What to know about the best banks for expats in the US

Now that you’ve packed and moved to the US, it’s time to get your finances in order in the new country. Read on to find out about the best banks for expats in the US, how you can open an account there, and how to send money to your loved ones overseas.

Xe Consumer North America

24 de junho de 202112 min read

Mobile banking in New York, USA

So, you’ve finally pulled off your dream of moving to the United States. What are you going to do first? See California’s giant redwoods? Enjoy some real New York pizza? Go sailing in Maine?

All great suggestions, but they might have to wait a little bit—the first thing you should do is open a local bank account. (Exciting, we know…but very necessary.)

Before approaching a bank, though, you should do your homework. And to help you understand the banking landscape, we’ve prepared a list of the best banks for expats in the US.

You’ll also find out how to open a bank account there, the factors you should consider, and how you can send money overseas.

Can an expat have a US bank account?

Sure! It’ll depend on the bank you choose, though.

For example, many American banks require you to provide a Social Security Number (SSN), which, as an expat, you probably don’t have (unless you’ve got work permission from the Department of Homeland Security or DHS).

Luckily, a few banks in the US readily accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in place of an SSN. It’s a 9-digit tax processing number that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues to qualifying expats who can’t get an SSN at all.

You can ask around to find if any American bank is willing to accept an ITIN and open an account for you online.

What should expats consider while opening an account?

Monthly maintenance fees

Most banks in the US will charge you monthly maintenance fees. But you can waive this fee sometimes by meeting certain requirements, like putting direct deposits into your account, or having a minimum (daily or monthly) balance.

ATM fees

You’ll get a debit or ATM card with some savings accounts and checking accounts in the US. Using this card, you can deposit or withdraw money at ATMs throughout the country.

Many American banks won’t charge you any fees for using ATMs in their network, but if you use an ATM run by a different financial institution or that’s in a third-party network, you may have to pay fees.

A good way to work around paying this fee is to look for a bank in the US that’s got a large ATM network, so you won’t have to use ATMs in any other network, if you can help it.

Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

This is the interest a US bank account offers (typically, savings accounts), although the percentage may fluctuate.

Checking accounts don’t offer interest (at least, not usually), which is why some banks may encourage you to keep more money in your savings accounts, so you can earn high interest rates.

Keep in mind that the APY may differ, depending on the type of bank account you’ve opened, and your minimum balance in that account.

Overdraft fees

When a purchase or withdrawal you’ve made pulls your account balance down to zero, and the bank approves the transaction, you’ll have to face overdraft fees.

However, you can opt for overdraft protection at a few banks in the US, which means having your money transferred from your linked savings account to your checking account, so you don’t go into the overdraft zone at all.

Minimum opening deposit requirements

As soon as you open a bank account, some American banks may ask you to deposit a certain amount, usually around $100 USD, but others don’t.

FDIC insurance

All the best banks for expats in the US (further below) ensure that your savings are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This insurance coverage is up to a specific limit, usually $250,000 USD per customer per account.

Foreign transaction fees

Banks may charge you a fee for debit card transactions outside the country. This fee is typically a percentage of the amount you’ve withdrawn or spent at a foreign ATM.

What are the best banks for expats in the US?

Many conventional and online banks in the US cater to expat customers in the country, but only a handful of them (described below) are ready to accept ITINs instead of an SSN - which is one of the reasons why they’re the best banks for expats in the US.

Citibank

Best for: Robust account packages offering interest checking accounts, unlimited check writing, and other benefits.

APY: 0.50%

Minimum balance: $5,000 USD (average monthly balance) in your checking account, or $1,500 USD (combined average monthly balance) in your eligible linked accounts in a package.

Monthly maintenance fees: $4.50 USD for savings accounts (if you don’t meet minimum balance requirements); $10 USD to $25 USD for account packages (unless you meet direct deposit and minimum balance criteria).

As a unique gesture, this bank requires you to open an account as part of a package (like the Citi Elevate Account Package), offering an entire bundle of both savings and checking account benefits and services.

Citibank’s checking accounts provide financial planning and wealth management services to their expat customers, along with their standard banking services.

On opening a Citi checking account, the bank will mail you a chip-enabled debit card. And if it’s an interest checking account, they’ll use your daily account balance to calculate the interest, and will credit it in your account every month.

Coming to their high-yield savings accounts, the bank serves up both traditional and online (plus checkless) savings accounts. These are fee-free, but only if you can maintain an average balance of $500 USD. Otherwise, the monthly service fee would be $4.50 USD.

They also let you create your own budget and set savings goals for your future. Additionally, Citibank has a large network of more than 65,000 ATMs spread across the country, where you can make unlimited cash withdrawals for free.

On the flip side, the bank won’t let you make more than 6 transfers per statement period.

HSBC Bank USA

Best for: International banking facilities geared towards expats

APY: 0.01% to 0.15% on savings accounts; 0.20% to 0.30% on Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Minimum balance: $0 USD to $250,000 USD

Monthly maintenance fees: $1 USD to $50 USD

At HSBC Bank USA, you can open savings accounts, checking accounts, and student accounts.

Savings accounts at HSBC offer competitive savings rates, especially when you keep saving more. The interest rates vary depending on your minimum balance in the account, as well as the type of savings account you’re opening.

For example, if your minimum balance is up to $24,999 USD, you’ll earn 0.01% APY with an HSBC Premier Savings account. But if you’ve got an HSBC Advance Savings account, and your minimum balance is between $15,000 USD and $49,999 USD, the rate would be 0.05% APY.

