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UC Merced International

Banking and Money Matters

You will encounter some expenses when you first arrive in the U.S. Some likely costs include transportation from the airport, a hotel stay while you search for more permanent housing, meals out, a deposit on a rental unit, first and last month's rent, furnishings, etc.

U.S. Currency

U.S. paper currency is the same size and color for all values. Cash is available in denominations, $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. U.S. currency is based on the decimal systems, with 100 cents per dollar. Coin currency is available in $.01, $.05, $.10, $.25 and $1.

You should arrive with some U.S. currency for any immediate needs upon arrival. There are currency exchange services available in most international airports, but not in Merced (you may be able to exchange some currency at a local bank). 

Bringing large amounts of cash is not ideal, some safe options include:
  • Traveler's Checks - have them issued in U.S. dollars, large denominations are harder to use. 
  • ATM/Debit Card - make sure you are aware of your bank's fees/charges and restrictions on using your card in U.S. ATMs; alert your bank as to your travel plans.
  • Credit Card - check for fees and restrictions, be sure to alert your credit card company of when and where you will be traveling. 
  • Bank Check/Draft - useful for transferring a large sum of money, but can take up to a few weeks to become available. 
  • Wire transfer - safe and available quickly, but a U.S. bank account must be opened first. 


Banks in the U.S. may require you first have a social security number. There are a few local banks that may not require it. If you arrive for the Fall semester, yo may want to open a bank account soon after your arrival as we have a large amount of incoming students and banks may require appointments. For students who have paid appointments on campus, you can sign up for direct deposit when you have a bank account. This may eliminate the monthly bank fee. If you under 26 years of age, you may be able to get a free student account. Different banks have different policies and perks.

Find a list of local banks


Even if the international student/scholar is not paid in the U.S., there may be some U.S. tax forms that should be completed each year. The UC Merced International Students and Scholars office does not answer any U.S. tax questions. There are; however, general handouts on U.S. taxes, and UC Merced's Business and Financial Services office does offer tax workshops at least once a year. For questions about tax questions and other tax treaties, the International Student/Scholar should contact UC Merced's Tax Services. You can email the tax services department