Best US Banks for Foreigners

A bank account can be the gateway to living an independent life in the US; allowing you to receive your paycheck, make payments, and perform other financial transactions. While opening a bank account as a foreigner isn’t as straightforward as the processes for US residents, it’s not as difficult as you might think – and plenty of options are available.

This article will look at some of the best US bank accounts for foreigners and discuss what you will need to open an account.

Which Bank is Best for Foreigners?

When choosing a bank as a non US citizen, there are several things that you need to keep in mind. Different banks market their products and services to different customers, and choosing the wrong type of bank could cost you money.

The first thing you will need to figure out is what type of products and services you need.

At the most basic level, a checking account will help you receive and send money. Checking accounts are great as they do not limit how many withdrawals you can make. On the flip side, they’re not very good at saving money since they earn little interest – if at all. If you’re looking to save money, a savings account might be the better option for you.

Next, consider what you will use the account for, considering any personal finance preferences. While this might seem like a waste of time, it will help you ensure you get the best account for your needs.

Here are some things of particular interest to look out for when choosing a bank account as a non US resident:

  • Minimum deposit: The minimum amount of money you need to deposit to open the account
  • Monthly maintenance fees: Fees charged by the bank to maintain your account
  • The number of free ATMs: A bank’s network of ATMs that offer withdrawals without ATM fees
  • Transfer fees: Fees charged for transferring funds
  • Additional fees – Other bank charges including service fees such as overdraft fees and fees for international transfers
  • FDIC insurance – Accounts are insured often up to $250,000

Best Banks for Non-US Citizens

HSBC

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $50
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $1

 

HSBC is a British universal bank with a presence in 64 countries, including the US, where they operate just under 160 branches. Being an international bank, HSBC is no stranger to foreigners opening bank accounts and makes the process relatively easy.

Their HSBC Premier account is aimed at foreigners looking to open a bank account in the US. You don’t even need to be in the US to open the account – as long as you’re in one of the approved countries (you can easily find the entire list, which is subject to change, on the bank’s website).

The account carries a rather hefty monthly fee of $50, which you can avoid by meeting any of the following criteria:

  • Maintain a combined balance of at least $75,000 in eligible accounts
  • Make recurring direct deposits of at least $5,000
  • Have an eligible mortgage of at least $500,000
  • You’re a Premier or Jade customer in another country

Balances earn an APY of 0.01% on balances of $5.00 or more, and you can open the account online with just $1.00. The account does not have any NSF (Insufficient Funds) fees, and wire transfers are free.

Citi

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $200,000

 

Citi, also known as Citibank, is the banking arm of Citigroup – the third-largest financial institution in the US. The bank has over 20,000 ATMs and 4,000 branches in over 40 countries.

Of particular note to non-residents is Citigold International, which offers a banking and wealth management package with nominal fees and many perks. You can get additional benefits when maintaining a combined average balance of $500,000 across eligible accounts.

While this may be out of reach for most people, it is certainly worth considering if you’re looking for a high-tier account. It has higher limits and much lower fees pretty much across the board.

Bank of America

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $4.95
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $100

 

Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the US, offering a wide range of banking services and products that cover anything you might need. It is also foreigner-friendly, with a dedicated webpage that will walk you through every step of opening a bank account in the US.

Foreigners who meet the eligibility criteria can open a Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking – the bank’s most basic checking account. The monthly fee is $4.95, which you can avoid if:

  • You’re under 18 years of age
  • You’re a student under 25 years of age
  • You’re enrolled in the Preferred Rewards program

 

While the account does not offer an interest rate, their banking app comes with several tools and protections, helping you ensure you stay in control at all times. ATM withdrawals are free when using BoA ATMs.

Capital One 360

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $0

 

Capital One is one of the largest banks in the US, often recognized as one of the most technologically-focused banks in the US. The bank operates around 800 branches and cafes and has 2000 ATMs in the US.

Customers, however, get access to fee-free withdrawals from over 70,000 ATMs thanks to the bank’s partnership with MoneyPass and Allpoint ATMs.

The Capital One 360 account has little to no fees, and you can deposit cash at any CVS location – giving you more options to deposit your money. Of course, the account includes access to the bank’s mobile banking app (highly-rated on both android and iOS app stores).

Capital One is highly-regarded amongst foreigners as very helpful and pleasant to deal with (and that’s important!).

Chase

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $12
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $0

 

Chase, also known as Chase Bank, is the banking arm of JP Morgan Chase – a multinational financial services firm and the largest bank in the US. The bank operates close to 5,000 branches and 16,000 ATMs in the US, giving Chase a considerable presence in the US.

