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International Student and Scholar Services

Life at DU

Daily Life in Denver

Explore Denver

Explore Denver is the resource for members of the University of Denver to learn more about engaging experiences in Denver and Colorado at large.

Phone: 303-871-4698

Email: exploredenver@du.edu

Banking

Opening a bank account is not a complicated process. Many banks offer free checking accounts to students. These accounts typically come with an ATM card or debit card, the ability to write checks, and the option to access your account online to review the balance and transaction history.

Any bank location near the University of Denver is familiar with the needs of international students. They will be able answer your questions and assist you in opening an account. Most banks do not require an appointment to open an account.

When you open an account, you will typically need your current mailing address, a form of picture identification, such as your passport, and in some cases, a minimum amount of money to deposit. These procedures vary by bank, so contact the branch office or consult the bank's website to confirm what you will need to bring.

Before opening an account, make sure you understand the different fees that the bank may charge. At some banks, checking accounts are free only if certain conditions are met such as maintaining a minimum account balance each month.

Some U.S. banks may freeze funds deposited from overseas banks for several weeks. You should therefore make arrangements for alternate payment plans to cover initial expenses after you arrive in the United States.

ATM (Automated Teller Machine) Card

An ATM card can be used to withdraw cash from your checking account. There are no fees if cash is withdrawn from one of your bank's ATMs. However, if money is withdrawn from a non-network ATM, you will likely be charged a fee.

Debit Card

A debit card is an ATM card with a MasterCard or Visa logo which allows you to make purchases in stores and online. Since each transaction is taken directly from your bank account, you will need to monitor the balance to make sure that you always have sufficient funds. The fees for an overdraft—spending more money than is available in the account— are very high.

When buying something with a debit card, the cashier may ask you if the purchase is 'credit' or 'debit.' While either option will take the funds directly from your checking account, there are different procedures to complete the transaction. If you choose credit, you normally will sign the receipt (though many merchants no longer require a signature for purchases under $25). If you choose debit, you will need to enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Choosing debit also gives you the option to 'get cash back'—withdraw additional cash from your account at no extra charge.

Be aware that some firms including gas stations, hotels and car rental agencies may place an authorization hold for the estimated cost of a debit card transaction which is greater than the actual purchase price. These funds are blocked until the bill is paid which temporarily reduces your account balance. In some instances, it can take a few business days for the hold to be removed. Therefore, you will need to cautious about making such purchases if your account balance is low in order to prevent an overdraft or having a transaction denied for insufficient funds.

Online Banking

Most major institutions now offer online banking to their customers. Online banking allows you to view and print account statements, transfer funds between accounts, and perform a variety of other financial tasks that you would otherwise need to visit a bank in person to perform.

Bank Branches Near DU Campus

There are several banks located near the DU Campus. Neither the University nor International Student and Scholar Service endorses a particular bank. Before visiting a bank or opening an account, carefully consider your personal financial needs and be ready to discuss the services you would like to receive with a customer service representative.

  • 1st Bank | 303-778-8300 | 1316 E. Evans Ave.
  • Bank of the West | 303-202-5521 | 2050 S. Downing St.
  • Chase Bank | 720-570-0751 | 2040 S. University Blvd.
  • Key Bank | 303-753-1779 | 2305 S. Colorado Blvd.
  • TCF Bank |  303-839-3030 | 2090 S. University Blvd.
  • US Bank | 303-542-0325 | Driscoll Student Center
  • Wells Fargo | 303-733-3560 | 2150 S. Downing St. (inside Safeway)

Checks

Checks are another form of payment used in the United States though more and more stores will no longer accept them.

When a new bank account is opened, a set of temporary checks will typically be issued that can be used to make purchases. You can then order checks with your name and address printed on them from your bank or from a check printing business. Please note that USCIS will NOT accept temporary checks.

For the steps to properly write a check in the U.S., you can visit this wikiHow web page.

As with a debit card, do not write a check unless you have enough money in your bank account to cover the purchase. If a check is returned because of insufficient funds in the account, you will be required to pay one or more overdraft fees which are very expensive. Therefore, it is in your best interest to closely monitor your bank balance to prevent 'bouncing' a check.

