It’s time to turn from international money transfer to US. Yes, let’s talk about how to send money in USA. It may be surprising but transferring money within US is a bit expensive than transferring money to foreign locations. One reason is the money transfer agents do not get any ‘cut’ in the exchange rate commissions, so they charge the money from the customer for their service.
Having said that, our goal in this article is to provide you with some good options to send money to your loved ones within US.
RIA Money Transfer:
Let’s start with a winner in more than one category. RIA – talk about instant money transfer (15 minutes) for $0. Yes, you read that right – $0 in fees. They offer bank deposit in 4 business days and also $0 in fees. I was thoroughly surprised to see that fees, especially for transfers within US. Of course, they are first on our list.
Western Union Money Transfer:
Bank to Bank, Bank to cash-pickup, Debit/credit card to bank or cash pick up – you choose. So many options all with varying fees and an awesome range of ‘availability’ makes Western next on our list. Oh, yes the money transfer limit is about $50,000 – if you are looking to transfer that kind of money. For more info, check www.westernunion.com
Walmart to Walmart:
This giant in ‘everything’ now sets its foot in money transfer and if you are looking to send only up to $900, they are giant in this business too. Store to store transfer is only $9.50 (and lower fees for lower amounts). With their wide network of stores around the nation – your loved ones are never too far from picking cash from one of their stores. It takes about 10 minutes for the transfer to happen.
In the event you are far away from Western Union or Walmart – your best bet is to use MoneyGram. Their fees is in line with Western Union and they have cash pick up and bank deposit options with cash pickup available in 10 minutes. For more details, check www.moneygram.com
If you haven’t learnt about how to get a credit card from our earlier article, we recommend you to have a look if you do not have a credit card. Here we will look at the importance of building credit history in US and ways to build credit.
US runs on credit. Even if you have $10000 in your bank account and no credit history whatsoever, you will have hard time buying a property on credit. As a student, I was hesitant to get a credit card initially as I always like to keep things simple, however, it was not until I talked to a friend who has been in US longer than I that I learned that once I get out of the college, my credit history is going to play a vital role in getting a rental place, buying a car and even buying a home.
I was glad that I got that piece of advice, thanks to that advice, now my credit rating is ‘excellent’ and because of that, I got all my loans (credit card, car, student loans, housing loan) at competitive rates.
It takes time, mind you, to build credit history but it is not very difficult to build one if you are disciplined.
Below are some ways you can build your credit history (this assumes that you already have a credit card, if not, look at the earlier article about getting one with or without credit history):
1. Auto pay:
This is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your credit card is paid on time, always. As long as you review your credit card statements every month, this is a convenient method. If you are lazy and hardly check your statements then this may turn out to be a dangerous way to losing money too.
2. Buy things on credit and then pay it off:
Instead of using cash or debit card, use your credit card wherever it is accepted. Set an auto-pay or a reminder to yourself to pay off the credit card before the deadline to avoid additional fees/charges. Most credit cards have 30-45 days for you to pay off. This will not only help with credit history but in some cases you can get cool ‘money back’ offers from the credit card company. For instance, American Express Cash Back card gives you 1%-5% cash back on your purchases. Lot of other credit card companies have similar offers these days.
3. Loan payments:
Even if you have $10,000 lying in your bank and even if you want to just buy a used car which costs only $8000, it may still be a good idea to buy it on credit. When we first started out, we bought a car for $5000 for cash and after 3 years, we bought a car on credit, sure we had to pay an interest of 4% but it was worth it for what it did to our credit history. Again, this is not the only way but is a quicker way to prove your credit worthiness.
4. Timely payments:
Always ensure that all your credit cards, loans are paid on time. One defaulted payment may cause unnecessary damage to your credit history. I was surprised to see that a payment we missed like 2 years back still shows up on our credit report. Auto-pay comes to rescue or setting reminders in your personal (or work) email will help too.
