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All the big banks offer free checking accounts, especially for students. Citi is convenient if you live near school, has an ATM in Uris and the branch near school is experienced in opening student and international studnet accounts (they know all the people at Columbia in Housing, Admissions etc). Chase has the greatest number of ATMs in New York and there is a Chase ATM in every Duane Reade, New York's largest and most numerous drug store. Citi and Chase are definitely the two most obvious choices.

However, when deciding upon what bank to use, go for the one that is best for you in terms of features, benefits offers and ATM's. You will probably select the most convenient but you may want to compare banks in terms of service costs, minimum required balance or Interest rates. The following are New York banks with branches near the Columbia campus ;

Neighborhood Banks

CitiBank: on campus at Alfred Lerner Hall, first floor, and at 2960 Broadway at West 111 Street (also an ATM in Uris Hall)
Chase Manhattan Bank: 2898 Broadway at West 113 Street
Washington Mutual (operated by Chase): 2875 Broadway at 112 Street
Banco Popular: 2852 Broadway at West 111 Street
Columbia Credit Union: Alfred Lerner Hall, Room 505, fifth floor
TD Bank: 2831 Broadway at 109 Street

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: The Full Guide to Opening a Bank Account