Their Chase Total Checking account is by far the most popular. The monthly service charge is $12, which the bank will waive when you meet any of the following requirements:

  • Deposit $500 or more every month
  • Have a balance of at least $1,500 at the beginning of each day
  • Have an average balance of $5,000 across eligible accounts

Card purchases in a currency other than US Dollar will incur a 3% charge on the Dollar value and international wires cost $50 each for outgoing and $15 for incoming – unless done through Chase, in which case it drops to $0.

Wells Fargo

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $10
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $25

 

Wells Fargo is a large financial institution with operations in 35 countries. The bank operates around 12,000 ATMs and 8,000 branches and serves more than 70 million customers worldwide.

The Everyday Checking account comes with a monthly fee of $10, waived when maintaining a daily balance of at least $500 or receiving $500 or more in qualifying deposits. International purchases made through the account’s debit card will incur a charge of $3.

Wells Fargo does not publish fees for outgoing international wires. Instead, you’ll find out what they are when making the transaction. However, incoming international wires will set you back $16 each.

Charles Schwab Bank

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $0
  • Opening deposit: $0

 

Charles Schwab is a financial services company based in the US but has a strong presence worldwide. While the company offers banking products and services in different sectors, Charles Schwab is widely known for investment and wealth management.

The bank operates 360 branches worldwide, so its physical presence is not major. However, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account is worth considering.

The account has no monthly fees and no account minimums. Furthermore, it does not charge foreign transaction fees and offers unlimited rebates on domestic and foreign ATM withdrawals.

The account also offers an APY (Annual Percentage Yield) interest rate of 0.03%. While this may not sound like much, considering it’s a checking account with no fees, it does make it all the more attractive.

Wise

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: From 0.41%
  • ATM withdrawal fee: 2% + $1.50
  • Opening deposit: $0

 

Wise is not like the other banks on this list. It’s a fintech company and not a bank in the traditional sense. While Wise is licensed to operate in most US states, the company offers services through Community Federal Savings Bank in the ones it’s not licensed to operate in legally.

The Wise account works a little differently than other accounts. It can hold as many as 53 different currencies, helping you save money on conversion fees when paying in a foreign currency. You will still get a US account and routing number, helping you facilitate incoming payments from US entities.

Withdrawals are free for the first $100 per month up to a maximum of 2 withdrawals. After that, you will be charged 2% + $1.50 per withdrawal. The debit card has a setup fee of $9.00 but no monthly fee.

One other account charge worth noting is that balances over 3,000 Euros (you’ll need to convert this to US Dollars depending on the exchange rates) incur a fee of 0.07%, which is accrued daily and charged monthly.


How to Open a Bank Account as a Foreign Expat

Anyone trying to open a bank account in the US needs to present documentation. As a foreigner, your requirements can be slightly different from those of a US resident. In fact, documentation requirements may differ from one bank to another and from one state to another.

It is always best to check beforehand, once you have decided which bank is best for you.

Either way, you can reasonably expect the bank to ask for the following:

  • Personal details such as your first name, last name, and date of birth
  • Proof of a US address (such as utility bill)
  • Your Alien Identification Number or passport
  • SSN (Social Security Number) or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)

ITIN is often used instead of SSN, which residents use to open a bank account. ITINs are issued by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). To apply for an ITIN, you need to fill in and submit a W-7 application, a completed tax return form, and proof of your identity.

In some cases, you will also need to make an initial deposit, which you may do through a bank transfer or by depositing cash at a bank’s physical branch.

Can non-residents open a bank account online?

Generally speaking, you should be able to open your bank account online. Though some banks may require you to visit one of their branches, this is not always the case.

Make sure you have all of your ducks in a row and prepare any documentation you might need. Doing this is an important part of the process since you might need to request certain documents or information, which can be a lengthy process.

It is always best to confirm with the bank what type of documents you’ll need to ensure a smoother process when opening the account.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best US Bank for non-residents?

Many US banks cater to foreigners, with a number of them offering specialized accounts to make your life as an expat easier.

There is no one best bank for everyone with so many accounts on offer. Instead, you’ll need to take stock of your financial situation and goals to find the best fit for you.

Can a foreign citizen open a US bank account?

Yes, foreign citizens can open a US bank account as long as they meet the bank’s criteria. Often, these include proof of residency and an ITIN number.

Some banks will also allow foreign citizens to open a bank account even if they are not physically in the US.

Which American banks are international?

Large US banks such as Chase and Citi tend to have an international presence, often being large global players in the financial industry.

You’ll also find internal banks such as HSBC, which are not American but still have a presence in the US.

Can a foreigner open a bank account in the US online?

Yes, some banks allow this but not all. If you have all of the required documents, you should be able to open your bank account online.

Some banks may need you to visit one of their branches physically. Since banks have to abide by strict laws to verify account holder identity, you may be asked to do so.