Opening a US bank account with no US address

Opening a US bank account with no US address

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Viper_Larry

Original Poster:

4,241 posts

191 months

Friday 31st May 2013
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I'll be travelling out to Santa Clara in 3 weeks and would like to open a bank account while I am there as I hear you really need to do it in person. Nationwide in the UK don't seem to have an international option.

What do I need to do this if I walk into the local Wells Fargo branch - just passport? Is it also right I can do this without an SSN?

Roo

11,081 posts

142 months

Friday 31st May 2013
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I used to have a Bank of America account that I opened in either 2003 or 2004.

Just walked in with passports and had an account by the time we left. We couldn't get a cheque account though.

I enquired a couple of years later about getting a credit card which they were happy to do but it needed to be done in a branch.

I've closed the account now as we hardly go there anymore.

They used to just send me statements via email.

belleair302

5,998 posts

142 months

Friday 31st May 2013
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You can open a bank account without a US address, yes a passport is necessary and the whole process is pretty simple. Just make sure the clerk understands where you live and how to contact you....they sometimes don't know where the UK is.

ViperDave

4,372 posts

188 months

Friday 31st May 2013
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ditto, you will have to fill out a W8BEN which is the declaration of not being US resident and not having a ssn IIRC, that was a few years ago so may have changed but doubt it.

Might be worth taking driving licences also just to be sure.

We have wells fargo checking accounts but we were inherited from Wachovia, some banks are less happy about opening up accounts for non res than others, so if wells fargo wont, take a look at bank of America as they were our other choice, BTW the wells fargo we have we need to keep a $1500 balance or pay in $500 a month to keep it free, that was a new requirement from wells fargo as our wachovias were free.

Use XE.com to send your money there and make sure you understand your account number, routing number and branch address before you leave as XE will need these, once set up it should only take a couple of days to send money, our quickest was about 1.5 days! Don't forget to take your card reader if your uk bank needs it to set up a new payment on your account.

I would advise you get some money in there as soon a possible say $10 or so, other wise when they screw up and loose your W15BEN they may just close your account like they did with us, with a little bit of money in it, that's a lot harder for them to do.

Edited by ViperDave on Saturday 8th June 13:21

belleair302

5,998 posts

142 months

Friday 31st May 2013
quotequote all
I transfer money back and forwards using a FX brokerage and the money arrives within 24 hours. Was given a debit card immediately....a credit card takes months due to credit ratings, social security issues etc if moving to the US etc with work or marriage. Don't expect a Visa or Mastercard anytime soon.
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Geoff Stilwell

678 posts

110 months

Thursday 6th June 2013
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Go to HSBC and they can set u up with a US bank account. I did mine a few years ago very easy. You can then get debit cards, credit cards and i have a checking account. I also use the HSBC online banking to move money from the UK to the USA. All done by the laptop from anywhere.

Viper_Larry

Original Poster:

4,241 posts

191 months

Friday 7th June 2013
quotequote all
Geoff Stilwell said:
Go to HSBC and they can set u up with a US bank account. I did mine a few years ago very easy. You can then get debit cards, credit cards and i have a checking account. I also use the HSBC online banking to move money from the UK to the USA. All done by the laptop from anywhere.
Turns out you need a UK account for at least 3 months prior to this, which I don't have, thanks for the advice though...

Geoff Stilwell

678 posts

110 months

Saturday 8th June 2013
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One problem i had when trying to open an account in the USA was they all wanted a Social Security number..which of course i didn't have. All the banks in the USA use that as part of your security. It ended up being easier to open an account with HSBC ..ask to be a "Premier Customer" with online banking and it took about 3 weeks all in all. HSBC has branches all over the place..except Las Vegas and since then i have had no problems at all. Good Luck.

