Opening a bank account in the US without a SSN

Recently, I started working for a US company and would like to receive my pay in a US bank account. As I am not based in the US, I don’t have a Social Security Number nor a US address.

According to a blog post by Ashray, it was possible with just your passport and a utility bill from your home country showing your name and address; as long as you are physically present in the US: How To Open a US Bank Account As a Tourist / Non Resident

On this trip to San Francisco, I brought along a utility bill and gave it a shot. Ashray had success with Capital One, but there are no Capital One branches in San Francisco. I tried three banks and only found success with one: Wells Fargo. I also tried with US Bank and Chase, but both required a local US utility bill or some sort of proof of address in the US.

With Wells Fargo, it was easy to open a checking account with just my passport and the utility bill from my home, and a US$50 minimum deposit. The Everyday Checking account has a monthly US$10 charge, but it can be avoided if you have a US$500 direct deposit, or maintain a US$1,500 minimum balance in the account, or perform 10 transactions on your debit card.

Within 30 minutes I had my account set up together with online banking access, a temporary debit card and PIN number, and a couple blank cheques and deposit tickets. The minimum deposit was done with the new debit card at their ATM machine. Super easy. The permanent debit card will be posted to me at my home address.

The main drawback of a Wells Fargo account is the ATM charges if you have to withdraw from another bank’s ATM (non-Wells Fargo). It’s not a problem on the west coast as there are many Wells Fargo branches and ATMs, but they don’t have such a big presence on the East Coast. It’s US$2.50 charged by Wells Fargo, plus however much the ATM’s bank charges you.

I intend to use Transferwise.com to initiate an ACH Pull to transfer money back home whenever I need it.

So thanks to Ashray for his useful blog post, and I am blogging for anyone wanting to open a bank account in San Francisco or on the west coast: Try Wells Fargo!

EDIT 07 July 2016: Here’s a top tip, opening an account will require a US phone number. You can setup a Google Voice number before you go into the branch to open the account. You will need a local US mobile number in order to receive a confirmation code to get a Google Voice number. Just ask one of your colleagues or a friend to help you out. Then, when you open the bank account, just use your Google Voice number as your main phone number. You will not be able to receive texts from the Bank (for things like access codes), but you will be able to receive phone calls from the bank on Google Hangouts even if you are out of the US!

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