Throughout the past few weeks a few of my friends went to the US to do an internship. One ended up spending $12 on two packs of cookies thinking he would spend $5 because there was a discount. He also ended up paying $50 per month on a phone plan (and could have gotten the same for $25). Common traps for interns. This is why I put together a list of some tips that will help you to earn some extra money and to avoid additional costs.
BANK ACCOUNTS. A lot of banks in the US charge a monthly maintenance fee (e.g. Bank of America charges $12 per month if you have a balance below $1500). There are some that do not and I’d highly recommend seeking those out if you are intent on keeping your American bank account after you leave.
As an additional perk: Some banks give you a bonus of up to $300 for opening a bank account and receiving a salary for at least 3 months in a row. Check some online comparisons. Note that for some banks you will need a SSN so get yours as soon as possible.
Some banks also have accounts that are free while you are a student but they may not be available to you if you do not study in the US so make sure to ask.
PHONE PLANS. Phone plans in the US are expensive. If you go to T-Mobile or O2 you will likely end up paying at least $50 month. There’s one plan though that you can get at Walmart which gives you all you need for half that. You buy the package for $34.82 which includes the first month after that it’s $25 a month (5GB data, 100 minutes, unlimited texting). A plan that is more customizable is Ting (e.g. for 500MB of data you would pay $18/month, for 100MB of data only $9). Both can be cancelled at any time.
If you are from the UK, you can get Three for 20 GBP/per mont (12GB data, 300 minutes, 3000 texts). The internet can be used abroad!
SUPERMARKETS. It’s a traaaaap! — No really. Most discounts are not going to be applied on your shopping unless you have a loyalty card. They tend to be free so get one before you go shopping. There are even some stores like Costco you can’t buy from without a membership card.
If you don’t want to carry the card some supermarkets let you put your phone number in instead. This means if you can get someone else phone number you don’t need to sign up…
AMAZON. If you’re a student sign up for the free prime student version. Set a reminder to cancel it though. If not you can get a one month trial!
TRANSFERRING MONEY ABROAD. Banks will give you a horrible exchange rate. Transferwise is one of your best options to get money abroad. Example: If you send $1000 to the Euro zone. A bank can alter the exchange rate and charge for the conversion making the transfer cost up to $80. Transferwise will charge 1% (i.e. $10).
Use this ref link to get the first transfer free: https://transferwise.com/u/6e8d4
CAR RENTALS. ZipCar has a lot of great feedback and you can rent cars for as little as an hour. If you have the option of a rental car, generally you should take it (or share it with roommates). In places like Seattle or the valley you can get by with Uber-like service, biking, and public transport but even then a car can be useful. Overall it is very difficult, if not impossible to get around without a car in most parts of the US.
GETTING A LICENSE. If you happen to be in a state like Washington and don’t have a driver’s license, it would be inexpensive to get one here and get it transferred. If you are in California transferring is not easily possible. These things of course depend on where you are from and where you want your license to be valid.
TRAVELLING. If you do not have a car you can get to different cities with Megabus.
LAUNDRY. If you’re in New York Fly Cleaners is an easy app that allows you to schedule for someone to come get your laundry and bring it back fresh and clean. There are similar services elsewhere and they save you time especially if you don’t have laundry facilities in your accommodation.
USEFUL APPS (which you might not know yet):
- Venmo & Square Cash & Facebook. Easily send money to your friends. Like Verse in Europe.
- Mint. Money managing and budgeting app.
- Uber & Lyft & other local equivalents. There is a lot of them by now and they usually come with a free first ride. Wherever you live check Google for the Uber alternatives.
- TaskRabbit. If you want someone else to do your chores this is your app.
- Robinhood. Free stock trading. Only usable in the US with a SSN.
PS: These are just some of my tips that will hopefully help you getting settled a bit better in the US and fully enjoy your internship!