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?

There are lots of situations when I find myself in need of an american credit card or just a bank account. When 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 an US address... ) etc etc.

7 Answers 7


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.

  • 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. Commented Dec 10, 2010 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. Commented Dec 10, 2010 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. Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 21:30
  • Amex has a great system set up: americanexpress.com/globaltransfers/… Commented Dec 12, 2010 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
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 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.

  • 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. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 13:29
  • When I moved to the US in 2004, American Express explicitly refused to get me a US-based card. My Australian account with them was in good standing. American Express is the last place I would go for any ex-pat moving to the US. Go figure!
    – Peter K.
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 22:59

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.

  • 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
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 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:



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


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.


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


Note that there are two very different issues here.

Opening a bank account is one thing, opening a credit card account is quite another--you're effectively beyond the reach of any enforcement action, why would any bank lend you money?

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