Currency and banking in the US

US currency

You’ll use US Dollars (US $) while you’re here. One dollar equals 100 cents.

Dollars are in paper notes called bills and come in $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and $1. Cents come in coins. If you’d like to sound like a true American, these coins are called a quarter (25 cents), a dime (10 cents), a nickel (5 cents) and a penny (1 cent).

How much cash to bring

Bring enough cash for the first couple of weeks while we help you open a bank account. We find that around $400 will allow you to buy food from the supermarket, pay for transport, phones calls home and anything else you might have forgotten to pack! It’s also best if you have this in smaller bills such as $10 and $20.

You’ll also need to pay for health insurance when you arrive. It’s around $800 per semester.

More about health in the US


Psst. Don’t carry lots of money around with you or leave it in your room. It’s safer to bring large sums of money in traveller’s checks.

Starbucks coffee

Learn US currency to know how much items like coffee should cost

The cost of living in the US

This will vary a little depending on where you choose to study but here are some examples to get you started:

  • Meal in a restaurant or takeout = $10-$25
  • Coffee = $2-$4
  • Cell/mobile-phone plan = $60-$100 per month

Don't forget to tip! It's optional but expected in the US. Be prepared to tip 15-20% on top of the bill in restaurants, hair salons and for taxis etc.

Bank accounts

The safest way to look after your money in the US is with a bank account. We’ll help you open a bank account when you arrive for orientation week. You’ll need this to store and access your money safely. Don’t forget to bring documents with you — usually two types of picture ID (passport and student ID card), proof of your US mailing address and money to open the account.

Once your bank account is set up, you’ll be able to withdraw cash from 24-hour ATMs (cash machines) around campus, the city or at local amenities.

Some countries have strict rules about transferring money to US bank accounts. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your government’s policies.

It’s not easy for international students to get a credit card in the US so we recommend applying for a credit card in your home country. VISA, MasterCard and Amex are widely accepted.

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