Money Matters

Banking and the financial system in the U.S. will undoubtedly be different from that of your home country. As you study at SUNY Potsdam, we want to keep you informed about money matters and how to navigate the U.S. financial system.

All about Banking:

  • What we recommend: When you arrive here, you will probably want to open a bank account.
  • What will I need to open a bank account?  You will need a US address, which for most international students means visiting the campus mail room to obtain a campus mailbox and key.

    In addition, you will need to provide the bank with two (2) forms of identification. These will be your valid passport, a driver's license or your SUNY Card. Please note that a copy of your SUNY Potsdam billing statement or letter from the university confirming that you are enrolled must accompany the SUNY Card.
  • What kind of account do I need? Most banks have a system whereby you can have a checking account and savings account on the same statement and you may wish to maintain most of your money in a savings account so that it will earn interest for you.
  • Apply for a debit card: You can apply for a debit card at the bank you choose to do business with. Please note that debit cards can take several days to process, in the meantime, you'll need to use cash or travelers checks. It is very important to keep track of your card, your security code, and the balance of your account very carefully.

Most merchants in the Potsdam area accept the following forms of payment:

  • cash
  • debit card
  • traveler's checks
  • personal checks (that are issued from a local bank & accompany a form of ID like a NYS license)
  • credit cards (Visa & MasterCard - some also accept American Express).
  • and more and more merchants now accept BearExpress.


Currency Exchange  

Since Potsdam is a small town without good international banking facilities, it is a good idea for you to change money before you leave your country if possible. We recommend travelers' checks as the best way to carry money. It is easy to use an ATM card, though there may be a charge for each transaction.


Money Transfers

With a bank account you can transfer money internationally if you need to. But do remember those transactions can take time, up to seven days, and that there is a fee for you to send or to initiate a money transfer to your home country, and a fee for you to receive a money transfer. There are also fees for a foreign bank draft, an international money order, and a Canadian bank draft.



The best way to control your finances is to create a budget and follow it closely. Make sure you include all expenses. When making your budget, be sure to consider the number of months you will be studying in the United States and plan accordingly. You don't want to run out of money.  


Filing Federal Taxes

All International Students in the U.S. are required to file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year.  Filing taxes with the IRS is a process which can seem daunting for many International Students but in most cases students (and International Students in particular) benefit from filing a tax return, especially if they were employed in the U.S.  Filing with the IRS is also a way for you and the US government to ensure that you have been properly taxed for the previous year.

Because most International Students are not U.S. citizens they are exempt from many of the tax laws that apply to U.S. citizens and therefore are not required to pay as many taxes.  Most countries have tax treaties with the U.S. that allow for their citizens (if they are employed in the United States) to receive certain tax benefits.

If you worked over the past year it is highly probable that you will be refunded the majority of the taxes deducted from your paychecks over the previous year.

Due to the sensitive legal nature of taxes and their filing, International Education & Programs can give only minimal and basic information regarding the proper completion of tax forms.  As International Student Advisors we have received significant training in F-1 student regulations and immigration/visa issues but not in tax law. It is best to carefully and repeatedly read the instructions for each tax form. However, if you do have questions please do not hesitate to bring them to our attention and we will answer them to the best of our ability.

In order to file taxes as an International Student it is necessary that you obtain and/or complete the following documents:

If you are an International Student who Did Not Work over the previous year you are only required to file Form 8843.

If you are an International Student who worked on-campus or off-campus then you will need to complete the forms below. Please note: N.B. Off-campus employment MUST be authorized by your International Student Advisor/Designated School Official (DSO) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Form 1040NR should be used by those students who have brought dependents (i.e. children, a spouse, etc) to the United States with them. 
  • If you have not brought dependents you can use Form 1040NR-EZ
  • W-2 Forms
    • W-2 Forms are completed by your employer and list the total amount of wages that you earned while working for that employer.  They also list the total tax deductions from the total number of wages you earned while you worked for that employer
    • W-2 forms should be mailed to you directly from all of your employers by early February.  You should include one copy of the W-2 Form from each employer with form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