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Banking, Money and Costs

Washington DC - Banking, Money and Costs

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There are many large international banks, as well as smaller local banks operating in DC. Both types of banks will compete for your banking business. Expatriates will choose to have one or several banks to meet their banking needs. Banks with numerous branches in DC include Citibank, Chevy Chase Bank and Wachovia. Click here for a list of banks and their locations in DC. Some employers may have special arrangements with a particular bank or credit union for pay / salary matters, so check with your company.

It is a common practice to maintain a "checking" or "check" account (also known as current account by British banks) for making utility and other regular payments. Paying bills by standing instruction (known as "direct debits" in the US) is not as common as writing out monthly checks or paying bills on-line via banking services.

When opening a bank account, you will need to produce some documentation, such as your social security number. If you do not have your social security number, ensure that you have a good substitute document, and a residence address. In some cases, a letter of appointment from your company indicating your salary level can help open an account. Take note that some banks take a long time to cash checks from foreign or international banks.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are usually open 24 hours in DC, and you can withdraw cash from various international networks, such as Exchange, Accel, Plus and Cirrus.

Credit Cards

Expatriates should not expect to be granted a US-based credit card easily, even though they may have an excellent credit rating in their home country. This is because there is no credit history record in the US. Therefore, it is useful to keep one or two of the credit cards issued by your home country while you work towards establishing a good credit rating in the US in order to be eligible for credit / loan services. Some expatriates apply for US based credit cards that are offered by gasoline or departmental stores.

Costs of Living

As compared to other US cities, the cost of living in DC is slightly higher (177.2) than the national average (173.8). See DC's cost of living details at www.cityrating.com

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.