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The basics of banking

For those who have just come to this country for the first time, the banking system can be a bit difficult to figure out. Fortunately, a few easy tips can help new immigrants become banking pros in no time.

It helps to know the advantages and disadvantages of banking. Unlike hiding money underneath your mattress, the money you save in a bank is completely secure and protected against theft – or a fire. There's also the convenience of banking. With a debit card, you can pay immediately with money stored in your account, and you'll also have access to ATMs free of charge. Finally, many savings accounts pay interest. While small, this can quickly add up and earn you more money.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks. Depending on the type of account you open, you may be subjected to fees and other surcharges. There can be a fee for basically everything – bouncing checks, overdrafting, stopping payments, monthly maintenance and more. These vary depending on the bank, so make sure you ask for a detailed explanation of fees before you sign up. Compare several banks to find the one right for your lifestyle.

Most banks also have a minimum balance requirement. If your account dips below this, you'll be subject to more fees. The minimum varies depending on the account. Usually, the higher the minimum balance, the more interest you earn.

Banking also comes into play when cashing or writing checks. Most employers support some type of direct deposit, where your paycheck will be added to your account directly. Your bank will cash your checks free of charge – something that you'll have to pay for otherwise. And finally, signing up with a bank gives you the ability to write checks yourself – just make sure you ask for a checkbook once your account is confirmed.

Once you've got your bank account nice and healthy, you can begin thinking about sending money back home. Online wire transfer services allow those living abroad to send and receive money quickly, easily and securely.

Nearly all banks also now offer online services. You can check your balance online, and even from your mobile phone. The abilities that each bank offers vary, but most allow you to do things like pay bills, transfer money between accounts, view your statement and check the status of any pending payments.

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