ViperDave

4,372 posts

188 months

Saturday 8th June 2013
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Geoff Stilwell said:
One problem i had when trying to open an account in the USA was they all wanted a Social Security number..which of course i didn't have. All the banks in the USA use that as part of your security. It ended up being easier to open an account with HSBC ..ask to be a "Premier Customer" with online banking and it took about 3 weeks all in all. HSBC has branches all over the place..except Las Vegas and since then i have had no problems at all. Good Luck.
Which is completely the opposite experience to what I had, No problem with not having a ssn, just fill out the w8ben, Show passport to comply with the patriot act, and there are nearly as many wells fargos as McD's, cant say in my extensive travels I have ever seen a HSBC branch in the US, I'm sure they are there but a bit like a citi bank branch in the UK.

Granted we opened our accounts in a tourist area and our branch manager is from the UK, but wells fargo do have non-resident customers and as they are so prevalent if Graham doesn't get any joy in one then just go to the next one until success

Zumbruk

4,935 posts

195 months

Sunday 9th June 2013
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Geoff Stilwell said:
One problem i had when trying to open an account in the USA was they all wanted a Social Security number..which of course i didn't have. All the banks in the USA use that as part of your security.
1) Retail banking in the USA is in the dark ages compared to the UK.

2) America is the most parochial country in the world.

3) They DO NOT need an SSN to open a bank account. They just think they do (see '1' and '2'). You're better off trying to open an account with a large bank (BoA, for example) who might actually know that, and what IBANs and SWIFT are. Sadly, BoA also charge $40 to receive a wire transfer, an activity which involves them in precisely zero effort.

ViperDave

4,372 posts

188 months

Sunday 9th June 2013
quotequote all
Zumbruk said:
1) Retail banking in the USA is in the dark ages compared to the UK.

2) America is the most parochial country in the world.

3) They DO NOT need an SSN to open a bank account. They just think they do (see '1' and '2'). You're better off trying to open an account with a large bank (BoA, for example) who might actually know that, and what IBANs and SWIFT are. Sadly, BoA also charge $40 to receive a wire transfer, an activity which involves them in precisely zero effort.
Do they charge for EFT? IIRC Wells Fargo also charge a wire receipt fee but don't charge for direct deposit via EFT. EFT seems to be pretty quick nowadays anyway, The $600 I sent last week (4th) was in my account the next day, no fees and cost me £399.84 (grr would have cost £3 less if done today!).

Fees are something you have to be aware of on US accounts as they like to charge for the extras, IIRC wells fargo will charge $1 for a mini statement print from the ATM, but I would definitely go with one of the big national banks that have a branch in every town rather than risk ATM fees to withdraw your cash from another banks ATM.

GavinPearson

5,711 posts

186 months

Monday 10th June 2013
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I keep seeing ads on BBC America for xoom.com for money transfer services. I have no idea how good they are, but they seem to be cheap.

jimmyjimjim

4,852 posts

173 months

Monday 10th June 2013
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Zumbruk said:
Geoff Stilwell said:
One problem i had when trying to open an account in the USA was they all wanted a Social Security number..which of course i didn't have. All the banks in the USA use that as part of your security.
1) Retail banking in the USA is in the dark ages compared to the UK.

2) America is the most parochial country in the world.

3) They DO NOT need an SSN to open a bank account. They just think they do (see '1' and '2'). You're better off trying to open an account with a large bank (BoA, for example) who might actually know that, and what IBANs and SWIFT are. Sadly, BoA also charge $40 to receive a wire transfer, an activity which involves them in precisely zero effort.
I'd also try to find a large branch in a large town, preferably one with a reasonably sized ex-pat community. Purely to increase the chance that they know their arse from their elbow when it comes to wire transfers.

I used to cringe whenever I got a new teller at the credit union, as this guaranteed that it wouldn't go through(I never knew that after the IBAN, SWIFT code, account number, bank address and so on, that there were so many fields that they could get wrong...).

Now I just tell them to look up the last one and copy the details from that, having worked out the period it takes the transaction to clear from their history, I make sure I come in under that date.

A couple of other things to watch for; some banks(it might just be credit unions) require an intermediary bank to transfer to, I'm fairly confident this isn't needed for incoming wires,t, but all the same, explain to them what you'll be doing and ask if there is any other information needed.

