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Empty pocketsAs far as banking practicalities go, never put your faith in the effectiveness of international monetary transactions. 

Although English bank cards work in most American ATMs, there is no point in draining your Lloyds account, incurring extra charges and constantly having to calculate the dollars/pounds exchange.

By far the best option is to set up an American bank account. 

As students return to school, all the banks compete to offer the best possible options, and it is easy to get a good deal. Getting an American credit card is important too, especially for those who plan to stay on in the United States. Building up a credit history will help you later when you need to start paying for a mortgage or car.

Your school will probably have a way for you to pay your tuition and fees by credit card. It’s worthwhile to try to make those payments with a card that gives you air miles!

Help! Need Cash! Please Hurry!

If you have to transfer large sums of money (or cheques) between countries, make sure you give it plenty of time. Banks often impose long waiting periods before they clear cheques or wired funds, and this could prove catastrophic if your rent is due the next day!

(Having said that, it should be noted that there are a number of non-traditional financial services getting ahead of the surprisingly creaky mainstream banks, who claim to be less expensive than a bank and able to get the money into your bank account in the US on the same day it's sent.)


Finally, a couple of other financial points. America is a nation that expects heavy tipping (to compensate for its remarkably low minimum wage). If you are paying for dinner or taking a taxi, leaving around 20% is considered normal. The traditional Brit who tips at 10% is treated with considerable disdain, and won’t necessarily be welcomed back.

What Exactly is a Nickle?

And for those of you who are struggling with all the coins – here’s a breakdown:    

  • 1 dollar = 100 cents
  • 1 quarter = 25 cents (the big coins, like the 10p and with fun state facts on them!)
  • 1 dime = 10 cents (this is really confusing, they’re the small ones – like 5p’s)
  • 1 nickel = 5 cents (bigger than the dime but less valuable!)
  • 1 penny = 1 cent (borrowed from the English)



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