Whether you’re a U.S. citizen and want to open a new bank account or you’re planning to move to the U.S. and need to open an account stateside, there are certain steps you’ll need to take. The best way to go about opening a new bank account depends on many personal factors.
If you’re already U.S.-based, it will depend on where you can get the best deal and what’s most convenient for you. If you’re abroad, it might depend on your immigration status and whether you are planning on opening the account before or after you move. Don’t get left out in the cold when you need a bank account — find out everything you need to know about how to open one in the U.S. so you can get your financial plan underway.
How to Open a U.S. Bank Account if You’re a Citizen
If you’re an American citizen and want to open a bank account, you’ll need to fill out an application and provide your Social Security number and a valid ID. Many banks also require you to make a minimum opening deposit. For example, Wells Fargo requires $25 to open a savings account.
Some major banks — including Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo — enable customers to apply to open a bank account online. If the bank you choose does not, you can visit your local bank branch to open an account.
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How to Open a U.S. Bank Account From Abroad
Many major, international banks — including HSBC, Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank — have U.S. branches. If you already have an account with one of these banks, someone at your local branch can help you open an account in the U.S. before you move. Even if your bank doesn’t have U.S. locations, it might have a correspondent bank that does, in which case you can get help with opening an account at its partner bank before you move. If your current bank doesn’t have U.S. locations or a correspondent bank, you’ll need to open an account at a new bank after you move to the U.S.
Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Open a Bank Account in the U.S.?
Opening a bank account in the U.S. does not always require a Social Security number, so the answer is yes, noncitizens can apply. You must, however, have two forms of I.D. — one of which must be a passport — and many banks require proof of a U.S. address. You might have to provide additional identification and documents, depending on the bank you choose.
If you’re already a U.S. citizen, you have the option of opening an account online or by visiting your local bank branch. If you’re not a citizen, however, many major banks require you to visit a branch to open an account so they verify your identity. When you apply for a U.S. bank account, make sure you have the proper documentation. You’ll need a passport and a second form of identification, which can be one of the following:
- Employment ID with photo and signature
- State-issued ID or driver’s license with signature
- Foreign driver’s license with photo
- U.S. Employment Authorization Document with photo, signature and expiration date
- College ID with photo
- Alien registration card with photo
- Permanent resident card with photo
Many banks also require proof of a U.S. address, such as a local utility bill in your name, and you might need to provide a financial institution with a noncitizen identification number and expiration date. Some banks do require a Social Security number to open an account. To get one, you will have to fill out an application and submit it to your nearest Social Security office.
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Costs and Fees Associated with a U.S. Bank Account
Depending on the bank and the type of account you choose to open, you might have to pay certain fees. Here are three of the most common ones:
1. Monthly Maintenance Fees
Many banks charge a fee if you don’t meet certain requirements, such as keeping a minimum balance in your account or scheduling a designated amount of direct deposits each month. The fees are usually only around $5, and you can typically find a way to avoid bank fees.
2. ATM Fees
Some banks charge a fee if you use an ATM outside of their networks. Avoid these fees by:
- Using only your bank’s ATM
- Opting for a bank that doesn’t charge fees for out-of-network withdrawals
- Choosing a bank that offers reimbursement for out-of-network ATM withdrawals
3. Wire Transfer Fees
Banks might charge fees to send and receive wire transfers both domestically and internationally. To give you an example of what they’re like, check out what Wells Fargo charges:
- Incoming domestic wire: $15 per transfer
- Incoming international wire: $16 per transfer
- Outgoing domestic wire: $30 per transfer
- Outgoing international wire: Varies
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Choose the Right Bank for Your Needs
With thousands of banks to choose from in the U.S., finding the right one can feel overwhelming. Keep in mind that banks offer different benefits, however, so search for the one that best fits your needs. For example, here are three choices for those who might need a U.S. bank account:
1. Best Banks for Students
If you’re an American college student or you’re studying abroad in the U.S., consider opening a student checking account. The following banks offer accounts with no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirement for students:
- Ally Bank Interest Checking
- TD Bank Student Checking
- Capital One 360 Checking
- Discover Cashback Checking
- Bank of America Core
- PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student
- BB&T Student Checking
- Regions Bank LifeGreen Checking for Students
2. Best Banks for Professionals
If you’re a working American or are moving to the U.S. for work and want to open a personal account, you’ll have many options. When choosing a bank, look for one that offers low fees and high interest rates.
3. Best Banks for Businesses
If you’re opening a U.S. account for business purposes, consider a dedicated business checking account. Having a separate business account helps you keep your business and personal finances straight and enables you to establish your business identity and create credibility. In addition, a business account might come with useful features, like payroll services, designed to help business owners.
Keep in mind, however, that business accounts also come with additional fees and might require high minimum balances. And you might incur additional fees if you’re doing business internationally and need to exchange money across borders.
Before you commit to any bank account, identify your needs and research bank accounts to find the best one for you.
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