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Money and Living Expenses

Make the most of your money


Your day-to-day living expenses will vary depending on the state or the city you live in. The average annual cost of study, including tuition fees and living expenses, is approximately USD$35,000 per year. However, this figure can rise significantly with some private institutions charging USD$35,000 or more for just the tuition fees, so it is important that you do your research.

Other additional costs you will need to include in your budget are your study visa and application fees, university administration fees, student application fees, other compulsory fees for services, processing fees as well as insurance for the on-campus medical facilities for general check-ups, basic medical tests and prescription fees for common illnesses.

Most campuses offer a meal plan for students which allow you to eat at the on-campus facilities. There are different levels of meal plans to accommodate individual budgets.

Your banking and payments options
The currency in the United States of America is the U.S. dollar, which can also be referred to as USD.

When it comes to managing your money whilst in the U.S., there are a number of choices. You can set up a bank account with any of the banks in the U.S.. It’s a good idea for you to check if your school, college or university has any special relationships with local banks as you may be able to access some benefits such as free banking, an interest-free overdraft facility or travel discounts.

When choosing the banking option for you, its important to compare the bank costs and services and make sure that you are entitled to all the relevant benefits  available to international students.

There are two main types of accounts used in the U.S.. A checking account is best suited for frequent deposits and withdrawals such as when managing day-to-day living expenses. A savings account is not intended for daily use, the money deposited into this type of account is intended to be long term savings earning interest over time.

To open a bank account you may be required to present the following documents:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of address, telephone number and utility bills
  • I-94 card
  • I-20, DS-2019 or I-797 approval notice. The I-20 and DS-2019 are immigration documents that are associated with your visa status and are issued by the school, college or university where you have been admitted. The I-797 is a notice of action which is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
  • Enrolment verification letter from the school, college or university
  • Any secondary form of identification such as a student card, birth certificate, state driver’s licence, or a letter from the International Students and Scholars Office
  • Getting your phone and Internet access organised
  • You’ll probably want to get your phone and Internet service sorted as soon as you arrive in the U.S.


When it setting up your phone, there are three main options:

  • Landline: this is usually only relevant if you live off-campus. You may be able to get a better deal by bundling your landline with Internet access, however the costs will vary depending on the speed and level of usage you need
  • Mobile – pay-as-you-go (PAYG): this gives you control over how much you spend and you can stop using it whenever you want. A prepaid account like this is easy to set up and SIM cards are widely available from many local stores and supermarkets, as well as from mobile phone providers
  • Mobile – contract: this may be cheaper but depends on how long you will be in the U.S., how much you use your mobile and what you use your mobile for. Mobile contracts in the U.S. typically include some Internet data.
     

Making international calls
International calls can be more expensive than calls within the U.S. You might consider buying an international calling card which has reduced rates or use an online option such as Skype or FaceTime instead. If you would like to buy an international calling card, you can buy these at most convenience stores.

To call a U.S. number from overseas, you will need to use the country code (1) followed by the relevant area code and then the telephone number

To call another country from within the U.S., you will need to use the international code 011, followed by the relevant country code and the relevant area code if required and then the telephone number

Accessing the Internet

There are a number of possible options for Internet service providers in the U.S., so it’s a good idea to shop around so you find the plan that offers the best price and download limits to suit your needs and budget.

Most educational institutions provide free Wi-Fi for students on campus which you can access with your student logon and password. If you are unable to access the Internet via your own laptop or computer, you can usually find a computer to use in the student library, at an off-campus public library or at an Internet café.

You can also access Wi-Fi in some public places or on public transport, however some providers might ask you to pay to use this service. It’s always a good idea to check the security of any public network you are connecting to.

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