Pre Departure Information
Credit Cards are pretty useful, almost compulsory to have for shopping convenience, burglary, mugging situations etc. in the US.
Standard Chartered and Citibank have started offering an International Credit Card in India since June 1999. However, you cannot use these cards in the US as a student, since you are allowed to pay the bills for these in rupees, and you need your passport every time you pay a bill. So it is better to apply for a credit card in the US itself, while on campus. C Cards are important, since they help you establish a good credit history - something very crucial in the US if you want to buy a house, rent a car, take a loan etc. later. So definately take a card while on campus, buy 2-3 things with it, and pay the money for them immediately.
Besides this, Thomas Cook is offering Debit Cards - to be used instead of Travellers' Cheques. The concept is similar to a Trav Cheque: you pay first in India in rupees and buy dollars on the card. Then you can use the card in many countries worldwide (many currencies offered). The biggest advantage I saw was the low transaction cost (as compared to a travellers' check). A TC costs 1% per check, while this is a fixed $1 per usage. So one can open a local bank a/c there, and in a single huge transaction, transfer money form the card to the a/c. Cheaper than wiring the money, faster than an Intl cheque, as secure as a travellers check (you are refunded if you lose it). A neat option.
Now I don't have the Mumbai numbers, but in Delhi, these are the details:
Thomas Cook: 334 2171 / 336 7835 / 334 0564: Ask for Reema / Shalini / Mr Wajahat
After reaching the US I have discovered that Credit Cards are not so difficult to get your hands on as one might imagine. Banks are falling over themselves to give students credit cards, even when they have no known source of income. This is because students usually are huge spenders. So you will typically have 2-3 banks come to campus trying to give you credit cards for free and even giving you some gifts for signing up ! For the first few weeks though, you might still want to consider a US Dollar credit card from India.
How to take your money to the US
When you travel to the US, you need to carry money for on-the-way expenses, for the initial expenses of renting an apartment, buying stuff for it, for paying your college fees etc. According to the USEFI presentation on Money Management given by Thomas Cook (and my own opinion) this is how you should take it:
1. $ 500 in cash, for small change and minor problems while travelling. You can get the cash from Money Changers (if you're in Delhi, you'll find plenty in Connaught place). You need your passport with the visa stamp on it.
2. $ 1500 in travellers cheques (upto $3000 is allowed in the basic travellers quota - BTQ - according to RBI regulations). You can also use debit cards like the Thomas Cook Prepaid Debit Card to reduce transaction costs. Here you will need your admission letter, I-20, passport & confirmed ticket.
3. The rest of the money for the college fees or additional expenses can be taken in an International Demand Draft. You are allowed upto $30,000 per annum. If your college fees are higher (say for MBA or specialized courses), then a special request needs to be made. The DD can be made out in university's name for the entire first installment, or in your name. If it's in your name, you can open a bank account with it and write the university a cheque. For getting this DD, it is best to look around. Ask 2-3 banks and see who has the cheapest rate. Most banks only made international DDs for account holders, though. If your bank does not offer DD services, then go to Thomas Cook. But use this as a last resort: their exchange rates are usually higher than a bank's.
Another thing I learnt after reaching the US: banks do not allow you to withdraw a large amount of money (usually > $10,000) at once. So even if you deposit say $15,000 in your bank one day, you cannot withdraw it until 2 weeks later (or whatever time period your bank specifies). So be careful about the bank's policies on withdrawal before opening an account there.
If your university does not offer housing for graduate students, you need to arrange your own place. Even if it does, it is usually cheaper to take your own place and share with 2-3 guys (or gals). If you don't want to waste any time searching when you get there, try visitingwww.apartments.com for a listing of available apartments in your area. It is a very comprehensive site, complete with photographs, descriptions and rents.
Good ByeWell, that's all I can think of for now. Congratulations again on getting through a US university. Best of luck for the future.
Last Updated July 1, 1999