How to Open a US Bank Account Online from the UK
If you are living in the UK and planning your move to the USA, then it’s highly likely that one of your top priorities will be opening a US bank account. If you want to do this before you fly, then the easiest and quickest way to open an account is online. Providers like Wise and Revolut can help.
What documents do I need to supply?
To open a US bank account online from the UK, you’ll need to have all of your documents on hand to support your application. You will usually be asked to supply:
- Contact details including proof of residential address. Note: If you do not have proof of this via a utility bill etc., then banks can accept a letter from your employer confirming the address you live at in the USA.
- Official self-identification document e.g. driver’s license or passport.
- Social Security Number (SSN).
- In some cases, banks will ask for your monthly income.
Make sure you have a scanner nearby or already have your documents in digital format.
While US banks usually require you to be a US resident, and to show a local proof of address, services like Wise or Revolut allow customers to open powerful multi-currency accounts using a UK proof of address. You’ll be able to set up an account online or via the provider’s app, to get quick access to an account that can be used to transact in dollars. Depending on the specific service you select, you may also get local bank account details in USD to get paid by others.
The easiest way to open a US bank account from the UK is to:
Make sure you are eligible for your chosen US bank online. Follow the link to start an online application for your choice of account.
Scan and upload all requested documents including your passport and visa.
Provide your US address to have your card and further information sent to you securely.
When approved, transfer the requested deposit amount into your new US account and complete activation.
This guide tells you everything you need to know about opening a US bank account online from the UK.
For US citizens:
If you are a US resident living in the UK, then it’s possible to open a US bank account online. All major US banks now offer digital applications and in most cases all you need to supply is a form of official identification, proof of address in the United States, your Social Security Number (SSN) and an initial deposit amount.
For non-US citizens:
Unfortunately, if you are a non-resident in the US and don’t have any of the requested documents, then you’ll find it tricky to open an account online or in-branch when you arrive.
If this applies to you, you will first need to obtain a visa for the United States, an SSN and a residential address. You can then apply for any type of US bank account.
If you find yourself in this position and unable to open a US bank account online from the UK then don't panic. There are still several options to keep your money safe in the interim period, such as exploring UK banks that offer international accounts or using a multi-currency account while you get set up in the US.
How to open a US bank account as a foreigner
There’s no reason you can’t open a US bank account as a foreigner, but in most cases you’ll need to be a US resident to open a regular bank checking or saving account. That’s because banks need to see a proof of address document to verify your account - and most banks aren’t willing to accept an address that’s overseas for this. Generally to open a US bank account as a foreigner you’ll need:
A US issued social security number (SSN) or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
A government ID
A US address and proof of legal residency
If you don’t have a US SSN, you may be able to apply for an ITIN instead, which can be used in place of an SSN. And, as a foreign applicant, you can expect your bank to want to double check your residence documents to ensure you’re legally entitled to be in the US - so have your visa or permit available when you apply.
Once you have all the documents you need, opening a US bank account as a foreigner shouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge. In some cases you can apply online, but it’s common to be asked to attend a branch in person, particularly if you’ve got non-standard documents. Check the process with your preferred bank so you know what’s needed.
What do I need to know before opening a bank account in the US?
Before you open a US bank account you’ll need to assemble all the required paperwork, and make sure you meet the bank’s eligibility requirements. Many accounts also need you to make an opening deposit, so you’ll need to be able to transfer over some USD, or pay in a cheque or cash at the point of opening your account. It’s also helpful to know that while many US banks do offer online opening processes, these aren’t always available to foreigners as they rely on you having US issued documents which can be verified digitally. You may be asked to attend a branch in person to open your account if you don’t have the standard paperwork that’s needed.
Can I open a bank account in the US with only my passport?
You’re unlikely to be able to open a US bank account with just a passport. Opening an account with a US bank usually means you need to be a US resident - and you’ll often be asked to provide a proof of address to back this up. With a foreign ID document, you’ll also normally have to provide evidence of your legal right to reside in the US, such as a visa or Green Card.
How to transfer money to the US without a bank account
If you’re looking to transfer money to the US without a traditional bank account, then there are some further options open to you.
For starters, check out our money transfer country guide for the cheapest ways to transfer your pounds to dollars. We’ve also helpfully listed some alternatives below:
You also have the option to open a multi-currency Wise Borderless account.
Incredibly simple and easy to set up, this card holds 50 different currencies in one account. With each currency you choose to add, Wise will assign you an account number and further details specific to the currency, allowing you to spend and receive as you would on a debit card, avoiding multiple exchange fees.
