The best bank accounts for U.S. newcomers in 2022

Opening a bank account may be one of the first moves you want to take after arriving to the US. This article covers some of the best banking services available to U.S. newcomers

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Louis DeNicola
Personal Finance Writer

First, some good news. While you may need to provide several forms of identification to open a new account, many banks don’t restrict access only to U.S. citizens. A few may require a Social Security number (SSN) or only be available to resident aliens, but there are plenty of options to choose from even if you don’t meet that criteria

With different features in mind, we’ve found a few of the best bank accounts for US newcomers. 

  • Best intro bonus: Chase Total Checking®

  • Best for frequent travel: Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account

  • Best mobile bank: Varo Money

  • Best rewards checking: Discover Cashback Debit

  • Best for savings features: Chime

  • Best for everyday use: Check your local banks and credit unions

Each account offers something specific, and we highlight a few of the features and fees you should beware of regardless of where you open an account. 

Best intro bonus: Chase Total Checking®

Banks frequently offer new customers a bonus for opening a checking account and meeting certain requirements. 

The current offer from Chase will give you $300 to open a Chase Total Checking® and set up direct deposits to the account. It’s not the highest sign-up bonus available, but it’s a high-paying one considering the requirements. You may need to visit a Chase branch to open an account if you’re not a US citizen, but can still qualify for these bonuses. 

Additionally, if you open a Chase Savings account, deposit $15,000 within 20 business days, and keep a balance of $15,000 for 90 days you can earn $200. And if you do both the checking and savings account, you get an extra $100 for a total of $600. 

  • Opening deposit requirement: $0

  • Monthly fee: $12, but waived if you have $500 in monthly direct deposits, a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500, or an average beginning day balance of $5,000 in linked Chase accounts

  • ATM fees: Free at Chase network ATMs. Chase charges $2.50 to $5.00 each time you use a non-Chase ATM, and the ATM operator may charge an additional fee

  • Overdraft fee: $34, up to three times per day

  • Debit card foreign transaction fees: Yes

  • Free checks: No

  • Mobile deposits: Yes

  • FDIC insured: Yes

Best for frequent travel: Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account

The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account is a popular option for people who love to travel. The bank doesn’t charge any ATM withdrawal fees, and it will reimburse all your ATM fees each month. This can be especially useful if you plan on frequent travel outside the U.S., as other banks may charge higher ATM fees for ATM usage outside the US. 

Although Charles Schwab has retail locations for its investment business, this is primarily an online bank account and you can’t deposit cash. You can still set up direct deposits into the account, electronically transfer money from other accounts, and deposit checks by mail. However, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account may be best as an additional account rather than your primary bank account. 

You must be a resident alien or a US citizen to qualify for the checking account, and you may need to visit a Schwab branch or print and mail a paper application (rather than using the online form) if you want to apply with an ITIN. You’ll also have to open a Schwab One brokerage account that will be linked to your bank account. But you don’t need to fund or use the brokerage account.

  • Opening deposit requirement: $0

  • Monthly fee: $0

  • ATM fees: Unlimited ATM reimbursements on withdrawals worldwide.

  • Overdraft fee: $0, but the overdraft may be covered by a loan in your brokerage account that could accrue interest. 

  • Debit card foreign transaction fees: No

  • Free checks: Yes 

  • Mobile deposits: Yes

  • FDIC insured: Yes

Best mobile bank: Varo Money

If you’re looking for an app-based bank, Varo Money offers few fees and a high interest rate on its savings account. However, you must be a permanent resident with an SSN to open a Varo Bank account. 

While your account lives on a mobile app, you’ll still receive a debit card and have access to customer support using a phone or email. With your debit card, you can withdraw cash for free at Allpoint® ATMs, which are located at popular merchants in the U.S., Canda, Mexico, Australia, and the UK. The card also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases outside the US. 

Although this is an online-only account, you can deposit up to $1,000 in cash each day, up to $10,000 per month, at stores that are part of the Green Dot Network®, including Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. You may have to pay a fee of up to $5.95 for each deposit, though.

  • Opening deposit requirement: $0

  • Monthly fee: $0

  • ATM fees: Free at Allpoint® ATMs, other ATM operators may charge fees.  

  • Overdraft fee: $0

  • Debit card foreign transaction fees: No

  • Checks: Not available

  • Mobile deposits: Yes (iOS only)

  • FDIC insured: Yes

Best rewards checking: Discover Cashback Debit

While rewards credit cards are common in the U.S., only a few banks offer rewards checking accounts. The Discover Cashback Debit account is one of these. Using the debit card, you can earn 1% cash on up to $3,000 worth of purchases every month. You can also apply online with either an SSN or ITIN, although you need to be a resident alien. 

Discover Bank technically has a branch in Greenwood, Del., but it’s basically an online-only account. You can deposit money into the account via direct deposit, an electronic transfer, mobile check deposit, or by mailing a check to Discover. However, you can’t deposit cash. 

You can withdraw cash for free MoneyPass® ATMs and Allpoint® ATMs. However, you can only make purchases or withdraw cash with the Discover debit card in the U.S., Canda, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

  • Opening deposit requirement: $0

  • Monthly fee: $0

  • ATM fees: Free at Allpoint® and MoneyPass® ATMs, other ATM operators may charge fees

  • Overdraft fees: $0

  • Debit card foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Checks: Free

  • Mobile deposits: Yes

  • FDIC insured: Yes

Best for savings features: Chime

Chime not only considers itself an online banking platform but also a tech company, because they’re constantly rolling out new money-saving features. One of Chime’s most popular features is its fee-free accounts.  Since Chime has no physical branches, they’re able to use the money saved on overhead to help their users save. They recently rolled out a new feature called Spot Me, that covers a user's overdrafts up to $100 and allows it to be paid back at a later date with no additional fees or interest rates. Finally, because of Chime’s status as a second chance bank, signing up does not require a credit score check.