Other Resources

The purpose of this web page is to provide a broad overview of the subject. It should not be considered an authoritative resource. No company listed above is affiliated with or endorsed by the University of Denver.

Cell Phones

Cell phones have become almost a necessity for students across the globe as the main way to communicate with one another. While you may be familiar with cell phone service in your home country, please be aware that mobile phones in the United States may work differently.

Some possible differences include:

  • Most providers allow users to call anywhere in the United States for the same flat rate
  • Minutes are consumed for both incoming and outgoing calls
  • International calls can be very expensive
  • You can typically keep the same phone number even if you move to another part of the United States

There are two main types of cell phone service: monthly plans with a contract or prepaid plans. Due to the large number of providers and plans, it is recommended that you research several options before making a final decision. Each major provider has a store located near the University of Denver.

For an overview of available plans and pricing, there are many useful websites including:

No-Contract/Prepaid

  • Prepaid plans are easier for new international students to obtain because they do not require a Social Security number and/or a credit history check. These "pay-as-you-go" plans use the same cell phone networks and offer the same services as contract plans do though at higher rates. Advantages of these plans include no long-term contracts, security deposits, or penalties for cancellation.
  • Each company offers a variety of phones for purchase though the prices are much higher than phones purchased with a monthly contract. It may be possible to use a cell phone from your home country if it uses a SIM card and has been unlocked. However, ask a technician to confirm if the phone is compatible with that company's network.

Contract

  • Contract plans offer lower monthly rates and very low prices on new phones compared to prepaid plans. Typically, the best prices are offered to customers who sign two-year contracts for cell phone service. While the rates are lower, terminating a contract early requires the customer to pay a large penalty.
  • To qualify for a contract plan, a cell phone provider will generally review the applicant's credit history. Since new international students do not have Social Security numbers or credit history in the United States, they must typically give a security deposit which could be $400-$500.
  • As with any contract, please ensure that you understand all requirements and charges before signing it.
Entertainment

Denver offers activities and entertainment to match almost every personal taste. Using the public transportation system, you can visit many parts of the city without needing your own vehicle. Denver's official visitor information website Visit Denver is a great place to start when looking for ideas of things to do both in Denver and the surrounding area. We hope that you will take the time to explore Denver and learn what it has to offer you!

Denver-Area Attractions

Denver has a number of museums and outdoor gardens. Before your visit, check their website or call ahead to ask if discount student tickets are available. You can also visit the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District website to learn when admission is free.

Denver has many beautiful parks including some in the mountains and foothills west of Denver. Visit Denver Parks to find a great spot to enjoy Denver's natural beauty.

The Mile High City is also home to professional sports teams for baseball, basketball, American football, ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse. Several of these teams have stadiums downtown which are easy to reach using RTD light rail.

DU Campus Activities

The University sponsors many events and entertainment venues on campus. Student Life's Office of Student  Activities is a great place to look for upcoming events such as movies, concerts and other activities.

There are DU Pioneers sporting events such as hockey, basketball, soccer, and lacrosse throughout the year. Many of the games which are free or have student discounts.

DU's Newman Center for the Performance Arts has concerts and recitals year-round; many of which are free for students.

Colorado Attractions

During your time at the University of Denver, consider exploring other parts of the state. The official Colorado Tourism website has suggestions of things to do year-round whether you prefer outdoor activities or shopping, historical sites or great restaurants.

None of the companies listed above is affiliated with or endorsed by the University of Denver.

Faith and Worship

Although the University of Denver is not affiliated with any particular religious organization, University policy recognizes the importance of faith and worship in students' lives. When possible, the University attempts to accommodate holy days and days of observance for faculty, staff, and students. Please speak to your instructor or supervisor if a particular observance or tradition will create a conflict with course attendance or work responsibilities.

Office of Religious and Spiritual Life

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life serves members of the DU community of all faiths and religious affiliations. The Reverend Gary Brower, Ph.D. serves as the University Chaplain and is available to help meet your spiritual needs while at DU. For more information about Rev. Brower, please visit the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life website.

