Setting up a bank account

Being adult Australians, we had numerous bank accounts and bits of plastic. The moment you become a permanent resident or at least come here to work, they mean nothing. Your credit rating returns to zero and until you’ve either landed a decent paying job or have established a credit rating; you will have to rely on your savings.

Here are five things to do to make it easier when you get to the USA:

  1. Before you leave to live here, make sure you leave someone trusted with the power of attorney or whatever it is that lets them sign paperwork on your behalf. That way, if there’s any problems, they can help you on the ground. For this to work, try to get a relative who isn’t into boozing, horses or embezzlement to be the responsible one.
  2. Before you cancel your mobile or email accounts, make sure you update the emergency contact/security numbers. I say this, as it can be incredibly painful to sort out access to things like Paypal when the only way to authorize it if you lose your password is to have an email or SMS sent to an account that no longer exists. Not fun.
  3. Bank with a bank that has a partner bank in the USA. I’ve heard of people trying to bank with Citibank, but after not getting a lot of answers when I dropped into their main headquarters in Sydney while there for the Green Card interview, I just stayed with Westpac. Westpac is aligned with Bank of America. This can save you big $$$ in withdrawal fees and when wiring money between countries.
  4. When you arrive and have a social security number and an address, bring them and all major types of identification you have in your possession.
  5. Ask to set up a small credit account. They usually give you a basic one which you add your money to. So it’s kind of like a savings account, but it’s used to test you, watch your habits and from there, you build up the credibility and trust to be a big adult.

The banking system is neither better nor worse than back home. Everything is online. They DO have a weird reliance on checks that I haven’t seen since the dawn of the millennium. Most of the banks don’t have the chipped credit cards, but at least they are the first in the world to support Apple Pay.

Once you have established credit, don’t get sucked into signing up for store cards or the like. Just take it easy and be responsible, because they are much less forgiving if you fall behind.

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