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Can International Students Open a US Bank Account Before Leaving for the US?
Everything you need to understand about opening a US bank account from your home country.
Most of the big (traditional) banks that are international student-friendly offer an online option to set up your account with them. However, they require you to provide a Social Security Number (SSN) and/or a US phone number. As an incoming international student, you can apply for a SSN only a few weeks after arriving in the US and having secured a valid job that is approved by your university.
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If you choose to go with the traditional banks, as an international student, you will be required to book an appointment with your desired bank’s branch location near you, and visit the bank location with your documents, as specified by the bank. This means that you will have to rely on carrying large sums of cash from your home country, carefully store it in your dorm room till your bank appointment date, and finally deposit it once you’ve opened your US bank account in person. The alternative is to use a forex card from your home country or a debit/credit card issued by your bank account in your home country, and pay hefty foreign transaction and/or currency exchange fees.
Neobanks (derived from the Greek word “neos”, meaning “new”) are institutions that provide banking services strictly online through an app, and opposed to traditional banking, do not have any physical locations or real estate. These online accounts cater to the need and requirement of immediate banking by allowing customers to open a savings and/or checking account, but don’t necessarily offer the full suite of products that a traditional bank has to offer.
Neobanks are disrupting the banking industry through low-cost, user friendly and simple online banking solutions. Unlike the big traditional names you must have heard about, neobanks are not banks themselves. Instead, they are simply fintech companies that are backed by other regulated banks. For example, your checking account balance will be held by the regulated bank that is backing and supporting the neobank.
Can International Students Set Up Neobank Accounts?
Yes! You can get your US bank account set up before you leave for the US and can pay for your expenses using your US debit card or secured credit card from the second you land in the US.
Although the concept of neobanks is still fairly new, it’s safe to hold your money with them as long as the neobank is backed by a regulated bank and is FDIC insured.
The following neobanks are international student-friendly and do not require you to provide a Social Security Number (SSN) to open an account with them:
Sable provides online banking services and is backed by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International Inc. Sable accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per depositor through Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC. International students can apply with their passport and F-1 Visa, without an SSN.
Learn More: https://sablecard.com/
Majority provides an all-in-one online banking solution and is tailored towards migrants. It facilitates banking services through Sutton Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. For a $5 monthly membership fee, Majority can help you get your account setup without requiring an SSN.
Learn More: https://www.majority.com/en/
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