Places of Worship

There are many places of worship available in the greater Denver area. The list below provides links to the websites of some of the larger religious organizations in Denver and the state of Colorado. Please note that neither the University nor International Student and Scholar Services endorses a particular group or style of worship. A Google search can help you locate a place of worship near you that is appropriate for your spiritual needs. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life has a more extensive list of Local Places of Worship.

Shopping

The Denver area has a wide variety of stores and shopping centers which carry almost any type of merchandise that you could be looking for. Many stores are open seven days a week including holidays and some are even open 24 hours a day.

Stores in the United States place a high value on customer satisfaction. If you have a question about an item or have a problem with a purchase, talk to one of the sales associates or request to speak with a manager.

Sales Tax

When you purchase anything other than grocery items, you will usually be charged a state and local sales tax. Unlike many countries, sales tax is not included in the prices displayed. The tax is added when you check out. Sales tax in Colorado varies between cities so that a purchase made in Denver may have a different percentage of sales tax than the same purchase in another community such as Englewood or Aurora.   Many online purchases are also subject to sales tax.

Local Shopping

Grocery Stores

There is a good selection of places to purchase grocery items around campus especially if you use public transportation or have access to a car. Grocery stores in the area include Safeway, Whole Foods, King Soopers and Sunflower Market.

For those looking for food items from their home countries, Denver has many ethnic grocery stores. This list of international grocery stores is based on their distance from the University.

Household Goods

When shopping to find items for your dorm room or apartment, large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target or Kmart offer a large selection. Other good options include Big Lots, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Best Buy or IKEA depending on the type of item you are looking for.

Used Items

One way to save money is to purchase used or 'second-hand' items instead of buying something brand-new. Stores such as Goodwill and ARC Thrift Stores sell used furniture, kitchen supplies, household goods and clothes often for a fraction of the price of a similar new item. The popular website Craigslist is another source for used goods.

Shopping Centers

Shopping malls are convenient if you desire to have access to many different stores in one location, are looking for name-brand clothes and accessories or if you just like to 'window shop.' Popular malls include Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 16th Street Mall, Park Meadows, or Colorado Mills.

Dining Out

Tipping

When eating out, it is good to be aware of when to tip and how much the tip should be for. In the United States, tips or gratuities are not added into the bill. Based on the level of service by the server(s), a tip of 15-20% of the bill (not including tax) is recommended. However, some restaurants will include the tip (often 18%) in the bills of large groups, typically 8 or more diners. Most restaurants will disclose this practice in their menu.

Tips are not expected at fast food restaurants or cafeterias where food is ordered at the counter instead of a server taking your order at the table.

If you order food to be delivered to your residence, a tip is normally expected by the driver.

Transportation and Driving

Public Transportation

Denver and the surrounding communities are connected by a series of bus routes and light rail lines managed by the Regional Transportation District (RTD). Most full-time DU students are eligible for an RTD Pass at no additional cost which gives them unlimited access to this extensive public transportation system.

Bicycles

Bicycles are a common form of transportation on the DU campus. If you plan to have a bicycle on campus, make sure to visit the Campus Safety website for the University's bicycle regulations. The DU Transportation Center has links to a Denver bike map as well as information on the Denver B-Cycle program which allows you to rent a bike for short trips around Denver for a minimal charge.

Driving

In order to drive a motorized vehicle such as a car, truck, moped or motorcycle in Colorado, it is necessary to have a valid driver's license. Please visit our Driver's License/State ID webpage for more details on obtaining a Colorado license. This page also explains how to obtain a Colorado Identification Card which can be useful as a photo ID but does not allow you to drive.

The Owning and Driving an Automobile webpage gives an overview of some of Colorado's driving regulations since these laws may different from those of other countries and even of other states. Basic information on the laws and responsibilities of owning a vehicle is also provided.

Students who occasionally need a car in Denver but do not want to buy a vehicle may find the one of the car-sharing programs useful. The programs allows DU students to rent a car by the hour or on a daily basis. Some programs allow students as young as 18 years old to rent vehicles.

 

The purpose of this web page is to provide a broad overview of the subject. It should not be considered an authoritative resource. No company listed above is affiliated with or endorsed by the University of Denver.