International students face unique challenges when moving to a new country for their studies. One essential aspect of getting accustomed to a new country is opening a bank account to manage one's finances.
In this guide, we will explore the best bank accounts for international students, providing an overview of what they are, how they work, and the best one for your circumstances.
What is an International Bank Account?
International bank accounts cater specifically to the needs of people living and studying abroad. These accounts often come with features that make it easier for international students to manage their finances in their new country.
An international bank account is a type of bank account that allows account holders to access and manage their finances across multiple countries.
These accounts typically provide features such as:
- Multi-currency support
- Low or no fees for international money transfers
- Online and mobile banking capabilities
It is legal for international students to withdraw money and open bank accounts in their host country as long as they meet the requirements set by the bank and local regulations.
Students should always ensure they comply with any legal and tax obligations associated with their student status and having an international student bank account.
Types of Bank Accounts for International Students
There are various types of bank accounts available to international students, including:
- Checking accounts: These accounts are designed for everyday use and offer features such as a debit card, online and mobile banking, and bill payment services.
- Savings accounts: These accounts help students save money and earn interest on their deposits. They may have limited transaction capabilities or monthly transaction limits compared to checking accounts.
- Student-specific accounts: Some banks offer accounts tailored for students, with low or no fees, special promotions, and additional features to help manage their finances.
How Bank Accounts for International Students Work
Understanding how bank accounts for international students work is crucial for efficiently managing finances in a new country.
Opening an International Bank Account as a College Student
To open a bank account as an international student, you will generally need the following documents:
- Proof of address in your home country and/or the host country
- Proof of enrollment at a college or university
- Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), if applicable
Some banks may have additional requirements, so it's essential to research and prepare all necessary documents before using a US bank account or visiting a local branch.
How to Open a Checking Account with American Big Banks
International students in the United States can open checking accounts with large banks such as Bank of America, Capital One, Chase bank, and Wells Fargo. These banks offer accounts designed for students, with features like low fees, online banking, and debit cards.
To open an account, visit a local branch and provide the required documents. Bank representatives can help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
Online Banking Options and Services
Online banks are an increasingly popular choice for most international students due to their convenience and low fees. Some popular online banks for international students include:
- Wise (formerly TransferWise)
- Starling Bank
These banks offer features such as multi-currency support, low fees for international transactions, and easy-to-use mobile apps.
Opening an account with an online bank typically involves completing an application on the bank's website or app and providing the necessary documentation.
Factors to Consider when Choosing an International Bank Account
Selecting the best or right bank account as an international student requires considering various factors that can impact your finances and banking experience.
Minimum Balance Requirements
Some banks may require account holders to maintain a minimum balance to avoid fees.
As an international student, choosing a bank account with manageable minimum balance requirements is essential, so you don't incur unnecessary costs.
International students often need to transfer money between their home and host countries. Look for a bank account that offers low or no fees for international transactions to save money on these transfers.
Other Account Fees
Bank accounts can come with various fees, such as monthly maintenance, ATM, and transaction fees.
Carefully review the monthly fee structure of each account to ensure you're choosing the most cost-effective option.
Tip: Student-specific accounts often have lower fees, making them an attractive option for international students.
If you plan to build credit in your host country, consider choosing a bank or financial institution that offers credit-building products, such as secured credit cards or credit builder loans.
Establishing a good credit history can be helpful for future financial needs, such as renting an apartment or buying a car.
Best Bank Accounts for International Students in the USA
Several excellent bank account options exist for international students studying in the United States.
Some of the top choices include:
Chime – Best Overall Choice
Chime is a popular online banking platform that offers user-friendly accounts with no monthly fees, $200 free overdraft protection, or foreign transaction fees.
Its mobile app allows students to easily manage their finances, deposit checks, and transfer money. Chime's vast network of fee-free ATMs makes it a convenient choice for international students.
- No-fee overdraft protection
- 70,000+ free ATMs
- Mobile deposit and bill pay
- $0/mo with qualifying activities
Capital One – Best Large Bank With Few Fees
Capital One is a well-known bank offering a range of accounts suitable for international students. Its 360 Checking account stands out with no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, and access to a wide network of ATMs.
Capital One also provides a user-friendly mobile app, allowing students to manage their finances on the go. The bank's extensive branch network and customer service make it an excellent choice for students who prefer a more traditional banking experience with fewer fees.