5. Credit union account/credit cards:
If you are new to US, chances are it is difficult to qualify for a credit card and without a credit card/loan it is difficult to build credit history. Paradoxical, I know. One easy alternative is to join a credit union in your locality. Most places have local credit unions whose only condition is that you live in the county that they serve. It is relatively easier to get a credit card, with low limit initially, from a credit union. You can also maintain your savings account with them.
6. Keep an eye on your credit score:
You can get free credit reports or subscribe for a credit report company service to keep an eye on your credit history. You want to make sure that no one else has taken your identity to apply for credit cards or loans, checking your credit report is a good to check. There are few companies who offer you first free credit report including: www.kreditkarma.com, www.freecreditreport.com
7. Co-signer based application:
If you have never had a card before, you can start by applying to one with a co-signer (someone who has better credit history than yours). Co-signer credit card is a good option for someone starting out new to start building your own credit score of your own.
Those are some of the ways to build credit.
One of the perks of working in US is the ability to send money to the loved ones back in India. For sending the money you want to be sure that you are getting:
i) Safe transaction assurance
ii) Good exchange rate
iii) Avoid unnecessary fees or hidden fee
iv) Ease of access to money by recipient in India
Keeping the above features in mind, let’s look at the options you have to send the money to India.
Online Money transfer:
Sending money using an online remittance service is both convenient and easy. Two of the below mentioned options actually let you send cash (and thus do not need you to have a bank account in US) – especially useful when you are working on campus and are dealing in cash rather than bank transfers – these are identified with ($) sign.
Xoom has become an instant attention grabber with its salient features including: No fees on transactions over $1000, 24 hour money transfer (Instant transfer if you have Punjab National Bank or HDFC account in India with no block-out days), locked in exchange rate and ease of transferring money from your US bank account. You can even use your credit card to transfer money with modest fees.
Until I switched to Xoom, Moneygram has been my favorite. Even to this day – if I want money to be picked by a friend in an instant – I use Moneygram. Their fees is higher when you use your credit/debit card for instant transfer but their exchange rate is usually higher by about 30 paise to 50 paise from others – which typically covers most of the fees. Still continues to be on my favorite usage list. Offers cash to online remittance through one of their convenient locations.
When it comes to big bucks and transferring big bucks safely – I trust ICICI’s Money2India. Unless you use their express or power transfer – it usually takes about 5 business days. Recently they have introduced locked in exchange rates so it doesn’t bother me when the money reaches into account as I know the amount received in India before I complete the transaction.
An initiative of Times of India group, Remit2India is a favorite of many NRIs. It offers remittances from $50 to $50,000+ with in person delivery of bank demand draft to your recipient if they are outside the ‘bank network’ of their group. You can even have the bank demand draft deposited into the recipient’s account. Recipient does not have to do anything – Remit2India arranges all these logistics.
WesternUnion Money Transfer ($):
One of the iconic money transfer service. It would have been on the top of the list if not for other services offering better deals. Having said that – WU still stands to be one of the most preferred money transfer service due to its vast network around the globe. Your recipient will find it easier to spot a western union nearby.
Consider the brief comparison of all these services below:
There are other services like SBI, HSBC, etc also offer money transfer services but this article has been deliberately limited to the services we personally used and found to be comparatively better than those that we skipped. For a detailed comparison of other banks/services – please visit: http://www.compareremit.com/compare-money-transfer-services-to-india/
If you decide to use any of the services listed on this page, we appreciate you using the links posted on this site as it may yield referral to our site and will keep it going. It will not cost you anything.
Everything runs on ‘credit history’ in the US from securing loans to buying car on loan to getting mortgage, and secretly – your future employers run your ‘background check’ which includes your credit history check. And how do you build your credit history? Stay current on your bills, pay your loans on time and get a credit card.
Credit card helps you build a consistent credit history when you make purchases and stay current on your balance.
What to look for when choosing a credit card?
There are 100s if not 1000s of choices when it comes to credit cards. How then do you pick a card that’s right for you? We cannot define what is right for you but you can check below features to see if the card you want to get is ideal for your situation.
