student finances

Can International Students in the US Open a Bank Account?

‍Are you an international student in the US looking to open a bank account? Read on to get a step-by-step guide on opening a bank account in the US.‍
5 mins

Personal finance and money management are life skills that everyone should have, especially if you are an international student in the US. Being aware of how much money goes in and out, as well as bank fees, allows you to make smarter financial decisions.

While studying in the US, international students face financial hurdles when using foreign bank accounts. The exchange rates between the United States and other countries are extremely high. Furthermore, bank costs for international transactions and ATM fees are prohibitively costly. This makes the handling of their finances both expensive and inconvenient. 

But there is a solution. Opening a domestic bank account in the US facilitates a more seamless transition to university or college. Using a US bank eliminates foreign transaction fees and provides an easy option to pay for your campus fees and personal expenses. 

In this post, we'll walk you through the process of opening a bank account in the US so that you can get things rolling. Shall we begin?

How Can I Open a Bank Account as an International Student?

Opening a bank account as an international student is a simple process you can complete before or after arriving in the United States. While there are banks that allow you to open an account online, others may need you to visit a branch. Every bank has its procedures and standard for evaluating applicants.

You need to prepare some standard paperwork before opening an international student bank account in the US. Let's get into the nitty-gritty below.

Gather the necessary documents

To open a bank account as an international student in the US, you will need the following documents:

Student visa documents

Your student visa validates your legal right to reside and study in the United States. Only students holding specific types of student visas, such as an F1 visa (for academic studies), J1 Visa, or M1 Visa, are allowed to open a bank account. Check with the bank to ensure you have met all the requirements.

Passport

When opening a bank account, you must prove that you are who you say you are. 

Your passport acts as proof of identity. Banks require it because a passport is an official government document that requires a thorough vetting process before approval.

Proof of university enrollment

Proof of enrollment is the official document provided by a college or university that proves your enrollment status. Banks require international students to have it to affirm the state or school district they will study.

Secondary ID

An additional form of identification may also be required, such as a driver's license or student identification card.

Most banks publish a list of documents that international students need to open a bank account on their website. Some may even request verification of financial accounts from their home country. To get a certified letter from the bank, for example, you'll have to shell out a lot of money to have it couriered to you. To keep this from happening, you should verify and recheck that you have everything you need.

Select a Bank

Choosing which bank to work with is the next step to opening a bank account. Several financial institutions provide excellent plans for international students. These programs are designed with students in mind and help you get the most value for your money. Here's a list of some popular banks in the US and their student banking options:

Pick an Account Type

International students can choose from two bank accounts in the US: a checking account and the savings account.

A checking account is one that you'll regularly use to make deposits and withdrawals from your bank. These accounts allow you to access your money anytime you like and give you a secure place to keep your money. You can use these accounts to keep track of your day-to-day spending and make payments on your bills. 

A savings account is generally used for longer-term deposits. A savings account allows you to earn a higher interest rate when saving money over time or if you work part-time.

Depending on your bank account, you may be required to pay for the following:

Monthly service or minimum balance

It is common for financial institutions to charge monthly service fees to customers who fail to maintain a particular minimum amount in their accounts, such as $1,000 or more. Nonetheless, some banks waive fees for students with student checking accounts.

Debit card

Student debit card fees may be monthly or per transaction. According to the Federal Reserve, the average debit card interchange fee for 2018 was $0.24 per transaction.

ATM

If you use the ATM too frequently in a billing period or use an ATM from a different bank, your bank may charge you a fee.

Transfer

These are the fees associated with moving money between banks or from one account to another.

When looking for a bank, you should research to see which one best fits your unique financial situation. Once you've decided on a bank, you may be required to pay an opening account charge. The amount is usually displayed on the bank's website and will differ depending on the bank. For any issues with your account, don't hesitate to contact a bank staff, who will be happy to help you.

Why is it Important for International Students to have a Bank Account?

Safety

Keeping vast sums of money in your college dorm room is generally not a good idea. It's better to open a bank checking or savings account rather than stashing considerable amounts of cash, which can be risky. Having a local bank account safeguards your money.

Access 

Having a local bank account ensures that your funds are readily available whenever you need them. In an emergency, you could be required to wait for a transfer to be processed if you depend on a family member or caretaker to pay for your expenses. Furthermore, certain retailers and restaurants may not accept credit cards.

Budget

When you have an account with a local bank, it is much simpler to monitor finances, mainly when you can control your accounts on your mobile device or computer in real-time.

Cost

International exchange fees, ATM fees, and bank transfers add to high costs. You may cut down on these fees and save even more money if you have a local US bank account. You can easily and quickly pay your rent, utilities, and cell phone bills. 

Work 

If you intend to work on campus or apply for a paid internship or job off-campus, your earnings will be deposited into your US bank account.

Cashless transaction

Instead of lugging about a wad of cash, international students with bank accounts don't have to worry about keeping it safe. Most banks will provide you with a debit card. Additionally, you can avoid huge lines at your college administration department by paying fees via check.

Student loans

Most banks allow their account holders to take out loans to pay for their schooling. You can easily apply for a loan with a student savings account.

Discounts

Many banks offer international students discounts when they use debit cards to make purchases. Using your reward points to purchase something worthwhile can also help you save some money!

Freebies

As a complimentary perk, most bank accounts include insurance coverage for the cardholder, while some offer gasoline fill-up discounts.

Establish a Regional Credit History

Having a local bank account is the first step toward establishing credit in the US.

How to Use your Student Bank Account

The majority of banks allow their customers to take advantage of online banking through web browsers and apps. While most financial institutions are open Monday to Friday during business hours and for a limited time on weekends and evenings, many rely on online banking for convenience. Online banking allows you to:

  • Access your bank account and financial services 24/7
  • Make your payments on time
  • Send money from one bank account to another account
  • Take a look at your bank account's current balance
  • Pay via e-transfers
  • Analyze your bank statements
  • Automate your savings

When conducting financial transactions online, it is essential to use extreme caution. Keep your personal information private by connecting to a secure Wi-Fi network and logging out when you are done.

Get Started on Making your Bank Account! 

Using foreign bank accounts in the US is a costly affair. The transaction fees are over the roof, not to mention the ATM fees and telegraphic bank transfers. That is why an international student in the US needs to open a bank account. It has a myriad of benefits!

If you're reading this currently as an international student in the US living on an F-1 Visa and looking for employment. Algorizin can help you get started. It's a platform that assists international students in landing their dream jobs in the US and provides clarity to all career-related queries international students may have while studying in the US. 

Get in touch with the admissions staff at Algorizin today to set up an appointment for your consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can international students in the US open a bank account online?

International students can apply for an account online by submitting the necessary documentation. However, you may need to visit a physical branch if your preferred bank does not offer online account opening options.

Are international students in the US eligible to open a bank account?

International students with specific student visas such as an F1 visa (for academic studies), J1 Visa (practical training), or M1 Visa (vocational studies) are eligible to open a bank account.

Can a non-citizen open a bank account in the US?

Non-citizens can open a checking or a savings account at major financial institutions such as US Bank, TD Bank, Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo. Instead of your Social Security number, they will request an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and additional documentation. If you satisfy the criteria, you can open an account with these financial institutions.

What are the best bank accounts for international students in the US?

The best banks for international students in the US are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, HSBC USA, US Bank, Capital One, and Santander. Before deciding on one, visit their websites and compare the bank accounts they provide.

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