How to open a bank account in the USA?

Adam Rozsa

Are you planning to relocate to the US? At some point, you’re going to need a bank account.

But just how easy is opening a US bank account, and what documents will you need?

We’ll cover everything you need to know here in this guide. We’ll even throw in an alternative to a traditional bank account that’s ideal for expats - the Wise account. Manage your money in 50+ currencies, spend in the US using your Wise debit card and make international transfers too.

It’s all available for low fees¹ and fair exchange rates – but more on this later.


Can a foreigner have a US bank account?

You don’t need to be a US national to open a US banking account, but you will need to be living there. This is because most banks will ask to see your US Social Security number and proof of a US address, along with your ID.

So, if you’ve not yet moved and don’t have these documents, you’ll find it a little tricky to open a US bank account as a non-resident. However, it’s not impossible. Different banks have different requirements (although all will need to check your ID documents) and there may be international or foreigner-only accounts you can apply for. Your current bank may even be able to help, if it also has a presence in the US.

Can I open a US bank account online?

If you’re already living in the US and have the required documents, opening a US bank account online should be possible. You should at least be able to start the process. That is, of course, if your chosen bank accepts online applications. Some US banks will require you to make a visit to a local branch in person.

Not yet moved? Many international banks have a presence in the US, including Barclays, HSBC and Deutsche Bank.

If you have an account with one of these banks, they may be able to help you set up a bank account before you arrive in the US.

The procedure for opening a U.S. bank account remotely may vary from country to country. So, it’s a good idea to speak to a customer representative at your local branch, either in person or by phone. This will give you a better idea of how the process works and what documents you’ll need to provide.

Many banks also offer international bank accounts in U.S. dollars. These accounts are offered by your bank in your home country, so your local rules apply. This makes them much easier to open, especially if you’re a non-resident or new to the U.S. Most banks will let you open an international account online, as long as you meet the requirements.

Get a Wise account in minutes for your US banking needs

A traditional bank account isn’t the only option for managing your money in another country. In fact, they may become very expensive when it comes to making overseas transactions.

If you’d like a truly international solution, check out the Wise multi-currency account. It isn’t a bank, but offers many great features. You can use it to send money for low fees¹ and the mid-market exchange rate, and convert between 50+ currencies whenever you need to.

You can receive international payments in multiple currencies using your own local bank details available in 10 major currencies, including USD. There’s even a Wise debit card, available for a one-time fee of $9 USD¹, which you can use to spend in the local currency in 174 countries.

Wise is available in the US, and you can apply online in minutes.

Get a Wise account today

What are the 5 things you need to open a bank account?

The requirements to open a bank account in the US will vary from bank to bank. However, most will ask you for these 5 key things, starting with two forms of identification:

  1. Primary ID - such as a passport, US Non Immigrant Visa or other accepted identity card.²
  2. Secondary ID - such as your driver’s license, US-issued employment or work ID card, or a Visa/Mastercard debit or credit card in your name.²
  3. Your US Social Security number. If you don’t have this, you will need to provide your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  4. Proof of address - such as a recent utility bill.
  5. A cash deposit - normally between $25 to $100 USD.

How to open a bank account in the US? (Step-by-step)

  1. Gather your documents. It could be a good idea to contact the bank to check whether any additional paperwork will be needed.
  2. Apply online if your bank accepts online applications. Alternatively, make an appointment at your local branch.
  3. Wait for your application to be processed and your account opened.

Are US bank accounts free?

Most United States bank accounts are free to open, but come with a monthly maintenance fee. However, this can be waived if you meet certain conditions. For example, depositing a certain amount each month or maintaining a minimum monthly balance.

There may also be other fees for using your account, which we’ll look at next.

Monthly maintenance fees

A monthly service fee for maintaining the account is common among US banks. It can vary from bank to bank, but you can expect to pay $10³ to $12⁴ for a standard checking account.

But with many banks, you can avoid paying this fee if you jump through a couple of hoops. For example, with Citibank’s Access Account Package checking account, the monthly fee is waived if you make 1 enhanced direct deposit or qualifying bill payment a month, and maintain an average monthly balance of $1,500 USD in your account³.

ATM and human bank teller fees

US banks may also charge fees for withdrawing cash from at an ATM or in branch. These fees will usually apply when you use another bank’s ATM.

