Banking Without Borders: A Guide to the Best Banks in the US for Foreigners

BANKING - CHECKING ACCOUNTS
Foreigners relocating to the U.S. will need a bank here. Here are our picks for the best banks for foreigners.
Updated Jan. 29, 2024
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Over a million people immigrate to the U.S. every year. They may be moving here temporarily to attend college, or they may plan to settle in the U.S. permanently. Foreigners can get checking or savings accounts at U.S. banks, but they may need to provide additional documentation and information.

The best banks for foreigners are those that have no foreign transaction fees, low or no monthly maintenance fees, and low or no minimum balance requirements. Here are our picks for the best banks for foreigners and a rundown on their services.

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Key takeaways

  • Foreigners can get checking and savings accounts in the U.S.
  • An SSN isn’t required to open a U.S. bank account.
  • Many banks charge monthly maintenance fees.
  • Monthly fees usually are waived if the account holder meets specific requirements, such as maintaining a minimum balance or direct depositing a certain amount every month.
  • Foreign transaction fees are typically 3%.

The 6 best banks for foreigners

Best banks for foreigners comparison

Bank Monthly maintenance fees Minimum deposit requirement Foreign transaction fees
HSBC $50 (without minimum deposit) $75,000 (one of three options for qualifying for a Premier account) $0
Chase $12 (without minimum balance) $1,500 (one of the options for avoiding a monthly service fee) 3%
Capital One $0 $0 $0
Bank of America $4.95 (unless you meet certain requirements) $25 3%
Wells Fargo $10 $500 (to waive the monthly fee) 3%
Charles Schwab $0 $0 $0

HSBC

Pros Cons
  • It is an international bank.
  • No fees on “everyday” transactions
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Offers a Global Money multi-currency bank account
  • Fee-free transfers globally among HSBC accounts.
  • You don’t need an SSN.
  • $50 monthly maintenance fee (unless certain requirements are met)
  • Global View and Global Transfers aren’t available in all countries.
  • Transfers outside the U.S. may be subject to fees.
  • High minimum balance of $75,000 for the monthly maintenance fee to be waived

HSBC is an international bank that offers bank accounts to people in over 45 countries across the globe, making it a great bank for foreigners. The bank’s Premier checking account doesn’t charge fees on everyday transactions or foreign transactions.

Once you open an HSBC Premier account, you are eligible for an HSBC Global Money account. That is a prepaid, multi-currency account available on HSBC’s mobile app that enables you to manage your international finances in eight different currencies. You’ll also have access to Global Transfers, which allows you to transfer money between your HSBC accounts in other countries, and Global View, a service enabling you to see all your worldwide HSBC accounts in one place.

HSBC charges a $50 monthly maintenance fee on its Premier Checking accounts, which is waived if you have one of the following:

  • At least $75,000 in total deposits and/or investments
  • At least $5,000 in total direct deposits each month
  • A U.S. residential home mortgage with an original loan amount of at least $500,000

Visit HSBC

Chase

Pros Cons
  • Overdraft assistance
  • Access to more than 15,000 ATMs and 4,700 branches
  • SSN or ITIN is not required to open an account
  • $12 monthly service fee (unless certain requirements are met)
  • $34 overdraft fee per transaction
  • Charges fees for wire transfers
  • 3% foreign exchange rate adjustment

The Chase Total Checking is the bank’s most popular account for everyday needs. With this account, you can access your money at over 15,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches around the country or through the Chase Mobile app.

Non-residents won’t need an SSN or ITIN to open a Chase bank account. They can do so with a passport and something that shows their proof of address, like a student ID with a photo or a foreign national ID.

One potential drawback to Chase for non-residents is the 3% foreign transaction fee charges on card purchases, non-ATM cash transactions, or ATM withdrawals in currencies other than U.S. dollars. Chase also charges a $12 monthly service fee, which is waived for one of the following reasons:

  • Electronic deposits made into the account total $500 or more.
  • The daily balance is $1,500 or more.
  • The average daily balance equals $5,000 or more for any combination of the account and linked qualifying deposits/investments.

