Paper currency is used for amounts of $1 or more, and coins are used for amounts under $1. The most common coins and the various dollar denominations:
To open a checking account, visit a bank and ask to open a checking account. You will need to deposit money into the account when you open it. You can deposit cash or traveler's checks, or arrange for a wire transfer from your home bank (cost around $35). American Express also offers a variety of services that make it easy to withdraw money from your checking account back home. Additional deposits and withdrawals may be made at any time.
Credit cards are such an ingrained part of the American way of life that you will have trouble making certain purchases with anything other than a credit card. If you want to place an order by phone, cash a check, rent a car, or buy airline tickets, you need to have a credit card.
Many international students find it difficult to get a credit card in the US, because they do not have an established credit history. (Also, the credit card issuers are concerned that international students might eventually return to their home countries and default on the balance remaining on the card.) So if you already have a major credit card such as a MasterCard (Eurocard, Access, Chargex), Visa (Barclaycard, Carte Bleue), or American Express, it is a good idea to bring it with you. American banks can check your credit limit on the foreign card, and this may make them more likely to issue you a credit card. Also, if you opened a checking or savings account with a bank that offers credit cards, it may be easier to get a credit card from that bank since you have money on deposit with them.
The major credit cards in the US are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Visa and MasterCard are offered by many banks and financial institutions. American Express and Discover Card are each offered by only one financial institution, but are accepted by many businesses.
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