Traveler’s cheques are a safe way to carry large amounts of money. Traveler’s cheques may be exchanged for cash at any bank and are accepted by many stores. However, it is advisable that you purchase them in U.S. currency. Most banks outside major cities are unable to exchange foreign currency upon demand. You may have to wait as long as five business days in order to complete the exchange. If your traveler’s cheques are in U.S. dollars, your money will be immediately available to you. During your first week in the United States, you may wish to have approximately $200 in the form of traveler’s cheques to cover any immediate personal expenses.
U.S. Currency and Cash
You should carry a small amount of U.S. currency with you when you travel to the United States. As long as you do not intend to take a taxi from the airport to your institution, $100 is a reasonable amount to carry. This should be carried in small denominations such as $20, $10, $5, and $1, as well as some change in the form of coins.
As you may know, Americans like to use credit cards, and therefore they are widely accepted at stores and restaurants in the United States. If you wish to have one, you may find it more convenient to apply for a credit card in your home country. Some of the more popular and most widely accepted credit cards are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover Card.
Note: Although it is convenient, it is not necessary to have a credit card to function in the United States. Although many international students have them, there are many who do not.
ATM cards are also useful, and you may be able to access funding from your home bank from your host institution’s city or town if you have an ATM card. Most bank accounts in the United States include the issuing of an ATM card, so you can expect to have one if you open a bank account here.
Personal Checks and Currency Not in U.S. Cash
Both of these forms of money will be accepted by U.S. banks, however, your money will not be immediately available to you. Usually, it is necessary to have an account with the bank that accepts these funds. If you open a bank account here, you will be able to deposit checks and currency from your home country, but you must wait a few days to withdraw these funds. Only major banks can exchange foreign currency in the same day.