Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, Home Financing

Where to go and how to do it

Opening a Bank Account 

We have received a lot of good feedback on Chase and Bank of America.  Just make sure you visit a branch where you can assume a fair amount of expatriate activity (i.e Downtown). 

To open a bank account you do not need a social security number from the outset although a social security card will be required to gain access to some banking facilities. 

Getting a Credit Card

Getting a credit card will be difficult, no matter how good your credit is in the Netherlands. The basic rule: If you do not have a credit history in the US, you will not get credit.  

The main rule with most checking accounts is that your salary must be deposited into the account within a certain timeframe. So, when opening a checking account you will get a debit card, or Pinpas if you will. These are usually from Visa or MasterCard and function nearly exactly as you are used to with Bank-issued credit cards in the Netherlands. So, you can use them wherever you would use a credit - or debit card.  However, the amounts will be debited immediately from your account, instead of monthly as in Holland.

A full-blown credit card in the US will allow you to run up an amount on your card that you pay off at your own leisure (with interest of course). They tend to have a limit and minimal amount due per month, but in essence function as a sort of "rekening courant". 

One way to get started on your credit history is through a ’collateral’ card: you place an x amount of dollars in a blocked savings account and this amount will be the credit limit on your credit card.  Bank of America offers this and even though the interest on the savings account is small, you will start building that ever-important credit history. 

Home Financing

Obtaining home financing without a U.S. credit history can be challenging. It helps to work with a lender and loan officer who are familiar with the unique needs of international homebuyers in the U.S. One of our sponsors, Countrywide Home Loans, represented by Sarah McCoy in the Lakeview office, has a number of loan programs that accommodate homebuyers with international credit histories.  They also have an understanding of the different types of visas used by expatriates in the U.S. and have experience in applying Dutch income and assets toward a U.S. loan application.  Click here for more information.

Some Tips

  • Do not lose your checkbook or have it stolen. It will require for you to get a new account number and thus change all automatic transfers and such which can be a hassle;
  • Check out the online banking features of the bank you choose. The online bill presentment and bill paying features can make life a lot easier;
  • Identity Theft is very much on the rise in the US. Buy a shredder and shred all documents such as bills or bank statements before you throw them in the trash;
  • Do not write a check without sufficient funds in your account, you can get into trouble if you write uncovered checks;
  • Checks may seem old-fashioned to you, but they will come in handy for some payments; and
  • Choose a bank that has a wide network of ATM’s in the area you intend to live. Withdrawing money  from other ATMs will incur extra fees.