Also, as been said elsewhere, they may advertise free checking accounts, but this is dependent on other requirements such as xx debit card transactions a month, or having a positive balance of y all the time. They also have tiered accounts; you may well find if you keep a decent balance in the account, you'll get all the features you need for free, otherwise you may find yourself paying a monthly fee, or a fee per wire.

K50 DEL

7,857 posts

163 months

Monday 10th June 2013
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Citi Bank also do this, I opened my account at a branch in Chicago.
They had a debit card ready for me in a couple of days and the che(ck)que book was sent to my address in the UK.

I also have full Internet access to the account and it's been faultless over the last 5 years of having it.

I did have to fill out the non-resident tax form, but the branch manager clearly knew what he was doing as the process was very simple.

The only issue is that Citi Bank have a limited number of physical branches, most in the Northern US which can be a pain for paying in cash money.

Famous Graham

26,553 posts

160 months

Saturday 22nd June 2013
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K50 DEL said:
The only issue is that Citi Bank have a limited number of physical branches, most in the Northern US which can be a pain for paying in cash money.
Be aware of this OP, if you're planning on travelling elsewhere in the states - US banks are pretty regional (Bank of America excluded).

You won't find a Wells Fargo in New England, for example.

Viper_Larry

Original Poster:

4,241 posts

191 months

Sunday 23rd June 2013
quotequote all
As it happens, we are currently in California and opened an account each with Chase yesterday - preferred their colour scheme to Wells Fargo! Took a couple of hours to get it all sorted but very easy. Unfortunately the branch in Sunnyvale didn't have a card printer so we couldn't get the Debit card on the spot, but will get that next time we're over.

Handy I have a US account now as I have a parking ticket to pay! :-(

Dphillip67

222 posts

65 months

Sunday 23rd June 2013
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belleair302 said:
You can open a bank account without a US address, yes a passport is necessary and the whole process is pretty simple. Just make sure the clerk understands where you live and how to contact you....they sometimes don't know where the UK is.
True. They might ask if UK is in London.

Zumbruk

4,935 posts

195 months

Saturday 27th July 2013
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jimmyjimjim said:
A couple of other things to watch for; some banks(it might just be credit unions) require an intermediary bank to transfer to,
A lot of smaller American banks (and all Federal Credit Unions) do not participate in SWIFT, so in order to receive SWIFT transfers they need to operate a NOSTRO account with a bank that does. Many of them either do not know this, or are reluctant to so so for the tiny amount of business it will attract, hence my advice to bank with someone like BoA who actually know that there are countries outside the USA.

jimmyjimjim

4,852 posts

173 months

Sunday 28th July 2013
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When I first started using the credit union for international transfers, they didn't require an intermediary account.

They changed that approx 3 or 4 years ago.

As you clearly know a great deal more about this than me, any idea whether this would have been them saying 'sod it, it's not worth it any more, close this here NOSTRO account thing', or a change in legislation?

Just interested. Because it was a fvcking pain in the arse when the changed it.

smack

9,218 posts

126 months

Wednesday 14th August 2013
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Viper_Larry said:
Geoff Stilwell said:
Go to HSBC and they can set u up with a US bank account. I did mine a few years ago very easy. You can then get debit cards, credit cards and i have a checking account. I also use the HSBC online banking to move money from the UK to the USA. All done by the laptop from anywhere.
Turns out you need a UK account for at least 3 months prior to this, which I don't have, thanks for the advice though...
I was thinking of doing this, as I work for a US company, and going to be out there quite a bit. I was thinking of 2 benefits, saving money when doing personal spending/getting cash of USD - do you make significant saving compared to the fees when using UK cards to make it worthwhile? I don't care too much if I need to keep a few thousand in the account.
And my US online shopping - many places I buy from won't take non US cards for payment. I then have to ask for other people to buy on my behalf, and it is a hassle for them.

There is a HSBC opposite the hotel we often use when we visit the US office, so that one is an easy one for me.