What are Banking and Financial Services?

For many members of the Latino community in the United States, achieving financial security is one of their primary goals. Being able to send money to loved ones back home and create a better life for future generations is an extremely empowering and rewarding experience. However, with so much information out there, it’s not always easy to navigate the banking system or understand how to participate. 

Did you know that your Mexican Matricula Card gives you the opportunity to take advantage of programs designed by many U.S. banks and credit unions? Opening an account provides you with greater access to the banking and financial services available, and you’ll have the opportunity to save money in a reliable, secure manner.

SABEResPODER understands the importance of financial inclusion and empowerment through education. Read on to learn more about how banks work, the many services they offer, and how a bank account can protect your money and help it grow. 

Banking in the United States: What You Should Know

Before we dive in, let’s first review the primary benefits and important things to consider about opening a bank account in the United States:

  • Many banks now accept the Mexican Matricula Card as primary identification for opening an account

  • A bank account lets you save your money in a secure, reliable way

  • Opening an account will help you meet the requirements to apply for credit cards and loans

  • A good credit history will make it easier for you to access loans at lower interest rates, which can enable you to buy a car, start a business, or even acquire your dream home

  • Carefully read and understand all the terms and conditions associated with your new account before you sign any contract with the bank 

  • It may be helpful to compare different cards to decide which one is best for you (based on your interest rate, rewards, fees, etc.)

How Do Banks Serve Our Community?

It’s nearly impossible to imagine modern life without banks, given that the role they play is fundamental on many levels. Banks partner with their customers and local leaders to provide a broad range of services needed to contribute to the success of the community.

Personal loans

Customers rely on their bank as the primary source of credit for all types of purchases, usually through credit cards and loans.

Savings plans

A savings account will allow you to plan for the future and provide you and your family with the security to cover unexpected expenses.

Money transfer services

A bank account holder can send money by wire transfer more securely, quickly, and generally for free or by paying more reasonable fees than those charged by non-traditional transfer services.

Community organization support

Banks give millions of dollars each year to local and national Latino organizations that fund important housing, health, legal, and educational programs and services for you and your family.

Local business sponsorship

Many local businesses receive financial support from their community banks through loans, business transactions, and job offers.

Educational support

By providing scholarships and loans, banks are committed to improving the quality of education and ensuring greater access to higher education for members of the community.

Why Should You Open a Bank Account?

A bank account can make your life easier and put you on the path toward achieving your financial goals. It offers you several ways to protect your money and earn interest on your funds, which is an essential step in achieving the security you and your family deserve.

You help yourself

Depositing money into a checking or savings account can bring you the following benefits:

  • Save your money in a more secure way 

  • Cash checks without paying a fee 

  • Pay your bills more easily 

  • Keep track of all your payments and balance

  • Make money transfers faster, easier, and generally for free or with lower-than-average fees

  • Make cashless purchases

  • Withdraw cash from ATMs

  • Create money orders or cashier's checks without paying fees, or at a lower price

  • Enjoy 24/7 access to your accounts by using ATMs, making a phone call, or using a mobile app or site

You help your community

By depositing money into your account, you have a direct impact on your community. The more money the bank has in deposits, the more loans it can offer. In that way, everyone that has a bank account is contributing to the betterment and well-being of their neighbors.

Keep in mind: Through its Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the U.S. government insures qualifying bank accounts for up to a maximum of $250,000 per person in the event of a bank's bankruptcy or financial collapse.

How to Open a Bank Account

Opening a bank account is relatively simple. To start, you’ll need to bring the funds you wish to deposit and present documents that verify who you are and where you live.

To protect your personal information, you have the option to sign a form that prevents disclosure of your data for non-banking purposes, except where permitted by law.
Here’s what you should expect to have prepared when you’re ready to open a bank account:

1. Primary form of identification

Many banks in the United States now accept a Mexican Matricula Card or passport as primary identification for opening bank accounts.

Keep in mind: If you submit your application in person, be sure to bring your valid Mexican Matricula Card to the bank. If you want to send your application online, click here.

