Bank account

August 2, 2006
  • Tip: Take a credit card (Visa, Master Card, American Express) from your home country to cover your costs until the opening of your American bank account.
  • Which bank?
    • Select banks near your home and compare their conditions (costs –ATM’s network – opening hours – …).
    • An alternative to banks are “Credit Unions”. A Credit Union is a cooperative financial institution and their services are less expensive than banks. Usually, people choose Credit Unions of their employer. Look here to find a Credit Union close to your home or job.
    • What we did and why? We opened a bank account in the Credit Union of our employer, Key Point Credit Union. We are very happy with the quality of their services and their availability.
  • Accounts?
    • They are basically of two types:
      • Checking account (with no interest)
      • Saving account (with interest)
    • Generally most people open a checking account first.
    • To open a bank account, you need a social security number. However since it takes 4 weeks to get your SSN, one can request the bank to verify the passport and open an account. Later do remember to inform the bank once you received your SSN.
  • You will get: an ATM card (debit card), a checkbook, monthly statements. You will probably also get: the option of overdraft protection, the option of conducting transactions and accessing your account online by computer.
  • Debit/Credit Card:
    • Debit Card allows you to spend from your available resources only.
    • Credit Card allows you to spend without bothering if you have enough available resources on your account. The Credit company pays for you and send you later a spending statement. They charge you and you can pay them with checks. Visa and Master Card are the most widely accepted cards.
  • You should know that costs for bank’s transfer are approximately 30$.
  • Checks are not often accepted by small storekeepers. Nevertheless, in case of acceptance, you must provide two forms of identification (mostly the driving license, the passport, or a credit card).

Credit History

August 2, 2006

Your credit history will be needed for various reasons: rent an apartment, inquire a credit card, apply for a mortgage (the interest rate will depend on the quality of your credit history),…

There are 2 easy ways to build a good credit history:

  • Take a loan from the bank, e.g. to buy a car and repay it on time.
  • Get a store or gas station credit card (Macy’s, Target, Exxon Mobile ,…)


August 2, 2006
  • Family Liability Coverage: often included in Homeowners or Renters Insurance.
  • Homeowners or Renters Insurance:
    • Homeowner’s insurance provides coverage in the event of damage to your property, as well as liability for injuries and damage you or family cause to other people. This includes damage caused by household pets.
    • Renter’s insurance provides financial protection against the loss or destruction of your possessions when you rent a house or apartment. your possessions are covered against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage (not including floods). Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance also covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home or elsewhere by you, a family member or your pet and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to cour
      Tip: Check conditions in your leasing contracts. If you rent in a condominium, most leasing contracts urged you to have a renter’s insurance.
  • Car insurance
    • If you own a car, auto insurance is not just an option-it is a legal necessity.
    • Auto insurance provides property, liability and medical coverage:
      • Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
      • Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
      • Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
    • Tip: You have to get your social security number and Californian driving license as insurance companies will not insure you otherwise.
    • Tip:Bundle your car insurance and homeowner’s/renter’s insurance in the same company. You can save up to 10%.
    • What we did and why: we subscribed for a car insurance and a renter insurance with Allstate. The bundle of both insurances saved us 5% on renter’s insurance and 10% on car insurance.
    • See also category Car as you have other useful explanation.

  • Medical insurance: see category Health

Cost of living

August 2, 2006
  • Salary:
  • Accommodation
    • SFO: two bedrooms-two baths will run about $1800 – $2500 at a medium range, normal apartment. If you are alone, you can find interesting deals sharing the apartment with roommates (starting from $700/month depending the area in SFO).
    • Bay area: two bedrooms-two baths will run about $1500 – $2000.
  • Public transportation fares (tube, bus etc …)
    • San Francisco Municipal Railway, called MUNI (metro, buses): 1.5$
    • BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit: +/- 5$ depending on the length of the travel.
    • Cable car in SFO: 5$
    • Taxi from airport to SFO: about $40-$45
  • Food:
    • Food is expensive in general.
    • Bread: about $3
    • Imported food is expensive: cheese, beer, chocolate,…
    • Milk, dairy products, meats, vegetables and seasonal fruit are very fresh and decently priced.
    • Budget for the month? For 2 adults and 1 child, the budget is about $500. It depends where you are going to shop (Costco is definitely less expensive than Whole food) and if you buy a lot of imported food.
  • Health prices:
    You will usually get health insurance from your employer. If no health insurance – well, just don’t get sick or hurt.
  • Energy prices
    • Gasoline: about $3.5/gallon (May 2007) but it increase so quickly!  
    • Gas & Electric: all of these are dependant on your housing conditions and your usage. Our gas & electric bills in apartments are usually about $60. It depends also of your provider. Our provider is Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E).
    • Water & Trash: Our water & trash bills in apartment are usually about $30 (for 2 adults and 1 child).
  • Common bills (Internet, television, telephone, mobile phone):
    • Internet & Telephone: about $60-$80 if you take a bundle with AT&T (high speed internet – local telephone).
    • Television: about $20 – $50, depend on how much channels you have.
    • Telephone – dependant on how much usage you put into it, especially international. Look into Skype – much cheaper, especially if you have high speed internet already.
    • Mobile Phone – usually pretty cheap, and many people use their mobile phones as their only phone. I pay about $50/month for basic services on a 1500/min month plan from T-Mobile. Everyone is always offering a sale!
  • Childcare: about $1200 and $1500 for a month.
  • Restaurant:
    • Most basic chain restaurants are less than $20/person per evening, including drinks and dessert.
    • If you go into more upscale places in Uptown, you can expect to put down more than $35/person.
  • Coffee: Starbucks ($2-5)