Opening a US Bank Account from India: Your full guide

Aman Saxena
21.03.22
8 minute read

Heading to the US can be an exciting time, but how to manage your money once you’re there can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for students, freelancers, or if you are looking to establish yourself in the US.

One way to make your finances easier is to look at opening a US bank account. Read on to learn about how it works in the US and the new companies that are offering modern tech options.

📝 Table of contents

Opening a US bank account with neo banks

By using tech to make transfers, accounts, and access to money simpler and digital-user-friendly, these neo banks are filling in a gap that more traditional banks have been slow on.

It is important to remember that these are actually not banks themselves, although most will partner with existing banks for services. So things like FDIC coverage or larger banking solutions may not be available directly with neo banks but through their affiliates. And you as a customer benefit from simpler, easier, cheaper, and often faster-to-use services.

🏦 Indian citizens must comply with the Reserve Bank of India’s Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) when sending money from India. That means sending money from India only for allowable reasons and not more than $250,000 USD in a year.

One of the services that are on offer with neo-banks is opening a US bank account even before you arrive. Here is a quick guide on popular neo bank options when you are heading to the States.


Aeldra

Aeldra was founded by 3 IIM-Bangalore graduates and is based in the US and India. With Aeldra, non-US-citizens can get a US bank account and a Mastercard debit card for purchases in the US.

How it works

Aeldra is backed by the FDIC-insured US bank, Blue Ridge, to open checking accounts for foreign residents. Once you open an account with Aeldra, you can send money from your Indian account to your new Aeldra account in the US to get started.

But you will not be able to get or use the Mastercard until you can show proof to Aeldra that you are living in the US.

While an Aeldra account is a checking account, it is a check-less account so you will not be able to write checks.

Eligibility

Indians above the age of 18 are eligible for an Aeldra account as long as they have an Indian passport and an Aadhaar number. You will need to show proof of both in the application process. US citizens with a social security number can easily apply as well.

Opening an account

The account opening process is completely online unless there is a need for a manual review of your application. Here are the steps to get started:

  1. Head to Open An Account page or download their app.
  2. Click on Open an Account
  3. Complete the prompts to open the account

You will need to submit a scanned copy of your Indian passport, and you may be required to take a selfie to verify your identity. Aeldra will then need to verify your details and confirm they are compliant with the US government’s KYC and AML regulations.

And in case there is confusion in the application, it is not required for Indian applicants to have a US social security number even if you are asked for it in the process.

Once you have been approved, you can find your account details in the Aeldra app and begin the process to transfer funds from your India account.

Fees

Aeldra has an attractive fee structure for users:

Type of feeFee
Monthly maintenance$0
Account fee$0
Minimum balance requirement$0
International transfer fee$0
Overdraft fee$0

Aeldra makes its money through fees to retailers so account holders can save on fees. But look closely at the product agreement with Aeldra for caps on daily cash withdrawals, transfer amounts, and usage limits.

🔖 Read more: Aeldra Bank full review

Zolve

Zolve caters to global travelers, but specifically Indians going to the US. Founded in India and backed by well-known venture capital firms, it is a growing neo bank with an easy digital application process. With Zolve, you can open a bank account in the US from India and even apply for a credit card to use in the States.

How it works

Zolve has partnered with a US bank to offer bank accounts to Indians, even before they arrive in the States. Thanks to the partner bank, a bank account with Zolve is FDIC insured up to $250,000.

Once you open a bank account with Zolve, you can transfer money from your Indian account into your new US bank account while you are still in India.

Ideally, the money is in the account before you even arrive. However, this can differ depending on the processing time.

But the linked account debit card will only arrive at your physical US address once you are in the country, not sooner. So you’ll only be able to make transactions from the account once you are in the US.

Eligibility

To be eligible for an account with Zolve, you must be over the age of 18 and have a valid Indian passport and visa to the US. If you have been approved for a visa but it hasn't arrived yet, you may still be able to apply for a Zolve account.

Opening an account

Here are the quick steps to opening an account with Zolve:

  1. Go to the Zolve website and click on Get Started
  2. Complete your email address
  3. Register for the Zolve U.S. account
  4. Upload the required documents
  5. Submit and wait for approval

It is a pretty simple process to sign up. But remember that you can only open your account and transfer money into it. Your linked debit card will only come 5-7 days after you have notified Zolve of your residence in the US.

Fees

Here are the fees for using Zolve:

Type of feeFee
Monthly Account fee$0
Minimum balance requirement$0
International funds transfer fee$15
Application fee$0
Overdraft fee$0

There may be other fees, so read the fine print for your specific account. Zolve also has a credit card option which has its own fee schedule.


Wise

Wise is an international multi-currency account that also makes sending money from India to overseas simple, fast, and cheap.

If you already have a residency permit and an address in the US, or one of the currently supported countries, you can get the Wise multi-currency account and linked card. It is a single account that you can use for 65+ currencies, including Indian Rupees. So if you are traveling back home or going on a world tour, it is a simple way to swipe and make purchases like a local. Plus you can also get local bank account details in 20+ currencies.

