Practical Matters

Compass Card

Your Willamette ID, also called the Compass Card, will be your key to the buildings around campus. As a student, you will be able to get into the dormitories until 11pm, the Law School, Atkinson School of Management, Smullin Hall, Collins Hall (computer labs), the parking lot at TIUA, the 24 hour study room at Hatfield Library, the Hatfield Library and the Law Library until midnight.

Furthermore, you can use the card to buy food, snacks, and sodas on campus on the vending machines in the residence halls. If you live in Kaneko, the University Apartments, or close to the Montag Center you can use your card to pay for use of laundry facilities (washers and dryers). You can also pay for photocopying with your Compass Card at the Library, Smullin Hall, Atkinson, the University Center, the Graduate School of Education, and the Law School. On top of that you can use the card to pay for other purchases in the Bistro, the Mail Services, the Willamette Store, and the Millstream Market.

Adding funds to your Compass Card: All you have to do in order to be able to use your Compass Card as means of payment is give cash to a cashier at Goudy or Kaneko and they will add the money to your card. You can also deposit money to your Compass Card over the internet from your Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card. You simply go to the online card office, enter your credit card information and select an amount to add. Depending on which meal plan you have chosen the Compass Card will contain your meal plan points. Every time you purchase food at either dining halls the appropriate amount of points will be subtracted from your Compass Card. If you run out of meal plan points, you can buy food with the money you add to your card. If you ever lose your card or have any problems with it, go to the University Service Center/Campus Safety and they will help you figure out what is wrong and what can be done. The office is open on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is located between Doney and Lausanne Halls.

Oregon State ID

It is recommended that you get an Oregon State ID because you don't have to carry your passport around and be afraid to lose it. Banks, landlords, healthcare providers, etc. often ask for identification. Oregonians and other U.S. residents typically use a driver's license. Because it is issued by the same agency as a driver's license, the Oregon ID card will be recognized as a valid item for identification.

You can get an Oregon ID at the Driver & Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Be sure to bring cash or a check, since they don't accept credit cards! In order to get your ID you need to bring your passport and visa papers, student ID, and a bill or bank statement you have received here stating your address here in the U.S. and stamped by the postal service. For more information and how to apply, refer to the Oregon State ID handout in the "My FOLDER" link here.

Applying for a Social Security Card

International students are not legally allowed to apply for a social security number (and card) unless they are working in the U.S. Officially, the social security number is used for employment and tax purposes so it is not required for things like renting an apartment, getting a cell phone, etc. It may be requested, but it is not required for those purposes. If you are offered a job to work, you will then become eligible to apply for a Social Security card. This provides you with a 9-digit number that will be your Social Security number permanently. It is used for employment, tax purposes, and many other situations as an identification number.

A Social Security card is NOT permission to work in the United States. There are certain restrictions on employment for international students, and you must be authorized for employment in addition to getting a Social Security card. See Chris Andresen, Office of International Education (Matthews Academic Center) for information about work authorization.

A Social Security number is a powerful number, and if it is given out too freely, it can allow people to access your personal information, so you should be careful about giving out your number to people on the phone or Internet. It is also a good idea to shred documents that have your number printed on them (like bank statements) so that your information is not stolen.

For more information and how to apply, refer to the Social Security handout in the "My FOLDER" link here.


If you are here for more than a semester it can be recommended that you open an account in an American bank, that way you don't have to pay the same high fees every time you withdraw money with your credit card. To open an account you need to bring your passport, immigration papers, and Social Security card.

You can open either a checking account or a savings account (if you are planning on saving money for later). For the checking account some banks will automatically offer you an ATM card, other places you have to ask to get one. Either way the ATM card will work in your own bank's ATM machines only. It cannot be used as a credit card but only to withdraw money from your account either in the bank or in the ATM machines.

To see an overview of what the different banks offer and what they require you to bring in order to open a checking account see the schedule below.

Key Bank US Bank MaPS
What should I bring? Passport and student ID
What do they offer? Free checking account, but you need to buy your own checks Free student checking account; first box of checks is free -
Fees $17.55 for a box of checks - $25 opening fee
Requirements You need to keep the account open for 180 days or an early close-out fee of $25 will apply You need to keep the account open for 90 days or an early close-out fee of $35 will apply Minimum balance of $5
When will I receive my ATM/debit card? 10 business days 5-7 days 7-10 business days
Contact 503-399-2739 503-371-7489 503-370-6411
Bank of America Wells Fargo Washington Mutual
What should I bring? Passport and student ID
What do they offer? Free student checking account - -
Fees No fees for one year $17-30 for a box of checks $12 for a box of checks or $5 per month for free checks, free money orders, and free travelers checks
Requirements $100 to open your account, but no minimum balance thereafter $100 to open your account, but no minimum balance thereafter -
When will I receive my ATM/debit card? 7-10 business days 7-10 business days 7-10 business days
Contact 800-900-9000 503-945-2397 503-588-6700

E-mail Accounts

You will be given instructions to activate your Willamette email account before you arrive on campus. Access to email is available across campus at a number of computer terminals in academic buildings, residence halls and in high traffic areas such as the student center and the Bistro cafe.

If you have any problems with figuring out how to open your account, you can contact WITS or ask a computer lab assistant. Usually you can find helpful lab assistants in the computer labs during the morning, afternoon, and evenings until 1 a.m.. on weekdays. You can reach WITS at or 503-370-6767. If they cannot help you they will send you to somebody who can.

Cell Phones

These are some ideas for you to consider before making a decision on a cell phone. We cannot recommend a particular carrier. We encourage you to visit the company websites and use this information as a resource for making your own informed decision. Remember to keep the receipts/contracts you receive, especially if you are paying a security deposit.

Most carriers have options for pre-paid or pay as you go service. These usually do not require signing contracts, credit checks or social security numbers. The plans offered will vary depending on the company. This type of service allows you to select the amount of money/minutes you would like per month. You are able to add minutes onto your account as needed. Paying your bill at the beginning of the month will prevent you from going over your monthly allotment of minutes.

Some of the carriers may also allow you to choose from their post-paid service plans. While these generally require credit checks and the signing of a contract, some companies offer service if you pay a security deposit, which will be refunded at the termination of service if you have made payments to keep your account balanced.

Most carriers will allow you to use your existing phone, if it is unlocked and uses a SIM card. It may be a good way to eliminate the cost of purchasing a new phone. If this is not an option, there are often promotions, which will allow you to purchase a new phone at a reduced price when starting service with the company.