Extremely Useful Things to Know When You Move to USA

Extremely useful things to know when move to USA

A move to the USA is indeed easier than most; we’ve gleaned a few not-so-obvious tips. Things do get done here, but beware of the hidden costs. Perfectly reflected in the fact that the price you see doesn’t include tax, unlike most other countries.

We’ve been through it all. Rent increases, tooth pain, buying a car, getting prescription medications, flipping through credit card offers, long road trips, moving apartments, and negotiating bills. I put this article together to offer transparency on where to save money when you are living in the US as a foreigner.

To Do Immediately When You Move to the USA

Getting an Affordable US Mobile Plan

Many telecom companies offer discounts for opening multiple lines, often tailored towards families. This doesn’t work for foreigners without a network of local contacts. There are two affordable options when bringing your own mobile device.

T-Mobile – offers a pre-paid deal for $15 per month. This provides 2.5GB of data, and there is no minimum time commitment. Buy a SIM online or in a T-Mobile store.

Mint Mobile – introductory offer costs $15 for 4GB of data for the first 3 months, then $20 for 6 months. Sign up for 1 year pre-paid and lock in the $15 monthly deal. Buy a SIM online or at Best Buy.

Xfinity – If you also purchase Xfinity home internet, you can pay by the GB for internet with unlimited calls and texts. 1 GB is $12 + tax, and you can share GB across multiple phones.

Open a Bank Account with International Features

To open a US account, you need your immigration forms (DS-2019 or I-20, foreign passport, and proof of address), plus a little money to deposit. The US has many small local banks. However, as a foreigner, you will want a national bank for ease of access to free ATMs and transferring money from abroad. If the ATM doesn’t belong to your bank, you will be charged to withdraw. You can get cashback in supermarkets with a debit or credit card.

To transfer money from abroad, you can use companies such as Wise, which have much lower transaction fees.

US Bank and Chase are two large banks with ATMs and branches nationwide.

Set Up Internet

You may find furnished accommodation with bills included, but if not, you’ll need to set them up. We found the internet more expensive in the USA than Europe and South America.

We recently switched to Starry, a company with cheap, fast internet, no minimum contract, and the option to cancel anytime.

Xfinity has great intro offers but then steadily increases your price. They also charge you to rent the equipment each month for an extra $15.

Buy Comprehensive US Health Insurance 

The largest health insurance providers are:


Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield,

Kaiser Permanente,



Coverage differs between states. If you are a student, your university will have a plan. Student plans usually have lower deductibles and access to student health center appointments for no additional cost. I would advise opting in.

I bought my health insurance on the Healthcare Marketplace, which facilitates signing up for government-approved insurance plans. This means they pass the Affordable Care Act. You include your income and can even apply for tax credits to help front the premiums (monthly cost), depending on income level relative to the poverty line.

Expect to pay $300 per month for comprehensive coverage.

Health Insurance Vocabulary

Deductible = the price you will pay before the health insurance pays anything.

Co-pay = a set fee you will pay, for instance, to see a doctor. Perhaps it is $35 per appointment.

Co-insurance = a percentage of the price of care you will pay even if you already paid your deductible.  

Max out-of-pocket = a capped amount that, when reached, the insurance will pay the rest.

Other Health and Wellness Considerations

Before you need medication, locate a close pharmacy that provides you with the best prices for your plan. The medication cost can be dramatically different between pharmacies. Also, always request generic medicines where possible, as these are most likely covered by your insurance or considerably cheaper. Contraception is free by law with your health plan if you get a generic brand.

Eye prescriptions are only valid for 1 year in the USA. Bring one with you.

Dental care is extortionately priced. Get major dental done outside the country. If you need to visit the dentist, note that X-rays are expensive. Dental plans only cover up to 50% of treatment prices but usually include a clean every 6 months.

Making Life Easier in the USA

Consider Getting a US Driving Permit

If you already drive, it’s extremely easy to pass a US driving test. In Colorado, it lasts 15 minutes with no parking maneuvers. The theory is 20 questions on a screen (in Colorado). Take a private practical test for $80 to bypass the DMV wait times.

You will need your immigration papers to apply for a permit (temporary).

Apart from the US being made for driving, in many States, you will always be asked for ID to drink. Sometimes, they only accept foreign passports, not IDs. You don’t want to have to carry around your passport if you are staying long-term.

Get a Social Security Number

Social Security Numbers are required for anyone working in the USA. It is tied to your tax and any benefits you receive. If you apply for a work permit (EAD) or will work at the university (F-visa or J-visa), this is needed for employment. Your employer will help you apply for one, and you can request one on your first EAD request.

Having an SSN helps with leasing apartments and is necessary for loans, credit cards, and contracts in general.

Where to Buy Stuff in the USA

Go to Walmart or Target for household goods, stationery, outdoor equipment, basic tools, and kitchen utensils.

King Soopers or City Mart are the cheapest grocery stores. Sprouts are the cheapest for fresh, good-quality fruits and vegetables. Trader Joe’s has mostly frozen or pantry-style goods with a selection of their own-brand foreign foods (Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek). Amazon owns wholefoods and is a pricey supermarket, but it offers more dietary-restricted options.

Walgreens and CVS are pharmacies. You can buy most medications at the grocery store. Remember, many medicines will need a prescription, including the contraception pill. King Soopers also has its own in-store pharmacy.

Dollar store, say what you may, this place stocks almost everything you need. Even batteries are just 1 dollar!

Buy electronics at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, or on Amazon.

Weird Things to Know When You Move to the USA

  • When you move to the USA you’ll notice that there is no diesel at the pump. Diesel is reserved only for large trucks. Most gas stations won’t have this option, but they will have different grades of gas. For example, in the Rockies area, you can purchase 85 octane gas, but in the East Coast, the lowest grade petrol is 87 octane. Pay for 87 octane because we’ve had issues with the lower-grade versions. In Oregon, you can’t fill your own tank; the attendant will do it for you.
  • Watch out for local alcohol laws. Some places stop selling alcohol after 11 pm or earlier on Sunday. Others will not sell hard liquor or any alcohol in the supermarkets. You must go to a separate store. 21+ only.
  • Everyone must file their taxes in the USA before April the following year. Your employer will send you the forms on the first of January after you move to the USA.
  • They have e-numbers that are banned in the EU. Take care when you eat candy and certain crisps (chips). However, Sprouts do organically flavored and vegan sweets and gummies sold by weight! They also have dried fruits and nuts to snack on.
  • The air pumps don’t have reliable measurement tyre gauges and are on a paid timer. Therefore, buy a tyre gauge and fill your tyre air at the post, then let out excess air using the tyre gauge to reach the ideal amount.

Getting the Most Out of Your Move to the USA

Sign up for your public library when you move to the USA. You only need a proof of address.

Coupons are worthwhile in craft and hobby stores.

The major sale days are Labour Day Weekend, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Memorial Day Weekend.

Once you have a positive credit score, you can apply for credit cards with benefits. We found that Discover and American Express offered 3-5% cash back and 0 annual fees for a year. You can switch cards to make the most of these offers during your stay in the USA.

If you have a car and love road trips, I recommend purchasing a National Park Annual Pass. It costs $80. Therefore, even if you visit two parks, it pays for itself.

Read more in Taco Bell Ruin and 7 Lessons from the USA: a list of anecdotes from my first year living in Colorado.

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