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A Comprehensive Guide to Opening a US Bank Account (Even For Non-Residents Online)

Jul 26, 2023
Affiliate disclosure

Whether you’re planning to move to America or simply looking for a bank account in US dollars, you'll probably find opening a US bank account online as a non-resident a tricky process filled with varied requirements and lengthy bureaucratic procedures.

However, while it can be tough, it’s certainly not impossible. In this guide, we explore the main options you most likely have at your disposal to open a non-resident US bank account — no matter what your individual needs and preferences might be!

recommendation icon

Here are the online accounts providing various US banking facilities, depending on where you live:

  • In the USA, we recommend Chime®
  • In Europe we recommend Revolut
  • In Canada, we recommend Wise
  • In LATAM, we recommend Global66

In short, many people find opening a bank account in the US particularly difficult as a non-resident for one reason: most US banks require you to be an American citizen or resident to approve your application.

That typically means you'll need to submit a Social Security Number (SSN), an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and proof of address in the US (although these details vary from bank to bank). You'll also be required to submit an identity document such as a passport, driver's license, government-issued photo ID or, where applicable, immigration documents.

All told, there are four main paths to open a US bank account for non-residents, and the best one for you will depend heavily on your needs and preferences. These paths are as follows:

  1. Big banks in the US: This path usually requires residence in the US (although it doesn't necessarily have to be a primary residence) and will require you to travel to the US to visit a bank branch and open an account in person. You'll need specific documentation, so always call ahead to see the requirements before you make the journey, as it can differ from bank to bank.
  2. International US banks: This path doesn't require residence in the US or local documentation, but it typically comes with a steep initial deposit, high fees, and minimum balance requirements.
  3. Online accounts: Here, you won't necessarily need an SSN/ITIN, but you will need a US residence. It's the best path for US residents who want low-cost, digital banking services and don't mind slightly less banking coverage.
  4. Wise Account: This path is the easiest and cheapest way to open a bank account online in the US as a non-resident and is ideal for those wanting to open an American bank account online from abroad (as its checking accounts are held by CFSB).

Let's explore each of these paths in detail below:

Key Facts About Banking in the USA

🏦 No. of Banks in the USA

4,700+

👨‍⚖️ Regulatory Body

FDIC

🏆 Best Account for Residents
💸 Best Money Transfer to the USA

It varies. Compare now.

💻 Best Account for Non-Residents
💷 Average Running Costs
  • Online banks: $0 /month
  • Big banks: $5 - $10 /month

Path 1: US Big Banks

Ken Teegardin (CC BY 2.0, modified)

The first and most obvious way to open a US bank account as a non-resident is to open an account with a big-name US bank. This route requires residence in the US (even if your primary residence is abroad) and sometimes (although not always) also requires a SSN/ITIN and other documentation. Banks in this category include Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, US Bank, TD Bank, Capital One, and others.

This option also involves visiting the US and opening your bank account face-to-face — therefore it usually only makes sense if you have a home in the US and regularly visit the country. Otherwise, it’ll be very difficult to open a bank account online without proof of residency, though you could still contact the bank to check what their requirements would be if you wanted to become a temporary or permanent resident.

Types of US Bank Accounts

Most US bank accounts are either 'checking' or 'savings' accounts. Checking accounts work like current accounts in other countries and provide services such as:

  • Internet banking;
  • Bills and other payments;
  • ACH and wire transfers;
  • Direct debits;
  • A debit card;
  • ATM withdrawals.

Savings accounts, on the other hand, allow you to deposit money away over time and pay interest on that amount There are usually restrictions on how often you can withdraw money from this type of account.

Both checking and savings accounts come with:

  • A routing number (identifying your bank).
  • An account number (identifying your account).

Documents Needed To Open a US Bank Account

In addition to a completed application form, the documents that are most commonly requested by US banks include¹:

  • Proof of identity: This can include a valid government-issued identification document such as an ID card, passport, or driver's license.
  • Proof of address: Utility bills, bank or credit card statements, lease agreements, or mortgage statements that list the address of a US residence will usually suffice.
  • Social service number: This is usually Social Security Number (SSN) or a Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

While many US banks will require you to have both a SSN or ITIN and proof of address in America, the exact documents needed to open an account are not set and stone and can vary significantly from state to state and branch to branch.

