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April 22nd 2023

How to open a U.S. bank account without an SSN

Banks need to verify account holders' identification, and some banks do this with an SSN. But there’s no law that prevents a bank from opening an account for someone without an SSN.

Nova Credit is a cross-border credit bureau that allows newcomers to apply for U.S. credit cards, phone plans, and loans using their foreign credit history.

Nova Credit receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but this content is not provided by them. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Louis DeNicola
Personal Finance Writer

Despite what you may have been told, it IS possible to open a bank account without a Social Security Number (SSN).

Opening an account is one of the first financial steps you may want to take after arriving in the United States. Checking and savings accounts are two types of deposit accounts that offer a safe place to save and easily access your money. 

If you haven’t been issued a Social Security Number (SSN), or don’t qualify for one, some banks might not let you open an account. However, that’s not true at every bank. Banks need to verify account holders' identification, and some banks do this with an SSN. But there’s no law that prevents a bank from opening a bank account for someone without an SSN. In the same vein, you do NOT need a Social Security Number to start your US credit history. Experian and TransUnion will track and attempt to match your name, birth date, and address to your credit history. However, specified personal information like an SSN and ITIN make it easier for credit bureaus to report information accurately.

Find an eligible bank account

To start, you’ll need to find which banks offer accounts to people without an SSN. You may want to ask friends, family members, colleagues or other community members who have personal experience with a similar situation.

Often, large international banks such as Citibank or Bank of America may be able to help you get started. However, even some local banks or credit unions (nonprofit financial institutions that offer bank-like services) may have available bank accounts for people without SSNs. Also, look into international banks that are based in your home country and have branches in the U.S., such as TD Bank for Canadians or HSBC if you’re from the UK. 

Compare account fees and features

Once you have a short-list of acceptable banks and credit unions, review the different bank accounts that they offer for people without SSNs to determine which is best. Generally, most banks offer checking accounts, which come with a debit card and checks, but don’t pay you interest, and savings accounts, which historically limit you to six fee-free withdrawals a month and generally offer more interest than checking accounts (the six-withdrawal limit is federally mandated, but that restriction was temporarily lifted in April 2020 due to COVID-19. Check with your bank to see if it has been reinstated). Many people open both a checking and savings account. 

However, for those with and without a Social Security Number, banks may also offer different levels or types of checking and savings accounts. Review the terms, and look closely at:

  • Monthly fees: Some banks don’t have any monthly fees. With others, you may have to pay a fee if you don’t maintain a minimum daily or monthly balance, or meet another requirement (such as having direct deposits into the account)

  • ATM fees: Banks may charge a fee if you withdraw money from an out-of-network ATM. However, there are also banks that both don’t charge a fee and refund fees that ATM operators charge

  • Paper statement fee: If the bank charges a fee for paper statements, you can often avoid it by requesting online statements instead 

  • Transfer fees: See if the bank charges you a fee to electronically transfer money to accounts at different banks

  • Interest rates: Many large banks offer low interest rates on savings accounts. However, you can sometimes find high-rate accounts, particularly from credit unions and online-only banks

Additionally, consider the banks overall convenience. Depending on your needs, you may want to see if it offers a mobile app, online banking, lets you electronically deposit checks or has nearby branches. 

Recently moved to the U.S.?

Put your foreign credit score to work in the United States

Check if you're eligible to use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card.

Gather your documents

Once you determine which bank you’d like to work with, you may want to call the bank to ask what you’ll need to submit an application for a bank account without an SSN. Generally, you’ll need documents that can prove your name, date of birth, and address; and a government-issued identification number of some kind. These may include:

  • Two forms of identification: A primary government-issued identification card, such as a passport, driver’s license or state ID. And a second form, such as a bank account statement, utility bill or birth certificate

  • An identification number: Which may be an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), foreign passport number or foreign driver’s license number if you don’t have an SSN

  • Proof of address: You may be able to use one of your identification forms for this, such as a government ID card or utility bill that has your physical address on it. 

  • Contact information: Such as your phone number and email address

If the bank doesn’t accept your passport and passport number, you may need to apply for an ITIN before you can open an account. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues ITINs to people who don’t qualify for an SSN but need to file a federal income tax return in the U.S. For example, if you made money as a contractor or consultant while in the U.S., you should have an ITIN. 

We’ve created a guide that offers more details on what an ITIN is, who qualifies and how you can go about applying for an ITIN. Additionally, once you have an ITIN, you may be able to use it to apply for certain credit cards as well. 

Submit your application

Once you’ve researched banks that don’t require an SSN, explored the account types they offer, and gathered the required documents, you can fill out and submit your application. Depending on the bank, you may be able to do this online, or you may have to apply in-person at a bank branch. And if the account requires an initial deposit, you can hand over cash (if you’re at a branch) or use an online transfer. 

The process is usually fairly straightforward, and you might be able to open a bank account in a matter of minutes. Also, opening a bank account (with or without an SSN) usually doesn’t require a review of your credit report or credit score, so lacking credit shouldn’t keep you from opening an account. 

However, there are specialty credit reporting bureaus that keep track of checking account activity. If you have unpaid fees or write bad checks (i.e., you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the check’s amount), then you could find it’s difficult to open new accounts in the future. 

Monitor your account

After setting up your bank account, you can deposit money into your account and start using it for day-to-day expenses and your savings goals. If your account has requirements you need to meet to avoid a fee, make sure you create a system for tracking your progress. 

For example, you can sometimes set up free text or email notifications that will warn you if your account balance drops below an amount of your choosing. Knowing this, you may be able to move or transfer money into the account to avoid a fee. 

Many budgeting apps and programs also let you electronically link multiple bank and credit card accounts, letting you monitor all your financial activity from one screen. You can also set up savings goals and track your progress over time. 

Continue setting up your finances

Opening checking and savings accounts are an important first step after moving to the U.S., but you may also want to learn how to establish and build your credit. The credit system in the U.S. impacts many aspects of life, and even if you never want to take out a loan, you may still want good credit to help you rent an apartment, start a new job, or buy a mobile phone. 

Nova Credit can make it easier to get started by allowing newcomers from select countries to use their established credit to qualify for partner companies’ loans, credit cards, and services in the U.S. If we haven’t started working with the credit bureaus in your home country yet, or you didn’t establish credit before moving, there are also other ways to get started.

Recently moved to the U.S.?

Put your foreign credit score to work in the United States

Check if you're eligible to use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card.

More from Nova Credit:

Credit Cards for No Credit

Credit Cards for International Students

Credit Cards Without SSN

Credit Cards to Build Credit

How to Build Credit

How to use your international credit report to get credit in the U.S.

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