Common Information about US Currency and Banks
The official currency is the US dollar (USD). Some areas in the US bordering Canada may accept CAD. Nevertheless, it is best to pay with USD, as the exchange rate may be unprofitable. Any other currencies are not accepted on the territory of the United States of America.
US currency exchange
There are several options to exchange currency. Usually, the best option is ATMs. They use the interbank exchange rate. This rate is the average between buying/selling in the global currency market, therefore it is one of the most profitable.
If you are looking for other options, then exchange offices at airports and hotels can be an alternative. Many of them add margins to the exchange rate and charge hidden fees. You also risk that there may not be accepted damaged banknotes.
Since the USD is a widespread currency, your bank will probably be able to make an exchange in advance so that you can fly to America with cash already. If you still have to use currency exchange services, try to find an American bank that is a partner with your bank. Partner banks do not charge fees for international transfers and cash withdrawals.
Traveler’s checks in the USA
Traveler’s checks were once considered the safest and most common payment method on the trip. But the ATMs replaced them. Cashing traveler’s checks takes a lot of time and requires checking at a bank or store. Moreover, the exchange rate when paying with traveler’s checks is usually disadvantageous.
Today, traveler’s checks are used very rarely because this is a costly process for banking institutions. You can go around many different institutions to find exactly the one that will take on cashing the check.
If using ATMs or banks abroad seems unsafe, you can always order a prepaid debit card instead of a traveler’s check.
US credit and debit cards
Most credit and debit cards are accepted in the states. Regardless of which bank you have, its card should be accepted everywhere. Even cards from lesser-known banking institutions are likely to be accepted. Do not forget to notify your bank that you are going abroad so that they do not block your account due to potential fraud.
Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most common cards.
Small shops and cafes may not accept the card if you have not spent a certain amount. Not often, but it is quite possible to meet places where accept “cash only”.
When withdrawing money from ATMs, always select “Withdraw in USD” and not in your local currency. Otherwise, the ATM will charge hidden fees for currency exchange. This is called Dynamic Currency Conversion and means that you are simply overpaying.
More than 425,000 ATMs are located throughout the United States. 48% belong to financial institutions and 52% to independent representatives. Independent representatives usually provide their ATM services in grocery or small stores, as well as on busy streets. For cash withdrawals, these ATMs charge additional fees.
To get a lower commission, or at least a transparent commission scheme, look for ATMs at post offices and major banking institutions. You can also use the ATM location search to find the bank you need for a transaction.
Banks in the USA
Many of the largest international banks are located in America. The American financial structure is not simple. If your bank is international, then you can search for its branch in the United States. Big Four banks hold 39% of all deposits in America.
The following banks are the largest US individual service providers:
- JP Morgan Chase Bank;
- Bank of America;
- Citi (or Citigroup);
- Wells Fargo;
- PNCCapital one.
Most foreign banks have branches in the United States. Here, there is a list of the largest and most widely available:
- International banks in the USAHSBC (USA);
- TD Bank (USA)RBC Bank (USA)Santander Bank (USA);
- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (USA);
- BNP Paribas (USA);
- Mitsubishi bank;
- Credit agricoleDeutsche Bank (USA).