To obtain a SSN/ITIN, you'll need to apply through the IRS's website². To obtain temporary proof of address, on the other hand, it's worth asking your bank if they'd be able to accept a letter from your university, employer, or prospective landlord that notes your place of residence.

It's also worth noting that most US banks will also require you to make an initial deposit. You can transfer this amount (usually between $25 and $150) into your new account using a debit card, cash, or ACH transfer.

How To Open an Account With a US Bank

  • Step 01

    Gather Your Documents

    First, you'll need to get your documents in order. As we saw above, to open an account with a big bank in the US, you'll generally need:

    1. Proof of identity
    2. Proof of address
    3. SSN/ITIN (sometimes this isn't required)
  • Step 02

    Make an Appointment

    Next, you'll need to make an appointment to open a checking account. Some banks allow you to do this online, but it's usually the best idea to call.

  • Final step

    Open Your Account

    At the appointment, you'll be able to discuss your banking needs. Your eligibility will be checked, and your account will be opened.

Accounts at US Banks for Non-Residents

Below, you'll find the flagship checking accounts offered by a few of the biggest US banks. As we saw above, there are many other types of bank accounts too, but we selected the basic entry-level checking accounts for the sake of illustration:

1. Wells Fargo

  • Account: Everyday Checking
  • Monthly fee: $10
  • Outgoing int'l wire cost: $30 plus an additional 4%-10% (depending on the currency). See more.
  • Int'l card payment cost: 3%
  • US residence required: Yes (though not necessarily primary residence)
  • SSN/ITIN required: Only for US citizens

2. Citibank

  • Account: Access Account Package
  • Monthly fee: $10
  • Outgoing int'l wire cost: $45 plus an additional 5%-10% (depending on the currency). See more.
  • Int'l card payment cost: 3%
  • US residence required: Yes (though not necessarily primary residence)
  • SSN/ITIN required: Only for US citizens

3. JPMorgan Chase

  • Account: Chase Total Checking
  • Monthly fee: $12
  • Outgoing int'l wire cost: $40 plus an additional 5%-10% (depending on the currency).
  • Int'l card payment cost: 3%
  • US residence required: Yes (though not necessarily primary residence)
  • SSN/ITIN required: Yes

4. Bank of America

  • Account: Advantage Banking
  • Monthly fee: $4.95
  • Outgoing int'l wire cost: $45 plus an additional 5%-7% (depending on the currency). See more.
  • Int'l card payment cost: 3%
  • US residence required: Yes (though not necessarily primary residence)
  • SSN/ITIN required: Only for US citizens

Path 2: International Bank Accounts

Kaung Myat Min on Unsplash

Some banks have an international presence and may allow you to open an American bank account online, even as a non-US resident. These can include the big banks in the US and other multinational banks such as HSBC. These international options are specialized accounts, and you can sometimes open them even if you don’t have a US address. However, these options do come with some downsides:

  • You'll likely have to make a large initial deposit, sometimes in excess of $100,000.
  • You'll need to maintain a high minimum balance in the account.
  • There are likely to be ongoing monthly fees to maintain the account.

Unfortunately, these limitations do put international accounts out of the reach of most people. However, for those interested, we've listed the two international US banks we find most interesting below:

Zenus Bank

Zenus Bank is a licensed and regulated American bank that provides all-remote US bank accounts in almost every country in the world without the requirement to be a US citizen or resident. To open a US bank account from your home country, Zenus Bank will require four pieces of information from you:

  1. A valid government-issued passport.
  2. Proof of address in your home country.
  3. A completed Form W-8 BEN (this is for the IRS).
  4. Proof of employment (or pension or unemployment).

Zenus Bank's USD personal current account costs a one-time application fee of $50 and a membership fee of $50 per month. This fee is admittedly very steep and stems from the fact that Zenus Bank is a full-reserve bank, meaning it doesn't loan out or invest your money and instead charges a higher membership fee to make its money. (In contrast, fractional reserve banks make money from personal customers by loaning out their money and charging lower account fees as a result.)