For example, Bank of America charges $5 USD a transaction when you withdraw cash at a non-Bank of America ATM. It also charges this $5 fee (or 3% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater) when you authorize other financial institutions to use your card for a transaction⁵.

Early closure fees

There’s also the possibility that the bank could charge you a fee for closing the account early. It’s important to check the small print before signing up for an account, to see how long you’ll need to keep the account open for.

For example, you may face an early closure charge if you open and then close an account with a fixed-term interest rate or limited fee-free period.

International transfer fees

If you plan to send money outside the US, it’s crucial to check how much your chosen bank will charge for international transfers. It can be expensive. For example, it can cost from $40 to send an overseas transfer at Chase Bank, and $15 to receive one⁶.

Which bank is best for my needs?

As you can probably imagine, the US banking industry is huge. There are thousands of banks in the US, which can make choosing the right one for your needs quite confusing.

Let’s look at what some of the major banks in the US have to offer.


One of the biggest banks in the US, Chase has over 4,700 branches and 16,000 ATMs nationwide⁴. It offers a range of everyday and premium checking accounts, plus dedicated accounts for children and students too.

It’s Chase Total Checking account comes with a $12 monthly fee⁴, waivable if you meet certain conditions. You’ll get access to Zelle to send and receive money (which can be cheaper and easier than using Chase to wire money), online and mobile banking and Online Bill Pay too. There’s no minimum deposit to open the account.

Bank of America

Bank of America is another of the country’s biggest banks, with a full selection of checking, savings and student accounts.

One of the most popular Bank of America bank accounts is Advantage Plus, an everyday checking account with three different settings to suit your needs. The standard account has a waivable monthly maintenance fee of $12 and comes with a debit card, access to Zelle and a Digital Wallet⁷.

You can make transfers, wire money and do everything else a standard checking account offers. One of the requirements to open an account at Bank of America is a minimum deposit of $100⁷.


Global banking giant Citibank has a full range of accounts for individuals and business customers. This includes packages for every day and premium banking.

Its Access Account is perhaps one of its most popular checking accounts. It has a waivable monthly service fee of $10, no minimum opening deposit, lots of ways to transfer money and full digital access to your accounts⁸.

Wells Fargo

One of the most popular accounts at Wells Fargo is its Everyday Checking account. It can be opened with just $25 and has a $10 monthly fee, waived if you can maintain a $500 minimum daily balance. You’ll get access to mobile deposit, Zelle, Bill Pay and other digital services, and get a contactless debit card⁹.

If you want to use your Wells Fargo Checking Account for wire transfers, you’ll need to sign up for the Online Wires service (and there are fees involved).

U.S. Bank

The last of the big banks is U.S. Bank, which offers personal, business and corporate banking services.

You might want to go for the U.S. Bank Smartly Checking Account, which you can open with just $25. There’s a $6.95 monthly fee and multiple ways to get this waived, plus no ATM fees when you use a U.S. Bank or MoneyPass Network ATM¹⁰. You’ll also get access to Zelle, which can provide faster payments compared to wire transfers.

Bottom line

And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about opening a USA bank account. If you have the right documents (and you’re already living there) you should find the process pretty easy. Many banks will even let you apply online.

Remember though that there are lots of banks to choose from, along with alternatives such as Wise that could suit your needs better. So, it’s worth taking the time to compare options.

💡 If you neeed to manage local and international business finances, Wise also offers a dedicated business account.

Some key features of Wise Business include:
  • Better visibility and organization of business finances. This is helpful for account reconciliations and audits
  • Major local account details for a simple one-off fee to receive international payments with ease
  • No monthly account fees or minimum balance requirements
  • Receive payments from e-commerce platforms such as Amazon or via Stripe
  • Create invoices using the free Wise invoice generator or invoice templates
  • Accounting integrations, including a QuickBooks Bill Pay connection
  • Batch payment options. Fast payment of up to 1,000 people

Discover the difference between
Wise Business vs Personal

  1. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.
  2. Bank of America - Opening a US Bank Account
  3. Citibank - Checking Account
  4. Chase - Checking
  5. Bank of America - Personal Schedule of Fees
  6. Chase - Personal Accounts Fee Schedule
  7. Bank of America - Advantage Banking
  8. Citibank - Access Account
  9. Wells Fargo - Everyday Checking
  10. U.S. Bank - Smartly Checking

Sources checked on 24 October 2022.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

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.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location