Although not a long-term option, this is a great way to keep your money safe and spend it wisely with minimum fees while you get set up in the US. You can apply easily online from the UK before you move, using your UK documents to prove your identity and address, and make all the transfers from GBP to USD before you fly.
Be aware that the card takes between 7-14 days to be delivered, so it's important you leave plenty of time to apply and receive your card before you fly.
How to open an account with Wise
To open a Wise account:
Download the Wise app or open the Wise desktop site
Click Sign up and create an account with your email, Facebook, Google or Apple ID
Follow the prompts to enter the details needed
Upload a snap of your ID and address documents
Once your account has been verified you’re good to go
Revolut can be used similarly to the Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) Borderless Account. You can exchange your currency in the app and spend in USD using the same card with no fees or trouble. Alternatively, when the time is right you can transfer your currency to a bank account in the US easily.
How to open an account with Revolut
To open an account with Revolut:
Download the Revolut app
Enter your phone number and set a PIN - you’ll get a verification message from Revolut
Use the verification code to access the app and enter the details needed to create your account
Upload the required documents for verification
You can deposit funds and use your account once verified
Starling Bank and Monzo
The modern style of banking. Both Monzo and Starling Bank are British app-based ‘neobanks’ and are built around ease. They aim to let you do everything the traditional bank charges you for including multi-currency spending and money transfers.
With no fees when you spend abroad, these are serious contenders if you want a no-fuss way to spend and protect your money while you get set up in the US. All you need is 10 minutes, identification and a UK address to apply on your phone.
How to open an account with Starling bank or Monzo
To open an account with a neobank like Starling or Monzo, you’ll need to visit the provider’s website and register using your UK proof of ID and address. The whole process can be done digitally for convenience.
Remitly specialises in international transfers, with 16 ‘send from’ countries and 47 ‘send to’ countries. While GBP – USD isn’t permitted, Remitly is expanding its services and has recently released its new app-based ‘neobank’ called Passbook in February 2020.
Still new and only in the US at the moment, it allows immigrants in the US to create an account without an SSN number. Instead, it digitally verifies customers by accepting forms of non-US identification such as a passport or ITIN.
Even though you still need to provide proof of address in the US, with no monthly fees, minimum balance or foreign transaction fees, Remitly’s goal is to provide easy banking to those who can’t open a traditional bank in the US.Go To Remitly
What are the fees of opening a US bank account online from the UK?
Unlike the UK, most US banks will charge a monthly fee and/or require you to maintain a minimum daily balance from each account holder. These fees can change based on various factors such as your zip code, deposit amount and what type of account you want to open.
Here’s some examples of fees broken down when looking to submit an online application for a standard checking account with some of the largest banks in the US:
|Bank Name||Monthly Fee||Waived if you|
|JP Morgan Chase Bank||$10-$12||Deposit $500 or a $1500 minimum daily balance|
|Wells Fargo||$10||Deposit $500 or a $1500 minimum daily balance|
|Bank of America||$12||Deposit $250 per month or a $1500 daily balance|
|Citibank*||$10-$12||Make a qualifying direct deposit* or a $1500 daily balance|
*Includes Automated Clearing House (ACH) credits such as payroll, pension or government payments by your employer.
All of the above banks offer helpful online banking and/or help from a representative in your local branch. Based on how you usually manage your money, you’ll need to also consider the following additional charges:
Most banks will charge you a fee for withdrawing money from ATMs in the United States, although in most cases you’ll get free withdrawals from your chosen bank’s ATMs.
If you are looking to travel abroad with your debit card or credit card, then international ATM withdrawal fees are higher and can accumulate, so we recommend that you explore alternative options for accessing your cash before you travel.
International transfer fees
If you are moving from the UK to the US, then it’s likely you’ll need to make an international payment between your banks once you’ve opened your US account. An international payment, otherwise known as a wire transfer, will usually have several fees linked to it:
- An upfront cost (usually around $15 for an incoming international wire transfer);
- A service fee if your payment is sent via SWIFT;
- A mark-up on the exchange rate from GBP to USD (usually around 3%).
Overdraft or insufficient funds fees
Unlike the UK where an overdraft is a relatively cheap and acceptable feature to have linked to your account, US banks consider this as insufficient funds and will charge an average of $35 per transaction that they have to ‘pay’ for an item when you don’t have enough money.
Choosing the right bank for you
There are a number of factors that should contribute when choosing which American bank to go with and understanding the type of account you need is a good place to start. The United States uses a different language and banking system to that of the UK, so it’s important you understand what each account is set up for before matching it to your needs.
A checking account
A Checking Account is your standard current account in the UK. This account will usually be linked to a debit card and can be managed online.
