If you’re planning to move to the US, even for a few months, then you’ll need to open a bank account. It’s not so difficult… if you’re a bit prepared.
1) How to open a bank account in the United States
To open a bank account in the US, you first need to choose a bank.
One option is to pick a large international bank, such as HSBC for instance. This way, you can open an account in your own country beforehand, and then the transition will be easier.
Another option is to pick an American bank, as they’ll have more branches all across the country. This might be a good idea! Withdrawing money from an ATM (Automated Teller Machine), where you can withdraw money with your card) can cost a dollar or two if it doesn’t belong to the bank of your own account.
The biggest banks in the US are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank and more.
Once you’ve picked a bank, you just need to go to their nearest office and you’ll get to talk to an employee who will guide you through the process. You may want to be sure that you can understand real American English, so you can follow everything they say! After all, those details are important!
Some banks also offer an online option to open your account, but you should probably go ask an employee face to face instead. It will be easier to have answers to your questions, and a more personalized plan.
And if or when you don’t understand everything in English, don’t panic! I suggest you start now training your ear to better understand Americans!
2) What do you need to open a bank account?
Well, the closer you are to being a full-time employed American citizen, the better. (Be sure to check my tips on how to succeed in a job interview in English and all about the types of behavioral questions they ask in interviews!)
So you’ll need an ID first: an identification document, such as your Identity card, your passport, or your driving license. They’ll also ask for a small picture of you in ID-format.
Then you want to have a Social Security Number (or SSN.) You might not have one when you arrive in the country, but you can often use your Employer Identification Number (or EIN) instead.
Then you’ll need a proof of residence, such as an electricity bill, or an attestation from your landlord. (You’ll need these documents to enroll your kids in the American school system too, so keep them handy!)
Also, it’ll help if you have an American phone number too. You can take an American phone with a basic plan, or a cheaper plan just to receive phone calls.
If you can’t, in last resort, you can give the number of your business contact in the US.
Finally, you need to deposit some money on your account to activate it, around $100.
3) What do you get?
When you open a bank account in the US, you’ll first get a checking account.
It comes with a checkbook, and a debit card.
You can’t be overdrawn on a debit card, you can’t take more money than you put in, even temporarily.
If you have savings, money that you won’t spend in your daily life, then you can also ask for a savings account: withdrawing that money is harder, but it comes with a higher interest rate.
With time, you might get access to a credit card.
In the United States, credit cards depend on your Credit Score.
Your Credit Score is a complex number that depends on many factors, such as how long you’ve had your account, your income (the money you earn each month), your spending history…
To improve your credit score, you need to take credits, and pay them in time. Commit to monthly bills and subscription plans, and after some time, you’ll be able to get loans and credits for a car!
Finally, being a client of a bank gives you access to their online services. They often have an app that you can download. Remember to turn your phone’s country settings to “USA,” though! You can also use a smartphone you bought in the US.
So, to recap:
– Choose a bank, preferably with many branches in your American area
– Go to the nearest office and ask to open an account, with your ID and the papers in hand that prove you live there.
– Get a debit card and a checking account.
– Spend your money wisely to improve your credit score.
And now you’re done!
Now, tell me…
What’s your experience with an American bank?
Write it down in the comments! It’s a great way to practice, and share with the world!
If you’re planning to move to the USA, but need to level up your fluency so you can enjoy your new life and fit in with Americans, let me help you, with Master Real American English.
It’s a 3-6 month coaching program in which my team and I empower you to express yourself fluently and naturally, so that people focus on your personality and professional expertise, not on your level of English.
For more information, go to this page where you can apply to join this program today.
Thank you for learning with Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!
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