Green Card Experts
Search Login Menu

Bank account in the USA

If you want to emigrate to America or stay in the United States frequently or for a long time, you need an American bank account. However, there are a few things to consider when opening a bank account in the USA.

Bank account in the USA: why and for whom?

Not only Green Card winners starting a new life in the United States need an American bank account. Even if you stay in America on a regular basis or for a longer period, having a bank account in the USA is worthwhile. This way, high costs for international bank transfers or credit card fees for international use can be saved.

Opening a bank account in the USA is beneficial for:

  • Companies that would like to establish themselves in the USA
  • Persons who are often in the USA for professional reasons
  • Tourists who frequently travel to the USA
  • Pupils and students
  • Green Card winners who relocate to the USA
Green Card Check

The banking system in the USA

The banking sector in the United States is enormous. The services offered are diverse and, above all, very heterogeneous. In addition to about ten large regional banks and more than 5,000 local institutions, there are four major national banks.

In most cases, it is advantageous, especially for newcomers, to choose one of the larger, well-established banks for a bank account in the USA. They not only have a widespread network of branches but are also well prepared to advise international customers.

The four major US banks at a glance:

  • JPMorgan & Chase: The largest bank in the USA is headquartered in New York City and had total assets of more than $2,821 billion in 2020. The business magazine Forbes ranks JPMorgan & Chase as the world's third-largest company listed on a stock exchange.
  • Bank of America: The second oldest bank in the USA is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was also the second-largest bank in the United States in 2020, reporting total assets of $2,182 billion.
  • Wells Fargo Bank: Coming in at No. 3 among the major US banks is the California-based Wells Fargo Bank, with total assets of $1,824 billion in 2020.
  • Citibank: The New York City-based company was the first major American bank to have a foreign department. In 2020, it ranked fourth among the US banks with total assets of $1,634 billion.
Dollar bills and USA flag.

The better the credit history, the easier the account opening in the USA.

Documents required for a US bank account

If you are already in America, you can open a bank account either in a local bank branch or by registering online. However, it is advisable to make an appointment on-site, as any possible problems can be clarified more easily that way. In addition, some banks refuse online registration if you have not lived in the USA for long and have only a short credit history.

What documents you specifically need to open a US bank account depends on the bank and the offer you choose. But most likely, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • Proof of identity: Green Card (Permanent Resident Card), driver's license, passport, or ID card
  • Immigration documents: visa, Green Card, work permit
  • Proof of address: usually the rental contract or a current utility bill are accepted
  • Photo (format 50 x 50 mm)
  • Deposit (amount varies depending on the bank)
  • if applicable, Social Security Number
  • if applicable, documents proving that your money was acquired legally
Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

Bank accounts for immigrants or non-residents

Immigrants have a major disadvantage when it comes to opening a bank account in the USA: their credit history is short. It tells the banks whether you have reliably paid your bills in the past. This way, the bank can assess how risky it is to accept you as a new customer and at what conditions to offer you a bank account in the USA.

For the same reason, access to credit cards is also very difficult or impossible for newly immigrated people or non-Americans. Banks will only give you a credit limit if you have a good credit history. However, a chargeable credit card (Secured Credit Card) can help you build a credit history after arriving in the US.

Opening a US bank account from afar

It is also possible to open a bank account for the USA already from your home country. Many international banks (e.g., HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, or Credit Suisse) have branches in America or maintain correspondent banking relationships with American banks. So check with your bank in your home country before you relocate. They may be able to assist you with a bank account in the USA.

Furthermore, some of the major US banks, e.g., Citibank, also have branches all over the world. There, you can already get advice in your home country and, if necessary, open an American bank account.

Banking fees in the USA

Although prices and regulations vary from bank to bank, you can expect to pay the following fees for banking in the USA.

Withdrawing money

You can usually withdraw cash from your own bank's Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) without being charged any additional fees. If you withdraw money from ATMs of another bank, however, this will cost you some extra money.

This is another reason why it is advisable to open a bank account with one of the four major American banks. These have an extensive network of branches and ATMs throughout the whole country. Most likely, you will quickly find a bank or machine where you will not have to pay any additional fees.

Account maintenance fee

Most US banks collect a monthly account maintenance fee. The larger banks charge between $10 and $15. However, some banks will waive the fee if a certain minimum amount is deposited into the account each month. Students are often offered discounted rates as well.

Checks and bank transfers

While paying for smaller amounts in everyday life is usually done by credit card, checks are widely used in the US to pay for larger or regular expenses (e.g., rent payments, electricity bills, gym membership). Bank transfers and recurring transfers are less common in America.

Checks are provided by your bank when you open an account in the United States. In most cases, there is a fee per checkbook. The amount of the fee varies from bank to bank depending on the bank's pricing and the number of checks included in the checkbook.

Are you already planning your life in the USA? Then take a look at our other USA guides and find valuable tips about relocating to the USA, the American driver's license, or retirement plans in the United States!

Green Card Check
Apply now
Sign up for the newsletter & enjoy benefits!
Get a 5€ voucher for the Green Card Lottery!

I would like to receive The American Dream newsletter. I have read the privacy policy.