All banks will offer levels above their basic checking accounts for a higher monthly cost, for example Chase offers the Premier Plus and Sapphire options to its customers. They all do the same, but each will have additional features such as earning interest on your balance and free withdrawals from all ATMs.
A savings account
A savings account is similar and has the same features as a checking account but it is linked to an interest rate so you can see your money grow. It is not designed to be your everyday account and has withdrawal restrictions to help you save your money.
Again, all banks will offer levels above their basic savings accounts for a higher monthly cost. These can usually be paired with a Premier checking account and you can experience added benefits and features such as better interest rates on higher balances.
You can also apply for a credit card which will be linked to your checking account much like the UK. Your credit history - which is incredibly important in the United States - will determine how much you are eligible to borrow.
An international account with a bank
An international account is something you may want to consider if you are a frequent traveller or will be regularly receiving money from different currencies.
It's not a widely offered feature with US banks, but Citibank does offer one with their offshore banking branch, Citi International. With two options to choose from (both with incredibly high minimum balances and monthly fees) you might want to look more here to see if this is an option that suits you.
You will want to consider the availability of ATMs and branches in comparison to where you live, as this might affect your decision in what bank you choose. For example, Capital One may come out cheaper on fees but as a smaller bank, there may not be a branch near you for help when you need it.
So, whether it’s quick access to cash or money aside for longer-term saving, or both, once you’ve decided what type of accounts you need, you can then begin to understand which bank can offer you the best deal.
HSBC (International Account)
HSBC offer an international account to all of its existing customers in the UK. With an established presence in the US, it has over 200 branches across 10 states.
Simple to apply and only a short checklist of requirements, you can set up your account in two days and have your card delivered either to your UK or US address shortly after.
To open the account, all you need to do is visit a UK branch to submit your paperwork. You can apply without an SSN and proof of address in the United States, but you will need to supply the basic documents listed below:
- Proof of ID
- Prood of address in the UK
- Proof of monthly income
There are some fees connected with opening this account which are available through speaking to your HSBC customer service agent.
If you are an expat, then HSBC also offer an international account solely for you. With a slightly longer list of criteria, you’ll need to check if you’re eligible before you apply. For more information, click here.
Lloyds Bank offer an international banking option for all UK customers. Unlike HSBC, it has a small US presence but it does offer 24/7 internet and phone banking.
You don't have to be an existing Lloyds customer and can apply online with the option to open a Standard or Premier International Account based on what you need and how much money you want to deposit and maintain.
- With a monthly fee of £7.50/$10 for the Standard International Account, you will need to be eligible by having a gross annual income of £50,000 or more or have a minimum of £25,000 to deposit in the first 30 days of opening your account.
- For the Premier International Account, there is no monthly fee but you will need to be eligible by having a gross annual income of £100,000 and able to maintain that minimum balance for 12 months or have a minimum deposit of £100,000 and maintain for 6 months.
Barclays also offer an international account to its UK customers. Like Lloyds Bank, you do not need to be an existing Barclays customer and again they don't have a strong US presence. All the help you need is online and as long as you meet Barclay's criteria then it is relatively simple to apply for.
On application, you must be able to provide:
- Proof of ID and UK address
- Employment, income and tax residency details
- You must also be able to deposit £25,000 (or currency equivalent) within three months of opening the account or provide proof of your annual income being £150,000 or above.
Here at The Currency Shop we want to help. Whatever your situation, we hope this guide has helped you to choose the best option for you before your move to the United States.
What is a bank account in the US needed for?
Having a USD account can be helpful in lots of different scenarios:
If you’re planning to travel to the US, or if you’re moving to the US to live or work
If you like to shop online, and pay in USD with US based retailers
If you want to convert funds to USD for investing or to diversify your savings
If you need to send USD payments to others - such as paying for travel or an overseas mortgage
If you need to receive USD payments, as a freelancer or when working for a US employer for example
Basically, a USD account can be handy for anyone who needs to send, spend, hold, receive or exchange dollars, making it cheaper and more convenient whenever you use USD.
Benefits of opening a bank account in the US
Not sure if you need a US bank account? Here are a few benefits you can expect:
Cut down the costs of converting pounds to dollars
Avoid foreign transaction fees when spending in USD
Receive USD payments and hold your funds in dollars
Send money to others in the US with lower overall costs
Can I open a bank account online?
As a foreigner, you may struggle to open a US bank account online. However, the good news is that there are other, non-bank, alternatives, like Wise and Revolut which can help you open an account to hold USD. With providers like Wise and Revolut you can apply from the UK, using your local ID and proof of address, to open a digital multi-currency account and card, which you can then use to hold, send and spend in dollars conveniently.
