How to Open a Bank Account in the US from Australia

If you're moving to the US, or even just thinking about it, banking is important. For foreigners opening a bank account in the US,  it can seem like there are a lot of loop holes to jump through. Because of this, it's good to know what your other options are.

Unfortunately, as an Australian resident, it is very difficult to open a bank account with a US bank from Australia. Most US banks require you to open an account in person which isn't ideal if you’re here. But having a “checking account” with one of the major US banks will give you the ability to transfer money, make payments, use a debit card, and utilise many other financial services.

Now, if you're simply travelling to the US, you don't need a bank account. Find out more about currency exchange and ATMs, here.

What you need to open an account online with a US bank from Australia

When it comes to moving to the US, there are two main ways to get a US bank account.

  1. Arrive in the US and open an account there.
  2. Open an international account from Australia.

You may have the option of opening up an international bank account. There downside to these types of accounts if you want to open one before you arrive in the US.  You will generally need a high income and be able to make a large initial deposit to the account.

The TransferWise Borderless Account: An Alternative

Before we get into all the details, there is an alternative online account you could consider. TransferWise released the Borderless Account in Australia in 2017. It essentially allows you to have your own local bank account. It is also significantly easier than setting up an account online with an Australian bank.

To read our full review of the TransferWise Borderless Account, click here or watch the following video.

Learn More About the TransferWise Borderless Account

Arriving in the US and opening an account online

If you arrive in the US before opening an account, you will need several documents to prove your identity, name, and address. Most banks will accept the following:

  • Passport.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Social security number.
  • Rent agreement or mortgage statement.
  • Recent utility bill from the last three months.
  • Bank or credit card statement.
  • Payslip from your employer.

Rules and regulations also vary from state to state, so it's important that you contact the individual bank you're using, in the state you're moving to.

Opening a US bank account online from Australia

Typically, the documents listed above will only be accepted with a current US residential address on them. Which is a challenge if you haven't settled in the US yet. Here are some ways you can get around this problem:

  • Before you leave Australia, go to your bank and ask them to change your address to your US one. Then get a bank statement.
  • If you will be studying in the US and know what your address will be, find out if your university can send you a letter confirming the address.
  • If you will be in the US to work, see if your employer will send you a letter or employment contract with your new address.

Having said this, majority of the time it will be easier to open a US bank account once you have arrived there. You can read our article about banks, ATMs and currency exchange in the US here. It has information that will help you get through until your US bank account is set up.

What get with a US bank account

The US banks provide you with several services once you have opened an account;

  • A bank account that you can access online and use to make or receive payments and setup direct debits.
  • A debit card for making payments directly from your bank account.
  • Access to a nationwide network of ATMs.
  • Specialised accounts for both students and businesses.

Opening an international account online in the US from Australia

Another option is opening an international US bank account. These are offered by the big banks for foreigners opening an account from overseas. You can sometimes open these from Australia, even if you do not have a US address. There are two downsides to these types of accounts.  You generally have to make a large initial deposit and maintain a large minimum balance. They often charge monthly fees too. You may also have to pay a certain amount into the account on a monthly basis.

Wells Fargo Bank

The first major US bank we'll look at is Wells Fargo. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo does not allow you to open an account from outside the US. They do not provide international accounts either. Which doesn't sound helpful but they can help you once you get there. Once you have arrived in the US, you can open an account online with Wells Fargo here or pop into one of their branches.

Citibank

The second bank we're going to discuss is Citibank. This bank has more options for foreigners. Depending on the circumstances, Citibank may allow you to open an international bank account. The catch is that you are expected to maintain a balance of $150,000 or face a $100 a month service fee. Ouch!

Such a high initial deposit amount makes it difficult for most Australian's opening an account before they get to the US. But you can also open a normal US dollar account when you arrive there. When you are in the US, you can apply for a Citibank account online or go into one of their branches. To be eligible, you must have;

  • A US address.
  • A social security number.
  • A driver’s license or state issued ID.

Bank of America

Our third contender is the Bank of America. Like Wells Fargo, Bank of America does not allow you to open an account from outside the US. Unfortunately, they do not provide international accounts either.

But it's not all bad news! Once you have arrived in the US, you can open an account with Bank of America online or by going into one of their branches. You refer to this link to find out more about the requirements to do this. Usually, you will already need to be settled so that you can provide your US address.

JP Morgan Chase

JP Morgan Chase does provide international bank accounts, but on their website there is limited information on what you will need to open one. As with other international accounts, it is extremely likely you will have to deposit a large amount of money and maintain a high balance. Contacting JP Morgan Chase directly will be the best way to find out if they can service your individual needs.

As well as this, you can open an account with JP Morgan Chase online or in a branch once you have arrived in the US.

Summary

It's important to find an account that best suits your needs. But as you can see, it is pretty difficult and expensive to open an account online in the US from Australia.  When it comes to transferring money from your bank account to your new Singaporean bank account, remember that using a money transfer service is usually the cheapest way to go. To compare your options you can head to our money transfer comparison table where you can find the best rates and fees for your transfer.

Disclaimer

Last little note from us. The advice offered in this article is of a general nature only. It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should do your own research when deciding on which provider to use for an international money transfer or bank account.