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Thursday, October 8, 2015

First time in America, cash or credit?

So I had to face the issue when I first came to the US for my CS exam, just like most of us do. I had brought a few grants in cash but I didn't feel comfortable taking it around or leaving it behind specially when I was living in the hostel like situation. I had the option to use credit card from back home (which I did and later found out that it wasn't the best thing to do) but most of the time there is the international transaction fee and then your bank might not give you a good conversion rate. So if you would prefer carrying a card instead here is the solution: A secure credit card!

So a secure credit card is basically a debit card, the limit of your spending depends upon how much money you are willing to deposit in the account, so whatever you spend is deducted from that accout immediately but it works as a credit card. Now some of you may ask why not get a debit card instead, which of course you can. But the benefit is that this secure credit card will help you build some history with the bank and after a year, most banks will give you a regular credit card. I'm told this secure card also contributes to building your credit score. Many banks offer such a card regardless of your visa status. I got my first one from Bank of America. A friend of mine got it from Chase. So I think many, if not all, banks would offer a version of such a card. Now keep in mind, the money you put in the account cannot be drawn unlike a debit card. In my case, Bank of America refunded the money a year later along with issuing a regular credit card.

If you really don't want to deal with a bank but still want to use a card, you can buy one of those prepaid Visa cards. They can be found at most departmental stores and pharmacies like CVS, Duanereade etc. I bought one from Walmart but I realized it was a bad idea after I found out about the secure credit cards because the prepaid card doesn't give you a credit history and you are bound to spend it since you can't do anything else with it.

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