The bank might require supplemental personal information as indicated by the Patriot Act. This information is requested as part of the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

2. A secondary ID

In addition to your Mexican Matricula Card, or other form of primary identification (such as a driver’s license or passport), you may be asked to present a secondary form of identification. Ask your bank which documents they accept so you can prepare accordingly.

3. An initial money deposit

To open a bank account you must make an initial deposit in cash, with a check, or through a money order. Typically, the minimum amount can vary between $1 and $100.

4. Official identification number

Submit one of the following when opening your account:

  • Social Security Number (SSN)

  • Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN-W7)

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Even if you don’t have any of these documents, you will still be able to open an account. Some banks might ask you to fill out a W-8 Form (Certificate of Foreign Status), which they will provide for you.
Keep in mind: To meet customer identification requirements mandated by the federal government, the bank may ask you for additional information to verify your identity. Be sure to check with your bank when opening an account.

Which Bank Account Is Best for You?

Banks offer two basic types of accounts: checking and savings. To meet the needs of different people, clients can manage their money in different ways, including accounts that accrue interest. Ask your bank representative about your options so you can decide which one works best for you.

Checking accounts

These accounts are typically used for daily expenses such as rent, food, household products, clothing, and other basic items. Payments can be made online, in person, or by mail. There are different types of checking accounts with varying fees and conditions, such as:

  • Monthly maintenance fees

  • Limit on the number of checks you’re allowed to write per month without additional charges

  • Monthly limit on free calls to the bank's customer service line

Savings accounts

If you have or will receive money that you won’t need to access immediately for everyday expenses, you may want to open a savings account. This type of account earns you interest at the rate set by the bank. 

The longer your money stays in the account, the more interest it will accrue. Ask your bank representative which type of savings accounts are best for you to maximize growth.

How to Deposit Money Into Your Account

These days, making deposits is easier than ever. You can do so in person at your bank branch, at an ATM, or automatically through direct deposit. 

Be sure to keep all your deposit receipts for your files. Some of the funds deposited by check may not be immediately available to you, so it’s best to consult when you’ll be able to access them. Here are some things to keep in mind when making deposits:

  • Account number: This number must be noted to ensure that the money is deposited into the correct account. If you’re trying to make a deposit into your own account and you don't have this number on hand, the bank teller can provide it after you show them your ID.

  • ID: Most banks only require that you give your name to accept a deposit. However, if you’re depositing a check and you need to receive part of that money as cash, you’ll need to sign a withdrawal slip and show your ID.

  • To deposit: Make sure that the voucher says "deposit" and not "withdrawal." Select the account to which you’d like to send the funds. You can deposit cash, checks, or money orders.

Direct deposit: You may request that your salary or social security check be deposited directly into your checking account without any fees. Not only is this a safe way to make deposits, but your funds will be available faster.

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Worldwide Access with Your ATM Card

A bank card is provided to anyone who opens a checking or savings account. This card can only be used with your Personal Identification Number (PIN), and is directly connected to your accounts. It allows you to access your funds and account information from anywhere in the world via ATM.

You can also use your bank’s ATMs to do the following, 24 hours a day:

  • Deposit or withdraw funds to or from your accounts

  • Check your account balance and other information

  • Transfer funds between accounts

No matter what bank you use, your card will contain the following information:

  • Card number: These digits appear on the front of your card; note that they’re different from your account number

  • Signature: To protect against fraud or misuse, you must sign the card immediately upon receipt, which will be verified each time you use the card

  • Expiration date: If you don’t automatically receive a new card before this date, contact customer service for assistance

  • ATM network: The worldwide network where your ATM card can be used to withdraw cash or consult account details

  • Customer service number: If you have questions or need assistance, call the toll-free number anytime

Keep in mind: As a security measure, all banks place a limit on the amount of money you can withdraw each day. The limit is typically $300, but it varies by bank. Additionally, your ATM card and PIN will be mailed to you separately. Memorize your PIN and don't share it with anyone. Avoid using your name, date of birth, or other basic personal details as a PIN.