How long does it take to open a bank account in the US?
The amount of time it takes to open a US bank account will depend on the provider you pick and the way you apply. Your account will need to be verified before use - which can often be done instantly, particularly if you’re applying in a branch. However, for some banks, the verification process may take a day or two - or longer if you’ve got non-standard documents which need additional checks.
What are the types of bank accounts in the US?
If you’re opening a US bank account from the UK you may be offered a non-resident account, which is designed for individuals who don’t live in the US at the time of applying. Non-resident accounts can come with limitations compared to regular bank accounts, and may also have higher fees - double check the options available to you before you choose.
If you’re eligible for a US resident account, your options are likely to include a checking account (similar to a current account in the UK) or a savings account. It’s useful to know that the account options, features and fees in the US can be quite different to those you’ll find in the UK, so you’ll need to read over all the details carefully. Some accounts may have monthly charges, for example, or come with limitations on the number of transactions you can make every month.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in the US?
You’ll often find it’s free to open a US bank account, but many banks do ask you to make a minimum opening deposit to get started. This may be as low as 25 USD - but for some premium accounts, the minimum opening deposit can be much higher.
Many US bank account types also have monthly fees, which can often be waived if you maintain a pre-agreed minimum deposit, or if you take other products from the bank, such as a credit card or insurance. If you’d rather an account which has no monthly fees without these eligibility requirements, you may want to take a look at alternative USD account providers like Wise and Revolut, which both offer account plans which come without maintenance fees.
Is it possible to open a fee-free account in the US?
Almost all US bank accounts have some fees to consider. However, there are accounts which don’t have any fixed monthly costs, which can work out cheaper overall compared to options which have ongoing fees you pay no matter how much you transact.
If you’re looking for a low fee account option to hold and spend USD, it’s worth checking out providers which have accounts with no maintenance costs, and no minimum balance requirements, so you’ll only need to pay for the services you use.
What are the additional costs?
You’ll need to read through the full account fee schedule and terms and conditions to help you choose the right option for you. Look out for extra costs which can apply, such as:
Maintenance costs - these are monthly fees you’ll pay even if you don’t use the account, and may be waived if you maintain a high enough balance
Withdrawal fees - which can be high, particularly if you’re using an out of network ATM or if you’re overseas
Foreign transaction fees - a percentage charge usually added whenever you sue your card to spend in a foreign currency, in person or online
Cheque fees - cheque usage is higher in the US compared to the UK, and you’ll often find there’s a fee to get and use a cheque book
Interest or overdraft charges - if your account has an overdraft facility there are usually costs to consider, including interest charges when you use it
Closing or inactivity fees - some accounts will have a closing fee if you shut the facility soon after opening it, or you may pay an inactivity fee if you don’t transact often
International transfer fees - costs apply when you send money overseas, which can include transfer fees and an exchange rate markup
Tips for sending money between the UK and the US
If you’re looking to open a US bank account because you need to make international payments between pounds and dollars, you’ll want to find ways to cut the costs of international transfers. Here are some tips:
Look at the exchange rate being offered - compare it against the rate you see on Google to see if a markup has been added
Check the transfer fee which may be a flat rate or a percentage, depending on the provider
Ask about third party fees which can be deducted as the transfer is sent, meaning your recipient gets less in the end
Consider choosing a third party specialist provider which may offer a lower overall cost compared to your normal bank
Our most frequently asked questions
Making an international money transfer using your app is just as easy as going online and using your laptop.
First step is for you to visit the provider's website. You can do this from our comparison tool or the links in this article. Almost all of the providers have dedicated apps available for both Apple and Android devices.
Here is a summary of the key steps to making an international money transfer using digital means:
Visit the provider’s website or download their smartphone app. Set up an account with the provider. Create a transfer to the recipient. Pay for the transfer and wait for your money to be converted and sent overseas.
A wire transfer is where you transfer money electronically, typically between financial institutions like international banks or credit unions. Wire transfers generally take 1 to 3 business days, and they are safe and secure.
For international telegraphic transfers, you will need the relevant details of the recipient’s account information, like a SWIFT or IBAN. Some banks do charge a fee to send or receive money using a wire transfer, so if you’re using this to send money overseas or fund a currency exchange, make sure you know how much you’ll pay.
You can apply for a bank account online in the US if you have a proof of ID and a US SSN, alongside your local US proof of address. If you don’t have these documents to hand, you may want to look at specialist non-bank alternatives like Wise and Revolut which offer digital accounts you can open from the UK, which can hold and exchange US dollars alongside pounds.