- No-fee overdraft protection
- 70,000+ free ATMs
- Mobile deposit and bill pay
- $0/mo with qualifying activities
Upgrade – Best For Cash Back Debit Rewards & Credit Building
Upgrade is a fintech company that offers a unique combination of banking services, focusing on rewards and credit building.
Its Upgrade Rewards Checking Account includes cashback rewards on debit card purchases and an innovative credit-building feature that helps students establish a credit history in the United States.
With no monthly fees and an easy-to-use mobile app, Upgrade makes managing finances convenient for international students. Additionally, the cashback rewards program allows students to earn rewards while making everyday purchases, which can help offset expenses during their time abroad.
- No overdraft fees
- ATM reimbursements
- Cashback rewards
Wise – Best For Transfering Currencies & Money
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is an online bank that offers multi-currency accounts with low fees for international transactions, making it an excellent choice for international students.
Bank of America Student Accounts
Bank of America offers student accounts with no monthly maintenance fees, debit cards, online and mobile banking, and access to a vast network of ATMs.
Chase International Student Account
Chase provides international students with accounts with no monthly service fees, free debit cards, online and mobile banking, and access to a wide network of ATMs.
Wells Fargo Student Account
Wells Fargo offers student accounts featuring low or no monthly fees, debit cards, online and mobile banking, and access to a large network of ATMs.
Best Online Banks for International Students in the UK
For international students studying in the United Kingdom, there are still plenty of regional and national banks to choose from.
It is an ideal choice for students studying in the UK and traveling within Europe.
Revolut – All-in-one Financial App
Revolut is an online bank that provides various financial services, including multi-currency accounts, low-cost international transactions, and additional features like budgeting tools and cryptocurrency support.
It can be a powerful supplement to a main checking account, or savings account for international students in the UK.
Starling Bank is a popular online bank in the UK, offering multi-currency accounts, low fees for international transactions, and an easy-to-use mobile app.
To recap, here are some of the best banks and checking accounts for international students:
- Chime: Best overall choice for international students with no monthly fees, $200 fee-free overdraft, and credit-building tools.
- Capital One: Free student banking for international students with a vast network of free ATMs and easy-to-get secured credit cards.
- Upgrade: International student banking with a cash back debit card that requires no hard credit check.
- Bank of America: Student accounts with no monthly maintenance fees, debit cards, online and mobile banking, and access to a vast network of ATMs.
- Chase: International student accounts with no monthly service fees, free debit cards, online and mobile banking, and access to a wide network of ATMs.
- Wells Fargo: Student accounts featuring low or no monthly fees, debit cards, online and mobile banking, and access to a large network of ATMs.
- Wise: Online bank with multi-currency accounts and low fees for international transactions.
- Starling Bank: UK-based online bank with multi-currency accounts, low fees for international transactions, and an easy-to-use mobile app.
- Revolut: Online bank offering a wide range of financial services, including multi-currency accounts, low-cost international transactions, and additional features like budgeting tools and cryptocurrency support.
International Bank Accounts in the US vs. Other Countries
International bank accounts in the US and other countries generally offer similar features, such as multi-currency support, online and mobile banking, and low fees for international transactions.
However, some differences may exist due to local regulations and banking practices. It's essential to research and compare banks in your host country to find the best account for your needs.
Tips & Tricks
Adapting to life abroad can be challenging, but having the right bank account can make managing your finances much easier.
Here are a few tips for non-residents and international students:
- Research and compare banks and accounts before arriving in your host country.
- Choose a bank with a wide network of ATMs to avoid withdrawal fees.
- Take advantage of online and mobile banking services for convenient access to your account.
- Look for student-specific accounts with low or no fees.
- Keep track of your transactions and monitor your account for any suspicious activity.
Can international students open a bank account online?
International students can open bank accounts online, especially with online banks like Wise, Starling Bank, and Revolut. However, each international student bank account has its specific requirements, and you will need to provide the necessary documentation during the application process.
What should I consider when choosing an international bank account?
Factors to consider when choosing an international bank account include minimum balance requirements, transfer fees, account costs and charges, and credit-building opportunities.
Do debit cards for international students exist?
Yes, most student checking accounts come with a debit card, which allows you to withdraw money to make purchases, withdraw cash from ATMs, and access various banking services.