Take the 2-minute tour ×
Personal Finance & Money Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who want to be financially literate. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm Swedish, but living in Switzerland at the moment. Can I open a US bank account? Either when in the US on vacation or through the internet/phone?

Lots of situations when I find myself in need of an american credit card or just a bank account. Ordering things online (most retailers refuse to accept my orders if I try to pay with my Swedish or Swiss credit card, even if I ship it to a US address ... ) etc etc.

share|improve this question

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Speaking from experience, yes (this was 9 years ago though and may have changed due to stricter laws).

I lived in London and was moving to NYC and wanted to have a functioning bank account upon arrival. I banked in London with HSBC and asked them if they could set me up. They connected me with the right people in the US and after many forms I had a fully functional US bank account with a foreign address and without having a social security number - and I was (am) just your average person. You will most likely not be able to get a credit card through them because of lack of credit history (unless you are ridiculously rich or go for a secured credit card), but a debit card should be possible.*

My advice is to talk to your local bank and see if they can help you, although it will help if they operate in the US.

Good luck!

*I have heard from various expats that American Express may be willing to issue cards in the states based on their existing relation with clients in other countries, but I digress. If you have an Amex in Switzerland or Sweden I would recommend talking to them.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks! I have close relatives living in California, but I guess I'd also probably need a social security number (as you suggest) or maybe a CA driver's license. –  Erik Tjernlund Dec 10 '10 at 21:13
    
You're welcome! Possibly... I didn't need to back then (nor did I need a US address), but that may have changed. If your local bank can hook you up with the right department in the US, they will be able to tell you the exact requirements. –  Korneel Bouman Dec 10 '10 at 21:29
    
I've managed to open a bank account a while back without a SSN, when I wasn't living in the US. My wife introduced me to her bank and they were happy to open an account for me. –  Timo Geusch Dec 10 '10 at 21:30
    
Amex has a great system set up: americanexpress.com/globaltransfers/… –  Matthew Read Dec 12 '10 at 0:06
1  
I was able to open an account with Bank of America when I was in US. I was on L1 visa and did not have SSN. My passport was sufficient to get me a account. If you don't have an SSN, you need to be physically present with documents to open an account. –  Dheer Mar 16 '11 at 7:57

There are several major US banks including Bank of America, citi and Banco Popular that will open an account for people without a SSN. Most will require an in branch visit to open the account.

As some one else mentioned American Express will open accounts in other countries based on an existing relationship or at least they used to.

share|improve this answer
    
American Express and HSBC still will open accounts in other countries based on an existing relationship. I can't stress the "will require an in branch visit" enough of your first para though. –  f1StudentInUS Mar 12 '13 at 13:29

Can you get a bank account in the US? Yes.

Can you get a bank account with a specific bank in the US? That depends on the bank. There's more paperwork involved, and not all banks offer the service. I would guess that the big retail banks (US Bank, Bank of America, JP Morgan / Chase, et al) are most likely to, but they are also the ones with the worst reputations for customer service.

share|improve this answer
    
Yes, it definitely depends on the bank. I had a friend from New Zealand staying with me, and wanted to get him an ATM card on my checking account. My bank said he had to become a signatory, which was fine with me, but the bank wouldn't allow that because he didn't have an SSN. –  Bob Murphy Dec 11 '10 at 2:51

See this website. In my opinion you should physically exist there to open your account.The bank needs to fulfill all requirements such as checking your identity, taking your signatures for future transactions etc. However, there might be some exceptions as Banking industry works pretty much on personal relations and money power.

Also check these links:

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=722141

http://askville.amazon.com/open-bank-account-abroad/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=7004217

and http://www.talkgold.com/forum/r18761-.html

share|improve this answer

In addition to the other answers, Harris Bank allows Canadians living in Canada to open accounts, perhaps they consider other countries as well. They have excellent customer service.

share|improve this answer

I had to open a bank account in the US without having the right paperwork initially (SSN really). All the bank asked me to do was fill in a W8 form in lieu (instead) of the social security number.

share|improve this answer

protected by littleadv Feb 5 '13 at 6:31

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.