy to forget a transaction and/or lose the receipts. Customers are charged service fines for checks for writing for an amount greater than the amount of money they have in their account. Checks such as these are called "bounced checks" and writing many of these is considered a criminal offense.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs)
Most banks offer ATM or debit cards that enable you to use ATMs to access your account at any time. You will choose a personal identification number (PIN) to type into the machine each time you access your account. If you make a check deposit through an ATM, make sure you write "for deposit only" when you endorse the back of your check. There are fees for using the ATMs of banks other than your own. Agnes Scott has a SunTrust ATM on the 1st floor of the Alston Campus Center. If your account is not with SunTrust Bank, you will have to pay $2 for each transaction at the ATM. CAUTION: Using ATM machines alone at night can be dangerous. Avoid making ATM transactions at night if possible. If you must get money at night, go to the ATM in Alston Campus Center or to one located inside a building with people and security, such as a shopping mall or grocery store. Also, never keep a record of your PIN in the same place as your card.

Credit Cards
Credit cards can be obtained from banks, charge-card companies and financial organizations. Ideally, you want a card with no annual fee and a low interest rate. If you pay the entire monthly balance at the end of each billing period, then you will not be charged interest. If you make a partial payment and carry the balance owed to future billing periods, then interest will be charged on the remaining amount. Most international students find it difficult to get a credit card in the U.S. because they have not established a credit history and they are not U.S. residents. Another option is a "secured credit card". These cards offer some of the conveniences of a credit card, except that you secure your credit card with a deposit that becomes your credit line.  Your secured card is reported as a regular credit card on your credit report, giving you a chance to build credit history. Find out more about secured credit cards at bankrate.com.

Checks
Some banks supply you with free checks while others charge a fee for checks. Below are the steps to follow when writing a check. If you want additional assistance, stop by the OIE and ask.
  1. Write the date on which you are "issuing" or writing the check.
  2. Write the name of the person or business to whom you are making the payment.
  3. Write the amount of the payment in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3...).  Put the first numeral directly after the dollar sign, not leaving any space for another person to alter the amount of the check by writing in an additional numeral.
  4. On the next line spell out the number of dollars included in the payment, and write the number of cents in the form of a fraction.  (For example, $175.50 would be written out as "One hundred seventy-five and 50/100", meaning 50 cents out of the 100 cents in a dollar).  Begin writing on the far left of the line, and fill the entire line with your writing.
  5. Sign your name as it is printed on the check.  Each time you sign a check (or any document for that matter), use the same signature.  By using a consistent signature, your bank will have an easier time identifying fraudulent checks.
  6. Note the purpose of the payment on the lower left column of each check and also in the check register in your checkbook.  If you make a deposit to your account, be sure to also indicate this in your check register.

To cash or write checks off campus, you will probably need a form of identification besides your student ID, such as your passport or a Georgia State Identification Card.  Be sure to use ink.  

Sample Check
Budgeting Your Money
Arranging one’s finances is difficult enough. Add in the complication of an unfamiliar currency, and your money could disappear much too quickly. Be cautious about spending money until you are accustomed to the value of the dollar and thoroughly understand how much your essential living expenses will cost. Keep a record of all the money you spend. We recommend planning a budget and estimating these possible expenses: tuition, meals, transportation, personal expenses, taxes, fees, health insurance, communications, recreation, rent (breaks and summer), books, supplies, clothes, travel.

Estimates that are given on the I-20 or DS-2019 are usually accurate. When budgeting, students should not expect any increase in the amount of financial aid awarded.

Spending Money
Students can expect to spend $100-$150 per month for personal and incidental expenses. This amount will vary with personal spending habits as well as travel and entertainment expenses. Books and supplies are estimated at $400-$600 per semester. This amount is dependent upon the type and number of courses in which you enroll. Summer expenses will range from $800-$1,000 upward per month, depending on whether the student chooses to live on or off campus. Students should bring an extra $3,000 with them for summer living expenses because on-campus or off-campus employment cannot be guaranteed during the summer.

Notes on Purchasing Items
  • Prices and Sales Tax: Prices are fixed in most stores. The marked price or price tag does not include sales tax. The sales tax, which is subject to change, is 6, 7 or 8% of the purchase price depending on the county and state. It will be added on at the cash register.
  • Payment: Cash is easiest, but it is unwise to carry large amounts of cash. Using checks and/or debit cards is also convenient. If you plan to pay by check or credit cards, most stores require that you show them picture identification such as a driver's license or passport and sometimes a second form of identification (I.D.) such as a major credit card. Merchants are not legally required to accept personal checks. CAUTION: Be careful when making purchases with your debit cards. It is preferable to have merchants do transactions in front of you. If not, someone could write down your information and use your card illegally. In such a case, notify your bank immediately.
  • Receipts: Whenever you buy something ask for a receipt. A receipt proves that you have purchased an item on a particular day in a particular store. If an item is damaged or unsatisfactory, the customer, within a set time frame, can return it to the store if he/she has kept the receipt.
  • Finding Discounts: Stores often hold sales, which is when merchandise is sold at a reduced price - usually at the end of the season. You can also find discounts on online apps, such as Scout Mob