When you first arrive in the U.S., opening a bank account is probably one of your first moves as you settle. As a non-resident, you may wonder what banking services are available to you, if at all.
The good news is that plenty of banks allow non-residents to open an account in the U.S. There may be a few more hurdles to go through than at home, but you can navigate them with a little preparation.
Read this guide created by our Remitly team for all the details you need to choose a bank in the U.S. and open an account as a non-resident of the country.
What non-residents should consider in a bank account
Before opening a bank account in the U.S., comparing features and the fees you’ll pay is a good idea.
That way, you can open a bank account suited to your individual needs and one where you’ll pay for features you’ll use.
Here are some features you’ll want to consider as you compare your options when opening a U.S. bank account:
With many checking account options, the bank assesses a regular monthly maintenance fee. This fee helps cover the cost of administering your U.S. bank account.
Many financial institutions will waive the monthly maintenance fee if you meet certain requirements, such as having a direct deposit go into the account regularly.
The fee may also be waived if you meet a minimum balance requirement daily or monthly.
There are plenty of U.S. bank account options for non-residents that don’t charge a monthly maintenance fee, so do a search, especially if you don’t think you can meet the monthly requirements.
Minimum opening deposit requirement
Banks may require you to deposit a certain amount upon account opening. This initial amount may be small, such as $50 or $100. Higher initial deposit requirements may apply to certain accounts, like money market or business bank accounts.
If you don’t have much money saved to open a bank account, don’t worry. You can likely find a financial institution online or in your area with at least one account that lacks a minimum opening deposit requirement.
Checking accounts and some savings accounts come with an ATM or debit card, which you can use to make deposits or withdrawals at ATMs. While many banks don’t charge a fee to use machines in their network, you may be charged if you use a third-party network or one run by a different financial institution.
If you intend to use ATMs often, look for a bank with a large ATM network or one that reimburses fees.
Foreign transaction fees
You may be charged a fee for debit card transactions outside the U.S. This amount is often a percentage of the amount you spent or withdrew from a foreign ATM.
This fee will kick in if a purchase or withdrawal brings your bank account balance to less than zero. If the bank approves the transaction, you’ll be charged a fee.
Some banks let you opt into overdraft protection, which usually means transferring the money from a linked savings account or a line of credit to your checking account so you don’t overdraft.
Keep in mind that when the bank makes an automatic transfer from savings accounts or credit lines to prevent overdraft fees, you may be charged a convenience fee. Generally, this fee is lower than what you would pay for an overdraft.
Other banks allow you to turn off the ability to overdraft. If you choose this option, payments, purchases, and withdrawals will be declined if you don’t have the funds available in your checking account.
Online and mobile banking
With an online banking website or mobile banking app, you can check the balance in your checking accounts, savings accounts, and other accounts with your financial institution. In addition, online and mobile access can allow you to transfer money, pay bills, and review recent transactions.
If you like the convenience of banking electronically, inquire about the online and mobile services available before you open a bank account.
Most banks and credit unions allow you to check your U.S. bank account online or with your mobile device. However, the features of their services may vary.
Some have very basic platforms, while others provide extra tools and resources, such as budgeting tools or getting text messages and/or email notifications if you overdraw.
FDIC stands for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This organization, which is part of the U.S. federal government, guarantees the money you have on deposit at an FDIC-insured account will be there.
The FDIC insures your cash for up to $250,000 U.S.D per ownership category (type of account), per depositor (that’s you).
Most major banks in the U.S. are members of the FDIC. However, double-checking before you open an account is still a good idea.
What about APY?
Other considerations include the interest, or annual percentage yield (APY), that a bank account offers.
While the APY helps figure out how much interest you may earn, this percentage may fluctuate.
Not all bank accounts offer interest (such as many checking accounts), but it’s a factor worth considering if you intend to keep large sums of money in your account.
When comparing APYs, check to see what the requirements are and whether you meet them. Sometimes, banks won’t let you earn interest on deposits above a certain amount, for instance.
Generally, the APYs offered on checking accounts are lower than they are for savings accounts. Also, checking account options that do pay interest are more likely to charge fees.
If you’re interested in earning interest, opening a savings account in addition to a checking account may be a better approach.
How do credit unions compare to traditional banks?
A credit union offers the same types of bank accounts as traditional banks, but they have some differences.
Often, credit unions are open to people who meet certain requirements. For example, credit unions affiliated with companies may only provide banking services for employees.
There are also credit unions that only open bank accounts for people who live in a particular community, are veterans, or are members of specific organizations.
The upside to choosing credit unions is that fees may be lower and interest rates may be more favorable. However, they typically have fewer branches and ATMs.
Best U.S. banks for non-residents
Here’s the list of the best U.S. banks for non-residents:
- Schwab Bank
- Bank of America
While you can open an everyday checking or savings account at many U.S. banks as a non-resident, certain financial institutions stand out for their banking services.
