Guide to opening a bank account in USA
You need a bank account – that is a no brainer. How to get one? That is worth your thought. You can open a bank account from the comfort of your home sitting in front of a laptop in certain cases but if you are new to the US you may have to walk into a bank to open an account.
What are you looking for in your account?
Before you pick a bank – ask the following questions based on your priorities and see if the bank you are looking at is a good fit for you.
- Find out if there is a minimum balance requirement. Some banks wash out your money if you don’t maintain minimum balance.
- Does the bank offer online ‘bill payment’ feature so that you can manage your bills online.
- Are there enough ATMs around the place you want them around?
- Is the bank insured, if so, by who and to what extent?
- What are the fees/penalties for a bounced check?
- Does the bank have ‘deposit check via smart phone’ – relatively new technology but maybe important for you to know if the bank has this feature.
What do you need to open a bank account?
In general, you would to provide basic information listed below –
- ID proof – such as Driver’s license, Passport copy etc.,
- Physical address
- School information (if you are a student)
If you are visiting US on temporary work visa (L1 visa) or student exchange visa (J1 visa), you would need –
- Letter from employer or School
- Physical address details. You may be staying in hotel temporarily, however if your employer has secured an apartment, get a copy of leasing agreement. For students, your school should be providing this information.
Opening a bank account with Social security number (SSN)
If you have been living in US for sometime and you have a social security number – you can, in most cases, open bank account online or in person.
i. Opening bank account via online:
If you are a US citizen or green card holder – you can apply for a checking or savings (or both) online. You will need following details:
- Driving license details
- Details of credit card/debit card or details of account at another bank
- Personal details
Visit the website of your chosen bank, check their feature (as listed above) and start the application online. Below we have provided links to the top 10 banks in United States.
Bank of America: https://www.bankofamerica.com/deposits/bank-accounts.go
Wells Fargo: https://www.wellsfargo.com/checking/
Capital One 360: https://home.capitalone360.com/lp-get360?utm_campaign=COF&utm_source=www.capitalone.com/directbanking&utm_medium=4_16-col_1-1-1_directbank-banner-threesixty_56_1_/media/banner/direct-banking/directbank-banner-thre&utm_term=BAU&utm_content=MTS::MB0F4ZC4S
ii. Opening bank account in person:
You can visit the local office of your chosen bank and submit the documents required (see above) and walk out of the bank with details of your newly opened bank account.
Please make sure you ask questions related to the items we described above, read the contract and sign after you are convinced.
Open bank account without SSN
Banks cannot deny a bank account just because you do not have a social security number. If they do – you can escalate it to the Federal reserve. You must be present in the US legally.
You will need at least two forms of IDs with pictures
2. Student ID
3. Driver’s license
4. Army/Navy Forces ID etc)
Carry some cash (or check from another bank), most banks require a minimum of $25 to $100 to open an account.
Do NOT forget the credit union banks
You would be surprised as to how many features a local credit union bank offers and most for free. Apart from the document requirement, only other requirement you may need to have is to be ‘living’ in the community they serve. There are few online credit unions that are even more flexible.
Open a bank account online
There are few banks that do not have ‘physical location’ and pass on the savings of not having the fixed expenses to its customers. For example Capital one 360 offers checking account that pays you interest on savings and checking accounts. Delta Community credit union is popular one https://www.deltacommunitycu.com.
On a final note, it is recommended to call your local branch to confirm the documents needed for opening your bank account. Because some states may require some additional documents. In my case, the local bank requested my offer letter from the employer to confirm my employment status.
If you got any questions, just leave your queries in the comments below.