Visit Chase.

Learn more in our Chase Bank review.

Enjoy $300 as a new Chase checking customer

When you open a new Chase Total Checking® account with qualifying activities.1FDIC Insured. Offer valid through April 17, 2024.

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Capital One

Pros Cons
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No minimum balance required
  • Get paychecks up to 2 days earlier
  • Add cash at any CVS location
  • 70,000 fee-free ATMs
  • No overdraft fees
  • Checking and savings accounts earn interest.
  • International wire transfers need to be done in a branch location.

If you are frustrated by bank fees, Capital One’s 360 Checking and 360 Performance Savings may be the bank for you. Capital One charges no monthly maintenance fees, transaction fees, overdraft fees, ATM-withdrawal fees, or foreign transaction fees. There is also no minimum balance required on Capital One accounts.

Another advantage to Capital One is that its checking and savings accounts bear interest to help you grow your money. The 360 Performance Savings account is high yield, earning a variable interest rate of 4.30% (as of Oct. 3, 2023) annual percentage yield (APY). The 360 Checking account earns 0.10% (as of Jul. 21, 2023) APY.

A disadvantage to Capital One is that its banking services are primarily online, but its international wire transfers must be done at a branch location, which could be a hassle for foreigners who want to send money to loved ones in their home country.

Learn more in our Capital One 360 review.

Bank of America

Pros Cons
  • Low monthly maintenance fee, which could be waived
  • No monthly fee for students under 25
  • No overdraft fees
  • $4.95 monthly maintenance fee (unless certain requirements are met)
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • $15 foreign wire transfer fee to receive
  • $45 foreign wire transfer fee to send
  • No overdraft protection

Bank of America’s Advantage SafeBalance Banking account is a good option for international students who are studying in the U.S. and need a bank account.

The SafeBalance is Bank of America’s most basic checking account with a low monthly maintenance fee of $4.95. However, that fee is waived for students under the age of 25. The fee is also waived for account holders under 18 or those enrolled in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. You can open a SafeBalance account with just $25.

Where the Bank of America SafeBalance account falters is with its 3% foreign transaction fees. Also, if an international student wants to wire money to someone in their home country, the outgoing foreign wire transfer costs $45. The cost to receive foreign wire transfers is $15.

Visit Bank of America.

Wells Fargo

Pros Cons
  • $10 monthly maintenance fee (unless certain requirements are met)
  • $35 charge for overdrafts
  • $16 foreign wire transfer fee to receive, $45 to send
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Foreigners looking for a U.S. bank that they can access in their country may consider Wells Fargo, which has branch locations in over 20 countries, including China, Japan, Canada, France, Ireland, Germany, and Australia.

The monthly maintenance fee on Wells Fargo’s Everyday Checking account is low at $10. But you could avoid that fee by maintaining a minimum daily balance of $500 or making $500 or more in total qualifying electronic deposits.

The maintenance fee is also waived for account holders between the ages of 17 and 24 and for college students who link the account to their Wells Fargo Campus ATM Card or Campus Debit Card.

Wells Fargo charges 3% for foreign transactions, and foreign wire transfers cost $16 to receive and $45 to send. The bank does provide an optional overdraft protection service, which may be wise to sign up for because you could be charged $35 for overdrafts.

Visit Wells Fargo

Charles Schwab

Pros Cons
  • No fees
  • No account minimums
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0.45% (as of May 23, 2023) APY on checking account
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates
  • Only available with a linked Schwab One brokerage account

Charles Schwab’s Bank Investor Checking account is attractive with no fees, no foreign transactions, no account minimums, and unlimited fee rebates for ATM transactions across the globe. The account even earns an interest rate of 0.45% (as of May 23, 2023) APY.

However, there is a catch. The Bank Investor Checking account is only available as a linked account to a Schwab One brokerage account.

