Bank accounts for new immigrants

After receiving your driver's license in the USA, you can start to plant your roots in the country.  An American driver's license makes you like everyone else, because this is the most widely accepted identification document that is used not just for driving but at banks, to buy alcohol, to enter bars/nightclubs, to board airplanes on domestic flights, and anywhere else someone needs to confirm your identity.

Since America is a fairly cashless society (do not be surprised or offended if stores raise eyebrows or even refuse to accept large bills like $50 and $100), it is nice to have a bank account so that you can pay almost all your bills with a personal check (the preferred mode of paying bills by mail).  You will also have an ATM or debit card that will allow you to withdraw cash and pay for your shopping using a keypad.

In order to bank without fees, most banks expect you to have a few thousand dollars in your account (or ask your employer to deposit your salary into the account).  Opening an account is fairly easy and you can simply go to any branch with your passport, license, and cash (if you have other forms of money like travelers checks or want to make a bank transfer, the bank may arrange that as well).  Your ATM card and checks will arrive in the mail in a few days.  Many banks also offer a secure credit card (these are the only credit cards you will be eligible for initially because you lack a credit history reported in form of a credit score) and these cards allow you to build a history so that after a few years, you will be able to apply for a real credit card that you can use to actually borrow money.

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