Chime is a fantastic bank for U.S. newcomers because of its ease of access. While the bank is only available to full-time U.S. residents, there’s definitely a lot of great features offered that make it worth it—from Auto Savings, to Get Paid Early, to SpotMe, there’s something available that anyone can benefit from.

  • Opening deposit requirement: $0

  • Monthly fee: $0

  • ATM fees: Free at MoneyPass® and Visa® Plus Alliance ATMs, other ATM operators may charge fees.

  • Overdraft fee: $0 and SpotMe Protection

  • Debit card foreign transaction fees: No

  • Checks: Fee-Free Digital Checks

  • Mobile deposits: Yes 

  • FDIC insured: Yes

Best for everyday use: Check your local banks and credit unions

Online checking accounts and online savings accounts may offer the lowest fees and great perks, but if you want frequent access to in-person service, you’re likely looking for a branch-based bank. 

Consider which banks or credit unions (nonprofit financial institutions that offer similar types of accounts and services) have branches near where you live, work, or go to school.

Large international and national banks, such as Citi, HSBC, Chase, and Wells Fargo have locations across the country and around the world. A local community bank or credit union may also be a good fit. 

Generally, large banks’ accounts may charge more fees than online or local options unless you keep a lot of money at the bank. However, if you can meet the requirements, you might find the large financial institutions offer the best checking accounts for your needs. The banks often have different tiers of accounts, and the higher tiers can give you extra perks, such as interest on your checking account, reimbursed ATM fees, and rate discounts on loans. 

Smaller banks, online banks, and credit unions sometimes offer these same perks and have much lower (and fewer) fees without large balance requirements. Some of the smaller financial institutions even offer many of the same features, including mobile apps and services like online bill pay — which you can use to set up bill payments directly from your account. 

Exploring the features

Here’s a more in-depth explanation of the features and fees that we highlight for each of the bank accounts.

  • Opening deposit requirement: Some bank accounts require you make an initial minimum deposit to open your account. Often this is around $25 to $100, although, as the examples above show, some accounts don’t require a minimum deposit at all. This requirement is also more common on money market accounts, a type of savings account in the U.S. that may have a higher interest rate than other accounts but also often has a high minimum balance requirement. 

  • Monthly fee: Some accounts will charge a monthly maintenance fee if account holders don’t meet certain requirements. These might include having direct deposits into the account or maintaining a minimum daily balance. If you don’t think you’ll maintain the account balance, look for a free checking account that doesn’t have any minimum balance requirements or monthly service fees. 

  • ATM fees: Many banks offer fee-free ATM usage at their ATMs, but may charge a fee if you use an ATM that’s run by a different financial institution or independent ATM operator. Credit unions often have fewer ATMs, but they may be part of large ATM networks that give you access to free ATMs around the country. Regardless of whether your bank or credit union charges ATM fees, the ATM operator might charge you a fee. Some banks and credit unions will refund these fees each month (sometimes only up to a certain dollar amount), but others don’t. 

  • Overdraft fees: If a purchase or withdrawal would bring your account balance below zero, the bank or credit union might decline the transaction and charge you a insufficient funds fee (NFS). Or, it may approve the transaction and charge you an overdraft fee. Alternatively, you can sign up for overdraft protection. The protection means that the bank or credit union will always cover the cost of the transaction, or will transfer the money to your checking account from a linked savings account, credit card, or line of credit. However, even with the protection, you may need to pay a transfer fee. 

  • Debit card foreign transaction fees: Some banks may charge a fee for debit card transactions that take place outside the US. The fee may be a percentage of the money you’re withdrawing or of your debit card purchases. 

  • Checks: If you’re opening a checking account, you might receive free checks or have to pay for checks. Some online-only accounts don’t offer checks at all. 

  • Mobile deposits: Some banks and credit unions let you take a picture and deposit a check using a mobile app. 

  • FDIC insured: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), part of the federal government, helps guarantee the money that’s stored in FDIC-insured accounts. Depositing your money at FDIC-insured banks gives you assurance that even if the bank goes bankrupt, the government will reimburse your savings. The insurance covers up to $250,000 per depositor, per ownership category. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) offers similar insurance, and your money will be safe in an NCUA-insured credit union. 

One feature we didn’t highlight is the annual percentage yield (APY) that each account offers, because these rates tend to change often. The APY can help you understand how much interest you’ll earn each year from the money in your account and you should consider the APY that each bank offers when you’re comparing accounts. The APY can be especially important if you plan on keeping a large amount of money in the account. 

Checking accounts, particularly those from large, traditional banks might not offer any interest. There are sometimes interest checking accounts available, and some high-yield checking accounts offer an APY that’s even higher than you’ll find on a savings account, but you may need to meet certain requirements (like using your debit card a certain number of times or maintaining a certain minimum balance) to earn interest. 

By comparison, savings accounts almost always offer an APY on the money you keep in the account. While traditional banks may fall short when it comes to savings, many online-only banks offer low fees and high interest rates.

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