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For Australians, the United States (US) is a popular destination to travel to on holiday, but also a great place to find unique study or work opportunities. If you are one of these people jetting off to a new opportunity in the US soon, opening a local US bank account could make your transition smoother. You may be wondering how easy it is to open an account and what are some of the eligibility requirements as a foreign citizen you need to meet.
Luckily, we’ve already deep dived into these questions and collated the key things you need to keep in mind when you go to open an account in the US.
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There are a whole range of financial institutions offering bank accounts and other financial services in the US. Let’s introduce you to some of the US biggest banks.
Chase Bank is a consumer banking division of banking conglomerate JP Morgan. JP Morgan serves millions of consumers, including individuals, businesses and corporate entities with a broad range of financial products. Chase Bank in particular, has over 4,700 branches, the largest number of branches among all US banks. Chase bank also has an extensive network of 16,000 ATMs across the United States.¹
Bank of America is the second largest financial institution in the US that caters to 67 million consumers and small businesses worldwide. It offers robust digital banking tools, such as a versatile mobile app, to provide customers with easy and convenient access to their accounts.²
Citigroup is a multinational financial services corporation that operates globally, with its headquarters in New York. It has over 230 thousand employees worldwide, with operations across 160 countries.³
Citigroup has offered financial services through its subsidiary Citi Australia for over 30 years, but recently sold its consumer bank business to National Australia Bank (NAB) in 2022.⁴
Wells Fargo rounds out the top four biggest banks in the US. Wells Fargo's largely focuses its products toward the US domestic market. It has over 4600 retail branches across the country, and states that consumers can find either a branch or a Wells Fargo ATM with 2 miles of the US census households.⁵
|Read more: Best USD accounts in Australia
The short answer to this is, Yes an Australian can open an account in the US. However, Australians must hold a valid visa that lets them work or reside in the US legally. This visa requirement is important to fulfil some of the basic eligibility requirements attached with opening an account in the US as a foreigner.
Foreign citizens including Australians residing in the US are labelled as non-residents unless they hold permanent US residency or citizenship. Non-residents will commonly have to provide a few more documents and go through a different procedure than US applicants.
It is usually not possible to open an account online as a non-resident. This means that you will need to go into a branch to open an account. This may be through making an appointment or walking in when you are ready.
To prepare for this, you will need to organise some required documents to make the process more efficient and save you from any delays in opening your new US account.
For Australian citizens, you will need to prove you legally reside in the US by providing a tax identifier number which can be in the form of either⁶:
- A US Social Security Number (SSN)
- International Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
The ITIN number can be applied for through the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), while the SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration to citizens and authorised non-citizens that have been through a application process with the US Immigration and customs enforcement.⁶
You will usually need to be over the age of 18 also.⁷
Once you have your new tax number, you will be asked to provide a range of identification documents to prove your identity and proof of address documents to prove you live in the US. Some examples of documents include⁸:
- Australian Passport
- A US non-immigrant visa with photo
- Valid Australian drivers licence
- A government issued ID with a photo
- Work ID with photo
- Current utility bill or rental agreement
- Proof of address from their home country prior to arriving in the US
Be aware that post boxes are not considered a valid address when opening a US bank account.⁸ Always do your own research to find out exactly what you may need to provide to your chosen financial institution to successfully open an account.
|Read more: best foreign currency accounts in Australia
Monthly account keeping fees are common with holding everyday transaction accounts with many banks in the US. For example, opening a SafeBalance account or an Advantage Plus or Relationship account at Bank of America will cost between $4.95 to $25.00 per month.⁹
Similarly, to open a Chase Total Checking account at Chase bank, you will be looking at fees between $4.95 up to $25 a month depending on the kinds of features you want to benefit from with their selection of accounts.¹⁰
It may be possible to get the monthly fees waived if you meet certain conditions outlined by the chosen provider such as being a student.⁹ On top of this, you will need to watch out for other types of fees such as specific transaction fees such as international transfers or purchases, overdraft fees, ATM withdrawals and card maintenance fees.
Before choosing your new account, you should check out how much it will cost you to withdraw money from an ATM, both within the US and outside if you choose to travel and use a card abroad.
If you end up opening an account with one of the four biggest banks in the US, there are no fees associated with withdrawing money from their own branded ATMs within the US.
If you withdraw money from an ATM outside each bank's ATM network, there are similar fees across banks starting from $2.50 per withdrawal.¹¹
When you travel abroad, you will be looking at a higher fee for overseas withdrawals. Chase bank⁹, Citigroup⁷, Bank of America⁸ and Wells Fargo¹¹ all charge similar fees for using overseas ATMS for cash withdrawals starting from $5 per withdrawal, plus a 3% foreign transaction fee.
You may find you need to send money back and forth to family or from your own account back in Australia, especially if you are in the US as a student. Fees vary for this type of transaction but can start from $15 per wire transfer if you are receiving or sending money abroad.⁹ On top of this, you may also be charged correspondent bank fees, plus be charged a margin on any currency conversions.¹¹
If any of the banks we’ve mentioned here aren’t taking your fancy, there are a range of other local US banks offering accounts to non-residents in the US including:
- US bank
- Charles Swabb
- Discover bank
- TD bank
If you are more interested in more modern and alternative provider to the traditional banks, you could also look into:
- Ally Bank
Many of these options allow non-residents to open their account completely online, given they are residing in the US legally. You may also find that these options may have no or lower fees to open and hold an account. For example, you can open an account with Wise completely online and pay no monthly maintenance fees to keep the account open.
Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and National Australia Bank (NAB), three of Australia’s big four banks do have a branch in New York. Unfortunately, these branches only focus on corporate and investment banking for Australian businesses looking to expand into the US.
You may have noticed we mentioned Wise as an alternative non-bank option. Let’s dig deeper into what makes the Wise Account a smart choice when moving to the US. First off, you can open a Wise account online and even before you step foot in the US.
The Wise Account from Wise, enables you to store over 40 international currencies and get local account details for a number of different countries, including AUD, NZD, EUR, USD and GBP. You can use these to easily transfer your money to Wise or get paid by others..
You’ll also avoid high international transaction fees and get access to the mid-market rate on all conversions. The best part - you can open and manage your Wise account completely online.
Join over 13 million customers currently using Wise.
- JP Morgan Chase Bank accounts
- Bank of America information
- Citigroup global presence
- Citigroup Australia
- Wells Fargo statistics
- Chase bank SSN or ITIN number
- Citigroup eligibility
- Bank of America non-resident procedures
- Bank of America account fees
- Chase checking fees
- Wells Fargo fee schedule
Sources checked on: 02 April 2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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