College Connect: As an international student, make sure your bank is actually ‘local’

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By Daniel Levitt

Telling your bank that you’re going abroad on vacation is often unnecessarily laborious. Try telling them that you’re moving abroad to study until ‘who knows when?’

Though it may seem like the last thing you need to worry about before your move, especially if it prides itself on being “the world’s local bank”, but sorting out your bank account may just be the most important.

Let’s take my bank, for instance, which I’m going to leave unnamed for arguments sake.

My bank has offices around the globe and is what you’d typically call a ‘global bank’, which was the primary reason that I stuck with them instead of opening an account with a new bank.

However, since then it’s been anything but a smooth ride.

First, they told me that anytime I wanted to transfer money from the UK to America and vice-versa, it would cost £20 ($25.40), which I thought was reasonable. They didn’t tell me, though, that I would have to spend anywhere from 20-40 minutes on the phone to their representatives to actually make the transfer.

They said that their online banking platform was quick and easy to use, of which I was pleased to hear. I wasn’t aware, however, that any time I forgot my password or username, it would take me anywhere from 20-40 minutes on the phone to their representatives to reset my account.

They said that moving from country to country with them would be seamless and without trouble. Oh how wrong they were.

So what should you look for in a bank as an international student, especially if language is an issue?

  • In-language websites
  • Interpreters
  • One free wire transfer per month, or cost?
  • Availability of ATMS

The point of this post is to demonstrate that it’s so important that your bank has a human you can talk to, whether that’s somewhere in the city or on campus. The amount of time I’ve wasted on the phone, and have stressed not knowing what my bank balance looks like isn’t worth thinking about, but for you, it’s not too late.

Levitt is a graduate student at the University of Missouri on the data visualization track. He is the graphics editor for the Columbia Missourian and is set to intern with Bloomberg in New York this summer.

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