After signing up with Zenus Bank, you'll be able to manage your finances and transfers with US bank details from the Zenus internet banking app. Here are some of the perks:

  • No minimum balance is required.
  • Complete security with your funds (Zenus doesn't lend your money).
  • No charges on ATM withdrawals.
  • Insurances and other offers and benefits.

Sadly, although Zenus' physical and virtual debit cards are available in many countries, they're not yet available everywhere, so be sure to check in advance if they'll ship to your country. This can be a big limitation if you want to use it to spend USD, but not so much if you simply want the current account itself for the purposes of savings, investments, and transfers.

Moreover, clients who want to deposit money and aren't bothered with withdrawing or transferring out will likely benefit most from using Zenus since incoming payments are all free. On the other hand, ACH payments from the account cost $15 and international wires and SWIFT payments cost $25.

Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab One International Account in US dollars is another option for US-non residents looking to open a bank account in America. This account is not a formal bank account but a brokerage account in US dollars that gives investors the opportunity to hold dollar account balances, make trades, and transact with their liquified investments using a debit card or wire transfer.

Similar to Zenus Bank, Charles Schwab will request the following pieces of information from you in order to open an account:

  1. A completed Form W-8 BEN.
  2. A valid government-issued passport.
  3. Proof of address in your home country.

The downside is that a hefty $25,000 minimum deposit is required to activate the account. From then on out, the fees are quite low, and in addition to a large investment platform, you'll have access to the following bank-like features:

  • Checking (including monthly account statements).
  • International wire transfers ($25 per outgoing transaction).
  • A Schwab Visa debit card (ATM fees are refunded).

Path 3: Online Accounts

Scott Graham on Unsplash

Online accounts or "neobanks" in the US are an up-and-coming type of financial services provider trying to disrupt traditional banks by offering low-cost, savvy online banking services. Most of the accounts below are not banks themselves, but fintech accounts whose client's are deposits held by regulated banks.

Typically, online accounts require residence in the US but they tend to be more relaxed about SSN/ITIN requirements than the banks.

Here are a few of the most interesting online account services available in the US:

Chime

Because of its low fees and panel of features (such as overdraft on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals⁵ offered via a special optional service called SpotMe®), if you’re looking for a mobile financial app to save on fees (and as long as you don’t need an extensive list of features), then Chime® will probably be the best option for you.

  • Account name: Chime Checking Account
  • Monthly fee: $0¹
  • Outgoing int'l wire cost: Not available
  • Int'l card payment cost: 0%
  • US residence required: Yes
  • SSN/ITIN required: Yes
  • More info: See our full Chime review.

Majority

Because of its suite of migrant-friendly features (e.g. international calling, wires, exclusive deals, etc.) combined with low fees all around, we think Majority is the best suited online current account for new arrivals and migrants in the US with residence but not yet a SSN or ITIN.

  • Account name: Majority
  • Monthly fee: $5
  • Int'l money transfer cost: 0.2% - 2.5% (estimate depending on country)
  • Int'l card payment cost: 0%
  • US residence required: Yes
  • SSN/ITIN required: No
  • More info: See our full Majority review.

Revolut

Revolut is a powerful personal finance platform that offers cheap international money transfers, a multi-currency account to hold over 30 foreign currencies, and a debit card to spend abroad like a local. If you're not a citizen of the US, then Revolut will need to ask for proof of your right to reside in the country. This may include a visa along with national passport or a residence permit).

  • Account name: Standard
  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Outgoing int'l wire cost: No fee for first $1,000 per month
  • Int'l card payment cost: 0% to ~1% markup (depending on currency)
  • US residence required: Yes
  • SSN/ITIN required: No
  • More info: See our full Revolut review.

There are also other options to consider, such as Juno. You can find out more in our comparison below:

Path 4: Wise Account

Wise Wise multi currency account platforms online

Wise isn't a bank in the US but a money transfer operator that's well-known for offering some of the cheapest international transfers globally. However, in addition to money transfers, Wise also offer a Multi-Currency Account, a low-cost foreign currency spending account and a Visa debit card

For many people, this is the fastest and easiest way to open a US bank account as a non-resident, regardless of whether you want to hold money in US dollars, spend money on holidays abroad, shop online, or receive earnings from an American employer.

