Banking and Finances

We will provide a Banking Fair during International Undergraduate and Graduate Orientation, but here's some info to get you started. If you would like additional information, please consult with staff in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services and view the OISSS page on Banking

How to Open a Bank Account

The three banks that are closest to Brown's campus are Bank of America, Citizens Bank, and Santander Bank. make sure to investigate the terms and conditions of each bank before you open an account. If you do not have a social security number, remember to bring two pieces of identification (student ID and a passport) and your I-20 form, as it may be necessary when opening a bank account.

Checking vs. Savings Accounts

Checking Accounts

Checking accounts ensure safe and quick deposit of checks, including foreign checks, and are oftentimes free to open. They offer a convenient and safe way to store large amounts of cash. Once you open a checking account, you receive a debit card that allows you to pay for items and services in stores and online without having to carry cash in your wallet.

Savings accounts

Savings accounts should be reserved for money that you do not wish to access readily. When you open a savings account, you keep a certain amount of money in that account and do not use it unless absolutely necessary. The benefit of putting money in a savings account is that you can accumulate interest and earn more money over time, and it also helps you budget your money.

Please note that interest earned through a savings account may be taxable. Furthermore, some banks charge a penalty fee for withdrawing money from a savings account before a fixed amount of time elapses. Fortunately, many banks allow you to transfer or withdraw money into other accounts (such as a checking account) at any time without incurring penalty fees. Please ask your bank before you withdraw or transfer money from a savings account.

ATM Machines

Automatic Teller Machines, or ATMs allow you to deposit, transfer, or withdraw money using your debit card. ATMs are located on Thayer Street and inside the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center.

Please use caution whenever you access an ATM. It is recommended that you use ATMs in safe, secure places—especially indoors, and avoid making withdrawals after dark. Avoid accessing the ATM if someone who looks suspicious is following you or "hanging around" the ATM machine for no apparent reason. You must input your PIN number whenever you use an ATM. This is a unique code which you should never share with anyone else. Make sure no one around you sees you input your PIN number. Please also note that some banks charge a service for ATM transactions, especially if it is an ATM machine that belongs to a bank other than your own.

Safety Tips

  • Do not share your checking card PIN number with any one, not even with a close friend or relative. Your PIN number is the unique access code that you must enter whenever you purchase items or services or make transactions through an ATM machine. This code is private-sharing it with another person could put your money at risk of being stolen!
  • Do not carry large amounts of cash in your wallet or purse. Only carry enough cash that you may need for the day. Avoid "flashing" your cash in public. Use a checking (debit) card to make transactions, so as to avoid losing cash or getting robbed.
  • Carry your purse, wallet, or backpack close to your body and keep a tight grip on it.
  • Do not carry your id card and your checks in your wallet. It would be better to keep them separate (e.g. keep your id cards in your wallet in one pocket, and your checkbook in another pocket. If you lose your checkbook, contact your bank immediately so that no stranger or thief can access your money.
  • Do not write your PIN number down. Memorize it!
  • Make a list of all of your credit cards, checking account numbers, and identification cards. If anything gets stolen or lost, you should contact the police immediately and give them the list. You must also contact your bank as soon as possible to prevent a thief from accessing your money


Checks are typically used to pay for monthly bills such as rent, telephone, cable, water and electric bills. The benefit of using a check is that once it is cashed, you have proof of payment through the bank. Banks usually scan copies of checks that have been cashed or deposited, which allows you to view the checks conveniently through your online account statement. PLEASE NOTE: it is a very serious offense to write checks without having sufficient funds in your account. Please make sure you have enough money in your checking account before you write any checks. A "bounced" check can result in fees from the bank, fees from the vendor, and other potential financial and legal consequences.

Check out this step-by-step tutorial that explain how to write a check.