Visit Charles Schwab Bank

How to choose the best banks for foreigners

If you’re a foreigner who has relocated to the U.S. on a long-term basis, permanently, or to attend school, it’s wise to open a bank account here. Foreign residents can open bank accounts in the U.S., but not all banks are a good fit for non-citizens. When it comes to choosing the best banks for foreigners, here are some factors you should consider.

  • Foreign transaction fees: Chances are you will be traveling back and forth to your home country, or you already have a foreign account that you need to transfer into a U.S. bank. So you want to ensure you aren’t paying a lot for transferring foreign currency. The typical foreign transaction fee is 3%, but some banks like Capital One don’t charge anything for the service.
  • Foreign wire transfer fees: If you still have loved ones living in your home country and you may be sending or receiving money from them, you want to pay attention to which bank charges for foreign wire transfers, both incoming and outgoing.
  • Monthly maintenance fees: Many online and brick-and-mortar banks charge monthly maintenance fees to hold your account. However, financial institutions that charge monthly fees usually have options for that fee to be waived if you meet specific requirements (like meeting a minimum balance for the account or having a certain amount of money directly deposited into the account each month).
  • Minimum balance requirements: Some banks require customers to have a minimum balance in their account at all times. Maintaining this minimum balance can help you avoid paying monthly maintenance fees or other charges.

You’ll also want to consider issues like whether the branch and ATM networks are convenient if you’re opting for a traditional bank rather than online banking and if there are any additional fees.

And you want to ensure the account is FDIC insured. Major banks typically are. If you opt for a credit union, those are insured by NCUA.

FAQ about banks for foreigners

Can a foreigner open a bank account in the U.S.?

Yes, a non-resident can open a bank account in the U.S. — you just may have to deal with a little more paperwork than a U.S. resident. Banks differ on what documentation they require non-U.S. citizens to have to open an account. Like U.S. citizens, you’ll have to provide the bank with identification, like your passport and proof of address, which could be a pay stub or utility bill. Some banks may also require you to make a minimum deposit into the new account.

Also, if the account earns interest, you may be required to give the bank your Social Security Number (SSN). A Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) could be used for foreigners without an SSN.

What bank is best for immigrants?

The best bank for immigrants is one that accepts other forms of identification instead of a Social Security Number. An undocumented immigrant may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to open an account at some financial institutions. Chase is a good option for immigrants without a SSN or ITIN because the bank will accept a passport with a photo, a Matricula Consular card, or a U.S. Employment Authorization card (with photo) as a primary form of identification.

What is an ITIN?

An ITIN is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues ITINs to individuals who don’t have or aren’t eligible for an SSN from the Social Security Administration but still need a U.S. taxpayer identification number. ITINs are issued to both residents and non-residents of the U.S.

Best banks for foreigners: bottom line

Capital One is the best bank for foreigners looking to open a U.S. bank account because it doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees or foreign transaction fees and doesn’t require a minimum balance on accounts. Capital One also offers one of the best checking accounts because it earns interest, as does the Capital One savings account. Earning interest could help you meet your personal finance goals.

The only drawback for foreigners is that Capital One requires international wire transfers to be done at a branch location. Foreigners may also need to get an ITIN to open a Capital One account, which must be opened at a branch or Capital One Cafe.

Methodology

In compiling this list of the best banks in the U.S. for foreigners, we determined areas that may be essential. These areas include account minimums, foreign transaction fees, and monthly maintenance fees.

Keep in mind that we are not ranking these banks in a certain order and did not review all available banks. Note that some banks on our list may be current or past FinanceBuzz partners.

Chase Total Checking® Benefits

  • Enjoy $300 as a new Chase checking customer
  • Open a new Chase Total Checking® account with qualifying activities.1FDIC Insured. Offer valid through April 17, 2024
  • Receive your bonus within 15 business days
  • Access to more than 15,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches
  • Manage all your accounts from the Chase Mobile® app

Author Details

Danielle Letenyei Danielle Letenyei is a professional writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her interests include budgeting, travel, credit cards, insurance, and creative side gigs. She hopes her work on these topics can help others navigate the intricate landscape of personal finance.

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