After opening an account online, you'll only be required to verify your identity through Wise's interface. You won't necessarily need to show proof of residence in the US to sign up and obtain the Visa debit card (although you will need to show proof of residence in the EU/EEA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, UK, US).

Product Features

A major benefit of the Wise account is that it comes with legitimate banking details in multiple countries and currencies, including US dollars. Your Wise USD account will be held by Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB) and come with the following details unique to you:

  1. ACH routing number
  2. Wire routing number
  3. Account number
  4. SWIFT/BIC code

This means you'll be able to spend and be paid just like a local in the US, as well as convert your USD balance into your home currency without being charged exorbitant bank fees. Here's an overview of the other features you'll be able to take advantage of with a Wise Multi-Currency Account once it's set up:

  • Local bank details not just in the US, but also in the UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Canada, and Hungary.
  • Hold, exchange, and top-up up to 56 currencies.
  • A multi-currency Visa debit card that's handy for paying in foreign currencies without hidden fees.
  • Access to Wise's powerful international money transfer service right from your account balance.

How To Open a US Account With Wise

  • Step 01

    Go to Wise

    Head on over to Wise's website and select 'Get an account' to start the process. (The signup only takes a few minutes).

  • Step 02

    Enter Your Details

    Enter your full name, address, mobile number, and submit a government-issued ID document.

  • Step 03

    Wait for Verification

    Once you've submitted your details, you'll need to wait for your account to be verified. This is usually completed within 24 hours.

  • Final step

    Start Using Wise (And Wait for Your Debit Card)

    Once your account is verified, you'll be able to use the online account and virtual Visa card immediately. The physical debit card will take a few days or weeks to arrive, depending on where you live in the world.

    Open your account ❯

Transferring to US Dollars

To get a sense of how useful Wise can be for expats and non-residents in the US, let's say that you've just moved from Canada to the US and need a functional online account to receive and spend US dollars. With a Wise Multi-Currency Account, you'll be able to:

  1. Send Canadian dollars from your regular account to your Wise USD account;
  2. Convert all or part of your Canadian dollars into US dollars at a low fee of around 0.56% or C$9.70 to add US$1,000;
  3. Pay with your Wise debit card, and make or receive SEPA (and SWIFT) payments.

You'll also have US bank details to share with an employer. Note that this account does not offer an overdraft, and you won’t earn interest on your balance. A few other limitations on the Wise USD account include:

  • You can't yet set up direct debits.
  • Incoming payments can only be in US dollars, no other currency will be accepted.
  • Incoming domestic transfers take 2 to 3 working days to arrive in the account, while international transfers take 4 to 5 days.
  • The fee to receive wire transfers (domestic and international) is $7.50 per transaction.

How To Send Money to a US Bank Account

Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

Once you've opened a bank account in the US, you'll need to consider how to move your funds across. This process can be exceptionally costly if you're depositing money from a currency other than US dollars. To deposit money into your new USD bank account from your home currency before you move, you'll need to go to your online banking and choose between one of two options:

We don't recommend using your bank to transfer money internationally, as the fees can be exorbitant, and the waiting times can be lengthy. This is mainly because banks wire funds over the SWIFT network, which adds many timely and expensive steps to the money transfer process.

Instead, if the amount you'd like to send to the US is in the order of several hundred or thousand dollars or equivalent, then we recommend you use a money transfer specialist service (Wise is one among many.) To compare which services are cheapest for your transfer amount and your home country to America, run a search on Monito's real-time comparison engine here.

On the other hand, if you're moving large amounts of money from your home currency to your new bank account in the USA (i.e. anything upwards of USD 30,000 or equivalent), services such as Wise may not be your cheapest bet. Instead, we recommend exploring your options among the foreign exchange brokers that support transfers from your country to the US. These services specialise in negotiating favourable exchange rates on your behalf. They are the most cost-effective option for transferring large sums of money (such as life savings or liquid investments) across borders.

To find out which service will offer you the best deal in real-time, run a search on our comparison engine below:

Find the best deal when sending money to the United States:

Recap: Best US Bank Accounts for Non-Residents

  • Wise Account: Best USD account for non-residents.
  • Revolut: Best multi-currency account with proof of US residency.
  • Majority: Best migrant-friendly account for residents without a SSN.
  • Zenus Bank: Best USD deposit account for non-residents.
  • Bank of America: Best traditional banking experience for residents.
  • Monito: Best way to compare money transfers to the USA.

