Getting A Bank Account As An International Student

Posted by DanielWatson on February 4th, 2020


Congratulations! You have arrived in the US to pursue your higher education dreams and are all set to start your new life. As you’re setting up for the next few years, you have a lot to do! Getting a phone and SIM card, setting up your room or apartment and getting a bank account. As you think about your finances, you may be wondering how to open a bank account as an international student in the US, and which bank you should use. Rather than going to the nearest branch and opening an account, it is important to think about which account is best suited for your lifestyle and needs.

Here we show you the traditional way of getting a bank account as an international student, as well as a better way through North Loop, which provides a free international student bank account.

bank account for international students

Account Opening Process

With traditional banks such as Chase and Bank of America, you will have to make an appointment at your local branch to go and open an account. These banks don’t let you open an account online if you are an international student. Once you get to the branch for your appointment, you will have to fill out a few forms to open an account after you decide which account you want (read our post on best banks for students here). You will also have to present a variety of documents for ‘KYC’ (Know-Your-Customer) rules.

These documents can include:

  • Valid Passport
  • Student Visa
  • I-20
  • Student ID
  • Proof of Address in the US

Make sure you bring a copy of these documents, as well as the original documents to the appointment at the bank branch.


Your Bank Account:

Once you’re approved, the bank will mail you a debit card (usually Mastercard or Visa) to your address, which will arrive in 4-5 days. You’ll also get a checkbook, and important information about your account. The first thing you should do is set up your online banking account, so you don’t need to visit a branch for future banking related work. 

Most international student accounts have low spending limits and ATM withdrawal limits, so make sure you check your account limits before you use your debit card! Also be aware of all fees that your bank charges you, from monthly service fees to overdraft fees. 

As an international student, keep an eye out for wire transfer fees (both incoming and outgoing) and as you look for the best bank for international wire transfers, see the limits as well. Many banks charge up to to receive an incoming international wire transfer.


Credit Cards:

Now that you have a bank account, you may be wondering how to get a credit card. Since you are an international student, you will find many banks will not issue you a credit card as you are new to the country, don’t have a SSN, and have no credit history. While you can get a secured card to start building your credit history, another alternative is to go with accounts such as North Loop who focus on international students.

North Loop:

There are limited bank accounts with no fees, but North Loop provides international students with a no-fee account that has no minimums and can be signed up for online (and even before you come to the US). North Loop enables international students to open an account before they come, have their card waiting for them in the US, and get an international student credit card without a SSN. 

The account has no incoming wire fees, no local transfer fees, and no ATM fees. You also get up to 5% cashback at your favorite restaurants on campus.  

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Joined: December 26th, 2019
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