1) Transaction protection: What kind of protection does your card offer? If an unauthorized transaction happens on your card how many days do you have before you can get it reversed. Is there a dollar limit on how much you are protected for?
2) Cash back: Cash back these days ranges from 1% to 3% depending on the type of transaction involved. On a 1% cash back for every $100 you spend you get a $1 back, the $1 that you otherwise would have lost. So it would be important to know.
3) Annual fees: see if your credit card comes with a hefty annual fees or if it is free. Usual annual fees range from $0 to $95 (or more).
4) Auto rental collision damage coverage: Some credit cards cover collision damages on your rental card when you book your rental car on your credit card. Make sure this is covered if you are an avid traveler.
5) Interest rate: You may be confident that you will always be current on your credit card account but its always good to choose a card that offers lowest (and long term) annual percentage rate and re-payment options.
How to compare the cards?
There are many sites where you can compare different credit cards and see if the cards offer the options that you are looking for.
Nerd wallet:One of the better sites that features multiple card comparison
Bank rate: This site has tons of information including the credit comparison page.
Credit Karma: This site offers truly free credit check account and also has a credit card comparison page.
Steps in applying for the credit card:
Step 1: Decide on the features: Using the pointers above decide on what is THE most important thing for you in a credit card.
Step 2: Find the right card: Compare the various cards at the sites provided above.
Step 3: Apply. Most sites let you apply for credit card online. Provide the information and click submit and wait for the decision to pop up on screen. If you are approved – wait for the card to arrive in the mail and use it sensibly.
Apply for credit card with no credit (or bad credit)
It is easy to get a credit card when you have good credit history under your belt but how to get a credit card when your credit history is bad to nothing? Consider following options:
i) Credit union credit cards: Credit unions are much more flexible in giving you a shot with a credit card than big name banks/credit card companies. You may have to ‘deposit’ security money for few months to begin with but once that time passes and you stay good on your credits – you will no longer need to keep any security for your credit card. Consult your local credit union or apply for an online credit union credit card.
ii) Apply for a no-credit or bad credit cards: There are some credit cards specifically designed for people who do not have credit in US. The interest rates are usually high and the features you get maybe limited but used cautiously – these cards will help you establish credit worthiness and apply for better cards in no time.
iii) Co-signer based credit card: If you have someone with decent credit history in US that can be your co-signer – you may be able to get a decent credit card without a great credit history of your own.
With all the information in this article – we hope you find the right card that fits your needs.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and
not an advice. Please seek a professional if you need help.
Guide to opening a bank account in USA
You need a bank account – that is a no brainer. How to get one? That is worth your thought. You can open a bank account from the comfort of your home sitting in front of a laptop in certain cases but if you are new to the US you may have to walk into a bank to open an account.
What are you looking for in your account?
Before you pick a bank – ask the following questions based on your priorities and see if the bank you are looking at is a good fit for you.
- Find out if there is a minimum balance requirement. Some banks wash out your money if you don’t maintain minimum balance.
- Does the bank offer online ‘bill payment’ feature so that you can manage your bills online.
- Are there enough ATMs around the place you want them around?
- Is the bank insured, if so, by who and to what extent?
- What are the fees/penalties for a bounced check?
- Does the bank have ‘deposit check via smart phone’ – relatively new technology but maybe important for you to know if the bank has this feature.
What do you need to open a bank account?
In general, you would to provide basic information listed below –
- ID proof – such as Driver’s license, Passport copy etc.,
- Physical address
- School information (if you are a student)
If you are visiting US on temporary work visa (L1 visa) or student exchange visa (J1 visa), you would need –
- Letter from employer or School
- Physical address details. You may be staying in hotel temporarily, however if your employer has secured an apartment, get a copy of leasing agreement. For students, your school should be providing this information.
