Money and Banking

Expenses for UC Berkeley Students

Before you come to Berkeley, it's important to understand the costs of being a student. A number of resources exist to help you. Click on the bears below to access the web resources on each topic:

Bringing Money to the U.S. from Abroad:

Traveling with Cash

Carrying some cash is ok while you’re traveling, but it isn’t a good idea to carry too much.  There are also limits on how much you are allowed to carry. Instead, consider some non-cash alternatives:

- A prepaid debit card allows you to travel with cash that you ‘load’ onto it in your home country. If the card is lost or stolen, you can cancel the card and get a new one.

 - Wire transfer services like Western Union allow you to transfer money to yourself in the U.S. Then you can pick up your money after you arrive.

- Check with your bank in your home country since you can often use your debit card in the U.S. for a small fee but good exchange rate.

Banking in the U.S.

After you settle down in Berkeley, one of the first things to do is open a bank account. There are many different banks around campus. Once your account is opened, you can transfer money from your home country into it and use a debit card around town.

Once you have a bank account in the U.S., accessing cash is as easy as going to an ATM. However, be sure to use the ATM for your bank or you could end up paying extra fees.

Many students use banking apps such as Venmo, Paypal, Cash App, Square Cash, etc. to pay for things or transfer money to friends.

If you get a job, you will need to get a Social Security Number (SSN). With an SSN you can apply for a credit card and this can help you build a credit history here in the U.S.

As the official bank of UC Berkeley, (BMO) Bank(link is external) provides friendly local service backed by the global strength of BNP Paribas.

With the strongest environmental stance of any major US bank, BMO is fundamentally different. As part of their commitment to sustainability, BMO is the first and only bank to offer a 1% for the Planet Any Deposit Checking account, the first checking account to give back to the planet.  Additionally, we offer a student checking account with access to deals exclusive to UC Berkeley. Visit their site to learn more(link is external)

Make your move to the US easier by having a local bank with a mobile banking app and 9 ATMs right on campus. BMO is committed to support your move, start preparing today.

Budgeting your Money

The UC Berkeley Financial Aid and Scholarships Page is loaded with a number of resources to help students understand the cost of being a student. From budget calculators to information on scholarships available to international students, spending some time on this site may be helpful. Here, you can also access the Center for Financial Wellness, a campus group focusing on financial literacy and helping students manage their expenses.

A number of apps and websites can be found online to help you manage your expenses and create a spending plan. Two of the most popular are Mint and YNAB (You Need A Budget). Do some research to find the best site for you. A little planning can go a long way.

Financial Aid 

A list of resources available through the Berkeley International Office and other sources that can help international students with unexpected financial challenges supplement their resources and complete their degree programs.

Social Security Numbers

What is Social Security?, who is eligible to apply for a Social Security number, when to apply, and more.


Types of taxes, frequently asked questions, forms, workshops, and more.