The US Monetary System is a decimal system, with one dollar equal to one hundred cents. One dollar is written as $1 or $1.00. One cent is written as 1¢. Paper currency is most often circulated in the following denominations: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. Occasionally you will encounter a $2 bill.
Coin denominations are as follows:
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Credit cards are such an ingrained part of the American way of life that you will have trouble making certain purchases with anything other than a credit card. If you want to place an order by phone, cash a check, rent a car, or buy airline tickets, you need to have a credit card. A credit card gives you an advance on money. It's like a loan, but you can use it in a grocery store, a clothing store, to buy plane tickets, to shop online and even to pay medical bills.
The major credit cards in the US are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Visa and MasterCard are offered by many banks and financial institutions. American Express and Discover Card are each offered by only one financial institution, but are accepted by many businesses.
Establishing credit is important in the USA. Even if you don't need or want a credit card, you need to establish credit in the US in order to rent an apartment, buy a house, and even have utilities in many cases, such as phone and electric service. All of these providers will want to be able to check your credit history to see if you know how to pay your bills on time.
To establish credit, you first will have to open a bank account. This is necessary in order to obtain a credit card. You can even take a loan of $500 out against your own $500 in the bank, then pay it right back. It may sound silly, but this helps you establish credit.
Carefully research the credit cards or loans available out there. Pay special attention to the interest rates and whether they are charged daily or monthly. Ask how long the rates are guaranteed, and what the fines are if you don't pay on time or go over your limit. Ask if they have purchase protection or offer other beneficial insurances you might be interested in. Some credit cards give you "miles" to use when you fly, or free videos to rent, or extra dollars to spend at stores.
Traveler's checks are one of the safest ways to transport money. If the traveler's checks are lost or stolen, you can easily get them replaced. Do not countersign the checks until you are ready to use them.
If you bring traveler's checks with you to the US, you should bring traveler's checks that are denominated in US funds. Most businesses will accept US-denominated traveler's checks.
Medical insurance is an absolute necessity in the U.S. The United States does not provide socialized medicine, and medical care can be very expensive. Be sure to include all your family members on your health insurance plan.
If you need an ambulance or emergency medical care, dial 911 on any phone 24 hours a day. You can also dial 0 to reach the operator. They will send an ambulance to transport you to a hospital emergency room. The hospital will need the name of your health insurance company and policy number, so you should always carry your health insurance card with you.
Bring a copy of your medical records with you to the US, including immunization and vaccination records and prescriptions.
When you decide which bank or credit union you'd like to go with, bring your Social Security Card or Tax ID number, passport or other government-issued ID, on driver's license or other ID or official correspondence with your address on it. You'll also need to either bring cash, a money order, a check or, if transferring electronically, the name, location and routing number from your foreign or other domestic account. You usually need at least $100 to open an account, but sometimes more, maybe even less.
Savings accounts Savings accounts offer interest on money you keep in them. Most people with small savings, who don't want to commit to keeping it in the bank, open a general savings account. For those who have more than a few thousand dollars, or can commit to keeping it in the bank for two or more years, money markets or even CDs are a good idea. These will pay you more interest on your money. You can also ask an investment specialist about low-risk stocks and bonds.
Checking accounts A checking account allows you to write checks against funds you have in the bank. Carrying cash can also be dangerous and it doesn't leave as much evidence behind to prove your payment if there's a dispute. Another benefit is that you can deposit your paycheck or any other checks or cash directly into your account as opposed to going to someone else's bank or a check cashing outfit (which charges a fee) to get your cash.
The law requires that everyone earning a certain income, starting with just a few thousand dollars per year, pay Federal income taxes. There are also state and other local taxes, but they vary from state to state.
If you work as a regular employee, all your estimated federal and local taxes are taken out of your paycheck. At the end of the year, you must complete tax returns to document all your earnings, along with those of your spouse and dependents, to see whether you owe money or will be getting money back.
When you prepare to file your taxes, you must first determine whether you are, for tax purposes, a resident alien, nonresident alien or exempt from paying taxes. There many be other forms you need to file in connection with your return, and don't forget about local tax forms. Your local post office or library will often have information for you on the most common forms.
To file your forms, make sure you get W-2 forms from any and all employers you have had during the year. If these don't arrive automatically in the mail in January, call the employer to request them. You will also need statements on interest/dividend income from bank accounts or investments, documentation on your mortgage, student loans and any other debts that allow for a deduction. Also have your visa, passport number, alien ID number and social security or tax payer ID number on hand.
The IRS and its forms and procedures are extremely confusing even to many lifelong Americans. Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it. The IRS has a toll-free help line. There are also numerous consultants who can help you with your tax forms for a fee.
Remember to double check, sign and photocopy all your returns and accompanying forms and information. Keep the receipts in your own records, along with the copies, for 7 years. Send your returns online or by certified mail.
Income tax returns must be sent by midnight on April 15th of each year.