Manage salary and expenses during 4 months in the US

Hey guys,

This summer, I will be visiting a university in California for 4 months. I will be lowly paid by the university (<2k$/month). Also, some other income from Switzerland will arrive to my normal Swiss bank accounts.

  • The pay from US might not be enough to cover entirely my month expenses there. Therefore, I might need to transfer some CHF to $.
  • I have already set up a Revolut and Transferwise accounts, but I have never topped them up. (but not physical cards, but they cost 7.- each)
  • I have Neon and a Zak bank accounts.

What would you do?

I don’t know if it’s worth to open an US bank account to receive the US salary and close it when I leave. Should I entirely rely on Revolut Neon or whatever?

Thanks for your help!


Did you confirm with your university how you will be paid ? Wire transfer? A US bank account will probably be needed Check? Can you cash it without having a US bank account and without high middle man fees?

You should discuss with your university. I’m sure they have a service helping foreign students to settle in and give administrative information. They may even have deals with local banks for their students.

Then, I won’t use Revolut, neither Transferwise. For 4 months, Neon will be enough.

For everyday expenses, I’d use Neon and/or (Transfer)Wise’s card.

Sort out how to receive your salary and pay rent/utilities, if necessary.

it is worth opening up a bank account for a mere months if you don’t have to? Probably not.

(Then again, don’t ask why I’ve had a Canadian account for a couple of years)

As far as I remember, basic accounts in the US (like Bank of America checking) are free. And I can imagine that rent/utiltities need a US account (mostly a check).


I had a similar experience a few years ago.
I opened an account at TD bank which is free if you keep a 100$ balance (I still use it sometimes)
The account works well with revolut

Thanks! I didn’t think to talk with the university; I always expect things to be like in Switzerland. I will check with them then! For Neon, I think you are right it will be simpler.

Thanks also to the others, who seem to converge that having a US bank account might not be necessary! I will see with the university and update the thread.

Why not take a free US account? Often credit card conditions and pay backs are more advantageous than here on the old continent – as long as you pay off each month. Just have quick look at some local branches of banks.

BTW, where in California?

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He might have trouble getting a credit card, though. But a checking account with checks and a debit card from BofA should be free. At least it was the case a few years back.

For mileage collectors, probably. Though access to lucrative promotional sign-up deals will probably be limited. I’m not sure if it’s that attractive for non-USD spenders. Many cards have relatively high FX fees.

Actually in my experience the FX rates are amazingly good with American credit cards. Who would’ve thought.

Rates themselves may be good. Especially when they‘re using Mastercard/VISA rates - which I could imagine quite a few do, as I‘m not sure how much they care about foreign (with the domestic USD being the world‘s reserve currency).

Looking at BoA or Wells Fargo etc, many cards seem to have 3% fee - that‘s more than most German (or Swiss) cards, for example.

I have to check what is available nearby. I expect the university to make a bank wire to pay the salary but who knows? I will have more info this week.

Also, I’m wondering whether Swiss banks will bother me now or later if I have a US bank account and/or I keep it afterwards.

The university is UCSD in San Diego :smiley:.

I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that.

What you should rather be wondering about is whether (when) they’ll be bothering you about that CH account of yours that you’re keeping. :smiling_imp:

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They only care whether you’re subjected to US taxes usually.

I was visiting the same university about 10 years ago. What I did is I opened an account at one of the 4 banks that had bancomats on campus. The first “salaries” came by check and later they were able to directly wire it on the account. I closed the account just before leaving because I had no use of it. Also you will probably not have a credit card, only a debit but you can use it everywhere anyways.
You can probably ask the administrative assistant of your department for more precise tips.

Paid from here, or from there ? US employers generally either pay by check or direct deposit. Works only for US accounts.

When I lived in San Diego, there were some SDCCU branches close to campus (one at TSRI, one in UTC). They also had the most ATMs around. They are great for all US based transactions, and getting oney from here is not a problem. Back in the days they were a bit less convenient for sending money back to CH.

Awesome! I lived in San Diego for 4 1/2 years, I really liked it! UCSD campus is very pleasant, close to the beach and in a great environment for science!

Will you live on campus, or somewhere around?

Good to know, thanks!

That’s a good idea to check the ATM on the campus to see what bank account to open. Thanks for the tip!

Great! Really looking forward to working there. For living, I have no clue where to look at, and I don’t have yet access to the internal UCSD housing list as I’m not yet registered. Any advice are welcome!

As a visiting student I had no access to their internal housing. You can easily find something not far from campus on Craigslist.

Hi, i lived in california not long ago also for 1 year, i did make an account, for you as a student tough i m not sure i would bother doing one.
they can pay you by check and you can cash it in the bank they are using. for paying rent you might want to do a money order in 7/11 or somewhere. same for other services. not super convenient. you might want to try for 1-2 months and then decide.
good luck

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