If you don’t have the residency yet, you can use Wise Web/Android/ iOS app to make payments directly into local bank accounts in the US. So if you have tuition payments, rent payments, hotel bookings, or deposits for reservations, Wise will let you send money from your Indian bank account.

Send money from India with Wise

How it works

Wise uses smart technology to hold, send, spend, and receive money globally. Over 11 million people have used Wise to send money overseas. To initiate an INR to USD transfer from India- you can just open a free Wise account, put in your recipient’s bank details, and send them money right into their local account.

Eligibility

To use Wise, you must be over the age of 18 and have documents verifying your identity and address in India.

Opening an account

It is fairly simple to open an account with Wise. Here are the steps:

  1. Head to Wise.com
  2. Click on Register at the top right-hand corner
  3. Enter in your email address, or use Simple Sign-on with Google, Facebook, or Apple
  4. Confirm your email address
  5. Input your details
  6. Upload the required documents
  7. Take a selfie with your documents
  8. Submit

Wise will then verify your documents and account registration within 2-3 working days. Once you are registered, you can start sending money abroad from India. Your transfers can arrive in the local account within the same day on popular routes.

Here is a list of documents that you may have to provide for your Wise account registration:

  1. A copy of your Passport or Driving license
  2. A proof of address (utility bill, landline phone bill, bank or credit card statement, or any government-issued document with your address)

Fees

It is free to sign up for Wise, and you can quickly check how much a transfer is going to cost before moving forward.

Wise uses the real mid-market exchange rate on transfers- the same rate you see on Google- which doesn’t have a markup. And there will be one low transfer fee. One of the easiest parts about Wise is that since the money gets deposited in a local account abroad, your recipient does not need to sign up for Wise to receive the money.

The transfer fee also reduces if you send over ₹10,180,000 a month.


Leap Finance

Leap Finance is an Indian company that helps students from India with financing for their education abroad. The company is solely focused on student education loans, and an associated US bank account, but also carries a credit card offer for students. If you are a freelancer or shifting abroad for work, this is not the option for you.

How it works

Leap Finance has a specific list of qualifying universities that they provide loans for. So if you are looking for a loan for your particular course, first check if the university supports Leap Finance.

A Leap Finance loan can cover 100% of your educational costs, including:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Qualifying personal expenses

Payments directly to the university can be done through Leap Finance, while more personal and living expenses will be done through a US bank account that Leap Finance offers through a partner. The whole process including the application and approval is completely online.

Eligibility

Since this is a loan, there are a few eligibility requirements:

  • Must be an Indian citizen
  • Must be over the age of 18
  • Must have strong academic results
  • Has already been admitted or secured a place at a qualifying university in the US
  • A cosigner may be required

Leap Finance does have a leaning towards providing funds for students that are going into STEM or a professional course of study. The application is assessed based on the student's qualifications and future employment potential. Leap Finance, unlike other loan providers, does not take collateral for their loans.

Opening an account

If you are eligible for an account, you can get started with the account opening process. The application can take about 10 minutes to finish, but Leap Finance requires a comprehensive amount of documents. Here is a step-by-step guide on applying for an account, and the list of documents required below:

  1. Find your university and course on Leap Finance’s list of approved institutions
  2. Once you have determined your eligibility, click on Get Loan Offer on the top right-hand corner
  3. Follow the prompts to provide your personal details and information for the application.
  4. Remember to submit the required documents to get full approval for your loan

Along with a completed and signed application, here is a full of the documents you will need to get for a Leap Finance loan and bank account:

Fees

Here are the fees and costs associated with Leap Finance:

TypeFee
Interest rate8.25% - 9.85%
Processing fee2%
Application fee$0

The repayment period for a Leap Finance loan can be between 7-10 years. There may be additional fees with Leap Finance, so it is best to check with them as you go through the process.

Opening a US bank account with traditional banks

If you are not a US citizen but want to open a bank account with a traditional US bank, you will be required to apply in person at a bank branch in the US.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to open a bank account online for the major US banks or while you are residing in India.

To open a bank account with a traditional bank, you are first required to:

  • Be present in the US
  • Visit a bank branch center
  • Have 2 forms of government-issued ID, including a passport
  • A Social Security Number or Individual Tax ID Number (ITIN)
  • Have proof of residence in the US

Beyond these requirements, each bank, and even each state will have their own rules on what type of documents they will need.

If you don’t have an ITIN, you can apply for one using the W-7 IRS form from the IRS website.

Since opening an account with a US bank is tricky from abroad, it is compelling to look at a neo bank option that will work for you.

You can also consider looking at Indian banks that offer global or overseas travel accounts that you can get domestically. Here are a few popular options:

  • ICICI Indian Rupee Travel Card
  • Bank of India International Travel Card
  • State Bank Foreign Travel Card
  • Axis bank Travel Forex Card
  • HDFC Forex Card

While these options can provide ease when you are traveling, they can be filled with fees and are not ideal if you are staying abroad for a long time.

🔖 Read more: Best Forex Cards for Indian students

Sources used for this article:

  1. Aeldra
  2. Zolve
  3. Leap Finance
  4. Wise

All sources checked as of 11 February, 2022


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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