Opening a bank account with Social security number (SSN)
If you have been living in US for sometime and you have a social security number – you can, in most cases, open bank account online or in person.
i. Opening bank account via online:
If you are a US citizen or green card holder – you can apply for a checking or savings (or both) online. You will need following details:
- Driving license details
- Details of credit card/debit card or details of account at another bank
- Personal details
Visit the website of your chosen bank, check their feature (as listed above) and start the application online. Below we have provided links to the top 10 banks in United States.
Citi Bank: https://online.citibank.com/US/JRS/pands/detail.do?ID=OnlineBankingOverview
Bank of America: https://www.bankofamerica.com/deposits/bank-accounts.go
Wells Fargo: https://www.wellsfargo.com/checking/
US Bank: https://apply.usbank.com/apply/gettingStarted.html
PNC Bank: https://www.apply.pnc.com/apply/servlet/WelcomeInitServlet?product=VWALLETPERF
Capital One 360: https://home.capitalone360.com/lp-get360?utm_campaign=COF&utm_source=www.capitalone.com/directbanking&utm_medium=4_16-col_1-1-1_directbank-banner-threesixty_56_1_/media/banner/direct-banking/directbank-banner-thre&utm_term=BAU&utm_content=MTS::MB0F4ZC4S
TD Bank: http://www.tdbank.com/net/openaccount.aspx
ii. Opening bank account in person:
You can visit the local office of your chosen bank and submit the documents required (see above) and walk out of the bank with details of your newly opened bank account.
Please make sure you ask questions related to the items we described above, read the contract and sign after you are convinced.
Open bank account without SSN
Banks cannot deny a bank account just because you do not have a social security number. If they do – you can escalate it to the Federal reserve. You must be present in the US legally.
You will need at least two forms of IDs with pictures
2. Student ID
3. Driver’s license
4. Army/Navy Forces ID etc)
Carry some cash (or check from another bank), most banks require a minimum of $25 to $100 to open an account.
Do NOT forget the credit union banks
You would be surprised as to how many features a local credit union bank offers and most for free. Apart from the document requirement, only other requirement you may need to have is to be ‘living’ in the community they serve. There are few online credit unions that are even more flexible.
Open a bank account online
There are few banks that do not have ‘physical location’ and pass on the savings of not having the fixed expenses to its customers. For example Capital one 360 offers checking account that pays you interest on savings and checking accounts. Delta Community credit union is popular one https://www.deltacommunitycu.com.
On a final note, it is recommended to call your local branch to confirm the documents needed for opening your bank account. Because some states may require some additional documents. In my case, the local bank requested my offer letter from the employer to confirm my employment status.
If you got any questions, just leave your queries in the comments below.
If you have just migrated into the country, you certainly do not have any credit history to your name yet. As a result, getting approval for a credit card will pose a big challenge. And, you can only get a credit history (credit score) if you have nothing less than one active account for 6 months on your credit report.
But, not to worry, getting a credit card without a credit history is possible. Some of the credit card companies are aware of the hassles that new immigrants go through to obtain a credit card. Therefore, they have designed credit cards that would work for individuals without credit.
Here are top tips that would enhance your chances of getting a credit card without a credit history.
Get a Job as Soon as Possible
If you are an immigrant, your first concern as soon as you arrive is to find a job. You need steady income in order to fund your credit card balance. You are not allowed to use another person’s income info (whether your parents, spouse, friend or relatives) to fill out the credit card application form. So, you need a job immediatly or other legal means of earning income in order to qualify for a credit card.
Credit Card Pre-Qualification Could be Helpful
The renowned credit card companies offer online pre-qualification that reveals whether an available credit card matches your credit profile. This option is somewhat known as soft credit checks. In essence, your credit score won’t be affected. Also, when someone performs a search on your report, the soft credit checks will not appear on your credit report. However, pre-qualification does not guarantee a credit card approval.
Also, other ways you can get a credit card without credit history include the following:
• Consider getting a student credit card – this applies only to students
• Consider a secured credit card – this is a typical alternative to the traditional credit cards.
• Get a co-signer
• Apply for a store credit card