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How to Write a Check

Writing checks in the U.S. is very easy, but there are a few things you should know to protect yourself and your money:

  • Name and address: This information must match the one on your Mexican Matricula Card. There is also the option of printing your phone number on your checks.

  • Date: Write the month, day, and year in which the check is being issued

  • Check number: This is a reference number to help keep track of the payments you have made

  • Total amount in dollars: Write down the number amount (specifying dollars and cents)

  • Pay to the order of: Write the name of the person or company that will receive the check

  • Space for the written amount: Write out the full dollar amount in English. You can cross this off with a line if you wish, but never leave the space blank.

  • Memo: The reason for the payment and/or the account number to which you are depositing the check. This is optional but highly recommended.

  • Signature: This is always the last thing you should fill out on a check; it must match the signature registered at the bank and on your Mexican Matricula Card

Keep in mind: If you make a mistake or typo, write your initials above it. If you make a major mistake, write the word VOID over the entire check to render it invalid. Always write your checks in ink!

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How to Use your Check Register

Make sure your checkbook contains a check register, which allows you to keep track of your transactions. The most effective way to manage your money and avoid spending beyond your means is to keep an accurate, detailed record.

  • Check number: Write the number that appears in the top right corner of the check

  • Date: Record the date of the transaction. Remember that the U.S. date format is month-day-year (e.g. 09/15/2022).

  • Description: Write the name of the person or company to whom you wrote the check, or briefly describe the transaction. Don't forget to also register the checks you voided, if applicable.

Keep in mind: The balance on your statement may not always be the most up-to-date status of your transactions. If you’ve written a check, you should assume that you have spent that money, even if the funds have not yet been deducted. You can contact the bank to check your account balance and confirm which checks have been cashed.

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How to Read Your Monthly Statement

Each month, your bank will send you a detailed summary of all the transactions related to your account(s). This document is known as a bank statement and includes deposits, withdrawals, monthly fees, and checks that have been cashed.

Each bank statement is different, but they are official records that allow you to manage and understand your account activity. Here are a few things to look for when reviewing your monthly bank statement:

  • Deposits: Each deposit you make is listed separately, typically in chronological order and with the exact amount. You should compare this list to your deposit receipts.

  • Cash or debit withdrawals: Each withdrawal made is listed separately, as well as any purchase made with your card. Fees charged by the bank will also be listed.

  • Check payments: Checks that have been cashed are listed chronologically. Keep in mind that banks will use the date on which the check was cashed and not the one on which it was written. The check number will help you find the corresponding information on your record.

  • Balance: Your balance is the amount of money you had as of the closing date of your statement. 

Do you need help understanding your bank statement? Don’t stress! Talk to a bank representative or contact the customer service team for support.

Credit Cards and Loans

Banks offer credit cards, often for an annual fee, to clients who fulfill certain requirements or conditions. Using a credit card responsibly helps you establish good credit, which means you will be eligible for lower interest loans.

Sending Money to Your Family Abroad

In recent years, financial institutions have developed new money transfer services for their clients. This option, also known as remittances, is a safe and affordable way to send money to your loved ones that live outside the United States.

When sending money abroad, be sure to ask for the following:

  • A receipt showing the amount of money transferred

  • The total cost of your money transfer (what you send, plus any fees)

  • Information about the exchange rate at the time of the transaction

  • The total amount to be received by the beneficiary in the destination country

  • Customer service phone number or contact

Banks offer greater versatility to send money to your family, whether in person at a bank branch, over the phone, at an ATM, or even online! You can also analyze the options of sending cash directly, making a bank-to-bank transfer, or transferring from your bank account to cash in the recipient’s country.

In fact, some banks don’t even require you to be a customer to use this service. It’s a good idea to do your research and select the financial institution that offers you the best terms, exchange rates, and fees. For more information, check out our guide to sending money abroad.

Keep in mind: Send as much as possible at once so you minimize any transaction fees or transfer costs.