The following are some of our top picks for where to open a U.S. bank account as a non-resident.
Please note that the list is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be exhaustive. It is not a substitute for professional or specialist advice. All of the information is updated to the time of this article in 2023.
Chase Total Checking
- Monthly fee: $12 (or $0 if you meet certain account or minimum balance requirements)
- Initial minimum deposit: $0
- ATM fee: $0 at Chase network ATMs; $3 to $5 for foreign ATM withdrawals and deposits at non-Chase ATMs plus any additional fees from the ATM operator
- Overdraft fee: $34 (maximum three times per day)
- Debit card foreign transaction fee: 3%
- FDIC insured: yes
Chase is one of the largest financial institutions in the U.S., with 15,000 ATMs and 4,700 branches throughout the country. One draw to opening this bank account is that new customers can receive a welcome bonus once they meet specific requirements.
For example, Chase has offered new customers $300 once they set up direct deposits to their Chase Total Checking® account. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you may need to head to a physical branch to open an account, but you should still be able to qualify for any bonuses.
Although there is a $12 monthly fee, account holders can waive that by having a $1,500 daily minimum balance, $500 in direct deposits each month, or a $5,000 average beginning day balance in linked Chase accounts.
Schwab Bank High-Yield Investor Checking® Account
- Monthly fee: $0
- Initial minimum deposit: $0
- ATM fee: $0 (customers will also get reimbursed for ATM fees outside the network)
- Overdraft fee: $0
- Debit card foreign transaction fee: none
- FDIC insured: yes
This checking account is a fine choice for those who travel often. You won’t be charged any ATM fees, even if you’re in a country outside the U.S. Plus, you’ll be reimbursed for all out-of-network ATM fees.
In addition, you’ll earn a competitive rate of interest on your balance.
The downside is that you can’t deposit cash since Charles Schwab is not a bank with brick-and-mortar locations. Instead, it’s primarily an investment brokerage.
With this account, you can set up electronic money transfers, direct deposits, and checks via mail. You can also make debit card purchases in the U.S. and abroad.
As a result, this account can be a good pick for someone hoping to open a secondary account in the U.S. and for those who do all of their banking electronically.
To apply, you’ll need to show up in person to fill out an application form. You also must open a brokerage account with Charles Schwab, but there’s no requirement saying you need to fund it.
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking
- Monthly fee: $12 (or $0 if you meet certain requirements)
- Initial minimum deposit: $100
- ATM fee: $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs in the U.S.; $5 for ATMs outside of the U.S.
- Overdraft fee: $10 per item
- Debit card foreign transaction fee: 3%
- FDIC insured: yes
The Advantage Plus bank account from Bank of America is a popular option because of its large ATM network and numerous physical branches throughout the U.S. Account holders can use the mobile banking app to check transactions, make deposits, and more.
Although there is a monthly fee, Bank of America will waive it if you meet one of the following requirements: qualifying direct deposit of a minimum of $250, enrolling in the Preferred Rewards program, or maintaining a minimum daily balance of $1,500.
Account holders under 24 years old can also ask to get the monthly fee waived.
What information do non-residents need to open bank accounts?
As a non-resident, you can open a new account using one or more of the following forms of identification:
- An alien identification or passport number
- A government-issued identification from a foreign country, such as a Canadian citizenship certificate card
- An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (more on this below)
You’ll also need to provide personal details such as your name, birth date, and proof of physical address in the U.S. That’s because the law requires U.S. financial institutions to be able to trace their customers’ transactions.
This information is used to verify your identity when opening a new bank account.
Is it possible for non-residents to open an online bank account?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that you can, though it will depend on the bank and the information you can provide.
Many online banks verify your information using an SSN, and many non-residents aren’t eligible for one.
Application forms for online bank accounts usually don’t have a place for people with a border crossing card or a non-immigrant visa to input their foreign ID number.
For this reason, most non-residents have better luck going to a larger bank with physical locations to open a bank account. That’s because you can walk into a branch, show your passport or other relevant documents, and open an account.
Even if you can start your application online with one of these banks, you may be required to complete it in person.
That said, many banks allow non-residents to apply for a bank account using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. The IRS issues this processing number to qualifying non-residents who aren’t eligible for an SSN.
Research banks that allow you to open an account online with an ITIN if you’re unable or prefer not to head to a physical branch — most of the best banks for non-residents will let you do so.
Don’t have an ITIN? Learn how to get one with our handy guide.
How do non-residents send money home?
Sending money home as a U.S. non-resident should be easy.
International transfer companies like Remitly offer multiple ways for non-residents to send money home and, in some cases, faster than with international bank transfers. These companies understand the importance of sending money to your loved ones.
Remitly is on a mission to make international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, millions of people have used Remitly to send money with peace of mind.