FAQ About Opening a Bank Account in the US

Disclaimers

Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Credit Builder card issued by Stride Bank, N.A.

¹ Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees apply except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven location or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.

² To apply for Credit Builder, you must have received a single qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more to your Checking Account. The qualifying direct deposit must be from your employer, payroll provider, gig economy payer, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit OR Original Credit Transaction (OCT). Bank ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, cash loads or deposits, one-time direct deposits, such as tax refunds and other similar transactions, and any deposit to which Chime deems to not be a qualifying direct deposit are not qualifying direct deposits.

³ The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is accurate as of November 17, 2022. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest. The average national savings account interest rate of 0.21% is determined by FDIC as of November 17, 2022 based on a simple average of rates paid (uses annual percentage yield) by all insured depository institutions and branches for which data are available. Visit National Rates and Rate Caps to learn more.

⁴ On-time payment history can have a positive impact on your credit score. Late payment may negatively impact your credit score. Results may vary.

⁵ Chime SpotMe is an optional, no fee service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Checking Account each month. All qualifying members will be allowed to overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member's Chime Account history, direct deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to your limit. Your limit may change at any time, at Chime's discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won't cover non-debit card transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See Terms and Conditions.

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Learn more about us

Compare Top Online Banks in the USA

Filters
Sort by
  1. Wise Multi-Currency Account Monito Score 8.9
    open
    • Languages
      English +21
    • Country availability
      Austria +37
    • Services
      Multi-currency account
    • Monthly fee
      Very low
    • Card delivery time
      Mid
    • Best for
      Spending while abroad
    • Bank details
      Euro IBAN +11
    • Supported currencies
      US dollar +50
    • Overdraft
    • Annual interest rate
      Very low
    • Supports cash deposits
    • International transfers
  2. Chime Monito Score 8.8
    open
    • Languages
      English
    • Country availability
      United States
    • Services
      Partial bank account
    • Monthly fee
      Very low
    • Card delivery time
      Mid
    • Best for
      Everyday banking
    • Bank details
      US account & routing no.
    • Supported currencies
      US dollar
    • Overdraft
    • Annual interest rate
      Low
    • Supports cash deposits
    • International transfers
  3. Revolut Monito Score 8.6
    open
    • Languages
      English +20
    • Country availability
      Austria +35
    • Services
      Partial bank account
    • Monthly fee
      Very low
    • Card delivery time
      Mid
    • Best for
      Spending online +1
    • Bank details
      UK account no. & sort code +1
    • Supported currencies
      United Arab Emirates dirham +26
    • Overdraft
    • Annual interest rate
      Very low
    • Supports cash deposits
    • International transfers

Non-Resident Bank Accounts in the US vs Other Countries

Many countries allow non-residents to open a bank account within their legal jurisdictions, but exactly what kind of requirements non-residents face can differ drastically from country to country and even bank to bank. See the list below to get a better idea of this:

Country

Which non-residents can open an account?

🇬🇧 United Kingdom

Parties with close ties, expats, immigrants, investors, students

🇮🇪 Ireland

Any interested party

🇩🇪 Germany

Parties with close ties

🇫🇷 France

Parties with close ties, investors, students

🇮🇹 Italy

Parties with close ties, Investors

🇨🇭 Switzerland

Investors only

🇪🇸 Spain

Parties with close ties, investors, students

🇵🇹 Portugal

Parties with close ties, investors, expats, students

🇳🇱 Netherlands

Parties with close ties, investors

🇩🇰 Denmark

Parties with close ties, investors

🇳🇴 Norway

Parties with close ties, investors

🇸🇪 Sweden

Parties with close ties, investors

🇦🇹 Austria

Parties with close ties, investors

🇬🇷 Greece

Parties with close ties, investors

🇭🇺 Hungary

Any interested party

🇱🇺 Luxembourg

Parties with close ties, investors

🇱🇮 Liechtenstein

Investors only

🇬🇮 Gibraltar

Investors only

🇮🇲 Isle of Man

Parties with close ties, investors, expats

🇯🇪 Jersey

Parties with close ties, investors, expats

Last updated: 23/2/2022

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