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Opening an American bank account is not difficult if you’ve done your research. There are three categories of banks – large national banks, regional banks and Internet banks - each financial institution (bank) has different services and fees. Credit unions also offer smart banking options. It’s important to:

  • Figure out exactly what you need from your bank. Visit MY BANK TRACKER for advice on choosing the right bank.
  • Compare banks on websites like FindABetterBank and where you can get unbiased information about banks and credit unions.
  • Ask questions of bank representatives if you don’t fully understand requirements, fee schedules and other important details before signing up.
  • Ask other Foreign Nationals where they bank. See the Foreign National directory under “Resources and Government Links” to contact other scholars for advice on banking.

Before visiting a bank, research its specific requirements for opening an account to avoid delays and frustrations. Make sure you understand the requirements, since banks have varying requirements for opening an account. A bank may ask for any of the following when opening an account:

  • A valid (current) official photograph identification - It needs to contain your name, address, and have an expiration date on it.
  • Valid Driver's License – It can be from the country you are coming from and must contain your photograph, address, and date of birth. It must also be current as of the date you plan on opening your bank account.
  • A current passport from the country you are coming from - This should contain a photograph also. The passport cannot be expired at the time you are opening your new bank account. Some banks will accept your passport and not require another form of photo identification. Once again, ask first.
  • A valid credit card - A valid credit card is any legitimate credit card with your name. It must have an expiration date that is current at the time of your opening the new bank account. Major credit cards accepted worldwide include VISA, MasterCard, and American Express. Check with your potential bank to be certain they accept yours.
  • A valid bankcard - A bankcard is also known as a cash card or debit card. It would be from the bank of your originating country. It must have your name on it, along with an expiration date. It must be current as of the date of your opening the new bank account.
  • Date of birth - Your date of birth will be needed to further prove you are whom you claim to be. Having your birth certificate available can prove this.
  • Your mother's maiden name - This is needed, usually, for security purposes. This information will be put onto your account. When you have a question on your account, this is one of the 'secret questions' the bank will ask. They use this to ascertain that you are really you.
  • Rental agreement – This is used to prove your address.
  • Social Security card - If your country has a social security card, bring it. This is another form of identification used as proof of whom you claim to be.

Speak directly to a bank representative to confirm the required forms of identification before making your decision. Also, read the conditions and terms of the account carefully. It’s important to understand all of the charges and limits before you set up the account.

Be sure to contact the benefits department at National Jewish Health to learn about the onsite Credit Union and ATM.