The best bank accounts for international students in the USA

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Bryan Smith - May, 11 2024

6 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

What do I need to know about bank accounts as an international student?

As an international student, there are a few things you should know about bank accounts.

Firstly, it's important to open a bank account as soon as you arrive in your host country, as this will make it easier for you to manage your money and pay for expenses like housing and food. You may also need a bank account to receive financial aid or scholarships, and to pay any tuition or school fees.

When choosing a bank, consider factors such as the fees they charge for different services, the convenience of their locations and ATM networks, and whether they offer services specifically tailored to international students. Some banks may require you to have a minimum amount of money to open an account, or may ask for proof of enrollment at your school.

It's also important to be aware of the currency used in your host country, and any potential exchange rate fees or other charges that may apply when you withdraw or transfer money. You may want to compare the exchange rates offered by different banks to find the best deal.

What’s the best bank for international students?

When choosing a bank, it's important to consider factors such as the fees they charge for different services.

You may also want to ask other international students at your school which banks they use, and whether they have had a good experience with them. This can give you some insight into the options available and help you make an informed decision. Ultimately, the best bank for you will be one that meets your needs and offers the services you need at a price that is affordable for you.

What should I consider when choosing my international bank account?

There are a few important things to consider when choosing an international bank account. First, you should make sure that the bank offers the services you need, such as online banking and access to ATMs.

Secondly, you should consider the fees associated with the account, including any fees for transactions, transfers, and foreign currency conversion. Third, you should look into the bank's reputation and financial stability, to ensure that your money will be safe with them. Finally, you should consider the convenience of the bank's location and how easily you can access your funds.

Will I need a Social Security Number (SSN)?

It’s possible to open a bank account in the United States as an international student without a Social Security Number (SSN). However, many banks will require some form of government-issued identification, such as a passport, and may ask for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as an alternative to an SSN.

It is worth noting that some banks may have more stringent identification requirements for international students, so it may be a good idea to call ahead and ask about the specific requirements at the bank where you are considering opening an account. In addition, some banks may offer special accounts specifically for international students, which may have different requirements or features than regular bank accounts.

It is also possible to open a bank account online through some banks and financial institutions, which may have different identification requirements.

Do debit cards for international students exist?

Yes, many banks offer debit cards for international students. These debit cards may be linked to a checking or savings account, and can be used to make purchases and withdraw money from ATMs. International students may be able to apply for a debit card through their bank or financial institution, or through a specialized program such as the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) program. Some banks may require that the student have a valid study permit or other documentation proving their status as an international student.

What bank accounts are available to international students in the US?

There are several suitable banking accounts for international students - however, what remains vital is to ensure that the fees charged on your chosen account are affordable, that it offers you access to remittance services if necessary, and that you can seek to build a credit score in the US through the use of an overdraft facility or secured or unsecured credit card.

Student accounts at Bank Of America

Bank of America offers two types of checking accounts for students; the Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance as well as the Bank of America Advantage Plus account.

While the Advantage SafeBalance account doesn’t offer checks, the account does instead provide a debit card. Notably, the provided debit card won’t enable you to purchase or withdraw funds in excess of your balance through an overdraft fee.

Conversely, the Advantage Plus Banking account is a traditional account, which offers both paper checks and a debit card for use for purchases and at ATMs. The account further offers overdraft services and fees.

Chase International Student Account

If you’re between the ages of 17-24 and have enrolled in an eligible course, you may be eligible to apply for a Chase College Checking Account, which is open to both US and foreign students.

The Chase College Checking Account enables students to use Chase ATMs for free, manage and make local payments in the US for free, but does not support international transfers.

The account further offers access to overdraft services with daily fees of up to $34.

If you’re a foreign student, you’ll need to physically visit a brand in order to verify your documents needed to complete your application.

To apply for a Chase International Student Account, you’ll need:

  • A valid passport
  • A student INS-I20 form, ICE I-20 form or DS 2019 form, depending on your circumstances
  • Personal and contact information including a residential address in the US or abroad
  • Written evidence of the course attended and expected graduation date, such as a transcript or acceptance letter

Well Fargo Student Account

If you’re between the ages of 17-24, you may be eligible to open one of two banking account with Wells Fargo - namely, a Clear Access Banking or an Everyday Checking account.

While the Clear Access Banking account offers no overdraft fees and a checkless checking account, the Everyday Checking account offers optional overdraft services, physical checks, and the ability to link a relevant Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card.

Both accounts require a $25 minimum deposit.

What should I consider when choosing an international bank account?

When opening an international banking account for your study abroad journey in the United States, there are three essential factors to consider when determining if an account is right for you:

Transfer fees

If you plan to transfer money frequently to recipients either in the USA or abroad, consider and budget for charges that your bank may issue. Notably, different banks charge varying fee levels for transfers - and selecting the most appropriate option for you can help you save money and budget effectively.

Account costs and charges

Different banks charge varying account fees and charges for various activities - and depending on your use and future plans, it can be helpful to review the most affordable account available to you, and budget effectively to accommodate any account charges you may incur over time.

Credit history

If you plan to continue working in the USA once your studies have concluded, pursuing an account which will enable you to build a local credit history can enable you to seek out additional finance options in the future - which may be an account overdraft or a student credit card. Choosing the right bank can enable you to build financial stability more quickly, and ease your transition to working in the US.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are intended as an overview for illustrative and educational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement of any international bank, nor international bank account, mentioned.

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