How to Open a US Bank Account Online from the UK

Image of the UK, How to open a US Bank account from the UK online

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.

The easiest way to open a US bank account from the UK is to:

  1. 1

    Make sure you are eligible for your chosen US bank online. Follow the link to start an online application for your choice of account.

  2. 2

    Scan and upload all requested documents including your passport and visa.

  3. 3

    Provide your US address to have your card and further information sent to you securely.

  4. 4

    When approved, transfer the requested deposit amount into your new US account and complete activation.

Can I open 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.

UK passport: Are you able to open a US bank account from the UK

What documents do I need to supply?

What documents do I need to supply to open a US bank account from the UK?

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.

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:

Wise Borderless Account

You also have the option to open a multi-currency Wise Borderless account.

Incredibly simple and easy to set up, this card holds 40 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.

Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) Logo: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

Revolut

Revolut Logo: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

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.

 

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.

Monzo Logo: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

Remitly

Remitly Logo: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

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.

 

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:

JP Morgan Chase Bank

  • Monthly fee:
    $10-$12
  • Waived if you:
    Deposit $500 or a $1500 minimum daily balance

Wells Fargo

  • Monthly fee:
    $10
  • Waived if you:
    Deposit $500 or a $1500 minimum daily balance

Bank of America

  • Monthly fee:
    $12
  • Waived if you:
    Deposit $250 per month or a $1500 daily balance

Citibank

  • Monthly fee:
    $10-$12
  • Waived if you:
    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.

Capital One

  • Monthly fee:
    None
  • Minimum Balance:
    None

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:

ATM fees

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.

ATM Fees: How to open an account in the US without a bank account
International Transfer Fees: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

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.

Overdraft Fees: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

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

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.

Alternative banking options

If you are unable to open a US bank account online from the UK because you are not yet a US citizen or unable to meet the eligibility requirements, then you might be able to explore an alternative option of opening an international account with a UK bank.

There are a number of UK banks who have international branches in the US and offer an international account as part of their services.

HSBC (International Account)

HSBC Logo:  How to open an account in the US without a bank 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

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.

Before applying, it’s a good idea to check their eligibility checker to ensure you meet their further criteria and work out what account is best for you. If you do, click here for more info.

Lloyds Logo: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

Barclays

Barclays Logo: How to open an account in the US without a bank account

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.

By Justin Rampono Updated April 9th, 2021