How to open a bank account in the USA

Are you moving to the USA? Then you probably already know how important it is to have a bank account there. Withdrawing money and paying using your Spanish account can be a comfortable solution for the first days. But it ends up being very expensive because of the amount of commissions you pay.

On the other hand, if you are going to work there and you want to collect your salary or pay your bills by direct debit, you will not be able to do it. That is why it is important that you know how to open a bank account in the United States.

This article explains everything you need to know about it, the requirements that banks usually ask for and the fees you will have to pay. It also lists some of the most important banks you can go to and discusses whether you can open your account online or not.

In addition, we present the Wise multi-currency account, an alternative to traditional banks that has local US account information and that you can open online.

Can I open a bank account online in the USA?

If you are already living in the United States you can open a bank account either in branch or online. If you have recently arrived in the country, the online application may be rejected for two reasons.

First, being new to the U.S., you will have limited credit history. This will make it difficult for the bank, as it has to verify your identity as a legal requirement.

Secondly, none of the categories established by the bank may fit you, which will make it difficult to meet their requirements.

If you apply to open a bank account in person, it will generally be easier to deal with any difficulties that may arise as you go along. Also, it's a good idea to start your relationship with your bank face-to-face - you never know what you may need in the future.

Fees and costs of opening an account in the U.S.

There are a number of costs you need to be aware of when opening a bank account in the United States. Below are the most common ones along with some guideline amounts1. Keep in mind that the amounts can vary greatly from one bank to another.
  • Maintenance: the most common is between 4.95 and 35 USD. Banks usually give you options to get rid of this fee. For example, maintaining a certain balance or making a certain number of transactions per month.
  • Debit card issuance and maintenance: unlike Spanish banks, in the USA there are no fees for issuing and maintaining your cards.
  • Withdrawals at ATMs: they are usually free of charge if the ATM belongs to the same bank. If you go to an ATM of another bank, you can expect to pay around 2.5 USD per withdrawal.
  • Withdrawals at foreign ATMs: every time you withdraw money at an ATM outside the United States, your bank will charge you a fee. In some cases, you will also have to pay a percentage of the amount withdrawn. The first one is around 5 USD and the second one is around 3%.
  • Card payments in another currency: about 3%.
  • Sending international transfers: 40 to 50 USD in most cases.
  • Receiving international wire transfers: many banks usually charge 15 to 16 USD
  • Domestic wire transfers: 25 to 35 USD
  • Receiving domestic wire transfers: about USD 15
Both international transfers and foreign cash withdrawals and card payments in other currencies will charge you another hidden fee. Instead of converting your money using the official exchange rates (the ones you can see on Google), conventional banks use rates that have a surcharge added to them. This is less advantageous for you and results in you receiving less money than you are entitled to.

What do you need to open an online account in the United States?

Banking rules and regulations can vary greatly from state to state. The requirements for opening an account may vary depending on the area where you are going to live.

However, there is one point that you should be very clear about: you will only be allowed to open an online account if you are a resident of the United States and have a mailing address there. If this is not your case, you will have to go to an office and do the procedure in person.

These are the documents that most banks ask for. The list may vary slightly from one bank to another. It will also be different if you are opening a resident or non-resident account. It is advisable to ask them before starting the process to make sure you are not missing any of them.
  • Valid ID: U.S. driver's license, state ID or similar.
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN): non-residents who do not have an SSN can apply for an ITIN through the W-7 form.
  • Proof of U.S. address: a utility bill, bank statement or tax receipt is usually valid.
  • Valid passport
  • Other identity documents from your country of origin: ID card, driver's license or similar
  • Residence permit or copy of your visa
  • Credit or debit card Visa, MasterCard or other internationally recognized credit/debit cards
  • Bank statements proving your creditworthiness
  • Proof that your money comes from lawful sources: latest tax return, pay stubs or documentation proving you receive a pension
If you are looking for a simpler option, which can be opened online, Wise is a good alternative. Its multi-currency account allows you to use US dollars and has local US bank details. It takes just a few minutes to open online and all you need is your passport and an Internet connection.

Can I open a bank account from abroad or online?

Conventional banks in the United States have a very strict policy regarding non-resident accounts. Not all banks offer them and those that do require you to go in person to a branch to open one.

The only way to open a USA virtual bank account is if you have a residence permit or through online services such as Wise. This article explains how you can open an account in the USA from Spain.

Which U.S. bank best meets my needs?

The U.S. banking industry is huge. With so many options, it can be difficult to keep track of what each one offers. Here's a summary of what the top four U.S. banks have to offer.

The first thing to ask yourself is whether you are opening an account as a non-resident or a resident. Currently, there are some entities that do not offer the former and this will already leave many options off your shortlist.

Bank Account and Features

JP Morgan Chase²

* Chase Total Checking: $12/month

* Withdrawals at other banks' ATMs: 3 USD per withdrawal

* Withdrawals abroad: 5 USD + 3% + commission of the ATM owner's bank

* Domestic wire transfers: 35 USD

* International transfers: 50 USD

Bank Of America³

* Advantage Safe Banking Checking Account: 4.95 USD/month

* Withdrawals at other banks' ATMs: 2.5 USD/withdrawal

* Withdrawals abroad: 5 USD + 3% + ATM owner's fee

* Domestic wire transfers: 30 USD

* International wire transfers: 0 USD (foreign currency) or 45 USD (foreign transfers in USD)


* Access checking account: 10 USD/month

* Withdrawals at ATMs of other banks: 2.5 USD/withdrawal

* Withdrawals abroad: 2.5 USD + 3% + commission of the ATM owner's entity

* Domestic wire transfers: 35 USD

* International wire transfers: 45 USD

Wells Fargo⁵

* Every Day Checking account: 10 USD/month

* Withdrawals at other ATMs: 2.5 USD/withdrawal

* Foreign Withdrawals: 5 USD

* Domestic wire transfers: 40 USD

* International wire transfers: 40 USD

Other banks to consider

In addition to the above banks, there are other interesting entities where you can open your account.

One of them is Axos Bank. They have an online account called Essential Checking. There is no monthly maintenance fee and they don't charge you anything for withdrawing funds from ATMs. You can open it online, but they will ask for a Social Security Number, a U.S. ID and a U.S. mailing address. This makes it unsuitable for non-residents.

Capital One is another option to consider. Its network of ATMs in the United States exceeds 40,000, which is a large number of points where you can withdraw cash for free.

If you still want to know more about banks in the United States, this article has more information.

Wise: An alternative to traditional banks

Wise offers you a multi-currency account with which you can handle US dollars and which comes with local US bank details (routing number and account number). With them you can send and receive payments in dollars, direct debit bills and pay by credit card just as if you had an account with any bank there.

You can open it online in just a few minutes and without the need to be a resident in the USA. There is no set-up or monthly maintenance fee. Unlike conventional banks, which only allow you to use dollars, with Wise you can hold more than 50 currencies in your account simultaneously. Whenever you make an exchange from one to another, they will apply the average market exchange rate (the one that appears on Google), with no hidden surcharges.

In addition, this account also has local account data for 9 other territories, including the Eurozone and the United Kingdom. This will allow you to move money between Spain and the United States locally, without having to pay the high international transfer fees.