You can also connect your savings accounts to as many checking accounts as you like, and set up automatic transfers among them. No matter how many savings accounts you open with HSBC, each of them comes with free personal internet banking facilities.

As for checking accounts, HSBC offers 4 types - Premier Checking account, Advance Checking account, Basic Banking account, and Choice Checking account.

The Premier and Advance checking accounts give you access to your preferred mortgage rates and a high-yielding savings account. And with the other two checking accounts, you’ll get a Debit Mastercard card without any monthly or annual service fees.

You don’t need to maintain a minimum balance with a Basic Banking account, which is ideal if you write only a handful of checks per month.

With the other checking accounts, you can either choose to pay monthly maintenance fees, or have those fees waived by meeting the minimum balance requirements.

HSBC also offers student checking accounts for international students in the US, aged 18 or more.

Another account you may find useful as an expat in the US is an international banking account called a Global Money Account.

It’s a prepaid account that lets you convert and transfer your money across 8 different currencies:

The only catch is that you can’t send money to anyone other than an eligible HSBC customer.

To set up an HSBC Global Money Account, you need to download their mobile banking app first, as well as maintain a consumer deposit account with them (savings or checking).

HSBC will also ask for your existing residential address in the US. You can use the app to retrieve your account statements and get real-time confirmation of your transactions with the Global Money Account.

Bank of America

Best for: Expats who are studying in the US

APY: 0.01% to 0.05%

Minimum balance: $500 USD to $1,500 USD (daily)

Monthly maintenance fees: $4.95 USD to $25 USD

Offering savings accounts (for your kids, too), checking accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and CD accounts, Bank of America is one of the biggest and the best banks for expats in the US.

Opening a savings account here requires an initial deposit of $100 USD, giving you access to mobile check deposits at the same time. Simply snap a photo of both sides of an endorsed check with your smartphone or tablet, and get the amount deposited into your account.

You can also choose to receive custom alerts via text or email for every transaction in your bank account.

Plus, Bank of America’s mobile banking app features a virtual financial assistant, named Erica, helping you to stay on top of your finances. And in case you lose your debit card, you’ll be able to lock the card from your app and request a digital card instead.

Overdraft fees on checking accounts amount to $35 USD for each item paid into overdraft, whereas the minimum deposit required to open these accounts varies from $25 USD to $100 USD.

What’s really nice about this bank is that they let you schedule an appointment with them even before you move to the US, in case you need any help with navigating your financial journey in the country.

International students studying in the US can also set up savings and checking accounts, and get credit cards to start building their credit history as early as possible. On the bank’s website, you’ll come across several how-to guides, as well, teaching you smarter ways of managing your money as a student or a parent.

What info do expats need to open a US bank account?

This will differ from one bank to another, but generally, you’ll need to provide:

  • A valid passport

  • A Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

  • Proof that you’re 18 years or older

  • Your US phone number

  • Proof of your existing residential address in the US

  • Proof of your residency status.

Some American banks may not allow non-residents to open accounts with them, so you’ll need to pass the Substantial Presence Test for being considered a resident alien in the US.

Meeting the test requirements isn’t all that difficult. All you need to do is be physically present in the US for 183 days over a 3-year period.

Out of those 183 days, the US government will take into account at least 31 days of your physical presence in the US during the current year, together with 1/3 and 1/6 of the days you were present in the two years just before the current year, respectively.

For instance, let’s say you’ve been physically present in the US for 120 days in 2021, 90 days in 2020, and 150 days in 2019.

 According to the test requirements, you can calculate your physical presence in the US from 2019 to 2021 as such: 120 days in 2021, 30 days in 2020 (1/3 of 90), and 25 days in 2019 (1/6 of 150) - totaling 175 days over 3 years.

This means you won’t be qualifying the Substantial Presence Test, since you’d need to be present for 183 days.

Other banks in the US, like HSBC, deal with expats who are either residents or non-residents, so you’ve got nothing to worry about there.

How can expat customers open a US bank account?

If you’re an expat with an SSN, you can open a bank account in the US online in no time. Simply:

  1. Enter your name, US address, date of birth, and SSN.

  2. Indicate whether you’re applying for an individual bank account, or a joint one.

  3. Fill details about your income and employment.

  4. Confirm that you accept all terms and conditions (make sure to check these thoroughly before opening an account).

  5. Add money to your newly opened account by transferring funds from another bank, mailing a check, or making a deposit by phone.

Normally, most American banks dealing with expat customers don’t let you apply online for an account if you haven’t got an SSN.

Instead, they ask you to book an appointment with them at one of their financial centers to discuss alternative ways of setting up a bank account as an expat.

How can expats in the US send money home?

To send money from the US to your loved ones back in your country of origin, the easiest solution is using an international money transfer company like Xe.

For one thing, Xe helps you transfer money at affordable rates. And when you approach one of the best banks for expats in the US to send your money abroad via international wire transfer, you’ll be paying their fees through the nose.

Apart from that, banks (like HSBC) usually offer to transfer your money only to a certain number of countries (8 countries, in the case of HSBC), whereas you can use Xe for sending money to over 130 countries - notice the stark difference? We thought you would.

So, if you want to send money overseas, step this way, please:

  1. Sign up for a free Xe account, or log in to your existing one.

  2. Get an instant quote by entering the amount you want to send overseas, along with the currency you wish to exchange.

  3. Add the name, address, and bank account details of the recipient.

  4. Choose one among 3 payment methods - direct debit, bank transfer, and card payment.

  5. Add your payment details.

  6. Confirm all the info you’ve just entered, and sit back. We’ve got your money transfer covered.

Get a quote

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