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Bank accounts for expats?
October 29, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Are there any US banks that will allow me to open an account online or by phone with a US passport instead of a driver's license?

I haven't lived in the States for 4 years. I don't have a driver's license or state ID. I don't have a US bank account. I have a bank account in the country I'm living in but I'm expecting a deposit of over $10,000 US dollars and do not want to put it in my foreign account because of the IRS rules on reporting foreign accounts.

I've already tried Citibank, BoA, Wells Fargo, ING, and Charles Schwab. All of them required a driver's license or state ID. I'm not looking for an online offshore bank. It needs to be located in the United States. Thanks in advance.
posted by Ariadne to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think I needed to enter any ID information when I opened by Ally Bank account. YMMV, though.
posted by General Malaise at 12:11 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have a drivers license, and I opened an account on EmigrantDirect. At the time they had the highest interest rates around, and 5% a year I think that they're down to 1% or so now, though.
posted by newpotato at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2011


Talking to the US Embassy in the country you're in may give you some help.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:31 PM on October 29, 2011


I'll bet a bank that has branches where you are and in the US would know what to do, and perhaps be able to do what you need. How about Barclays?
posted by zippy at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2011


Don't forget that it is perfectly legal to have a foreign account with more than $10,000 in it. You just have to include an simple extra form when you file your US tax return, which you have to file anyway as an expat. It won't cost you any more tax than having the same amount of money in a US account, and you won't be exposed to exchange rate risks.
posted by monotreme at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2011


@ General Malaise. Ally required me to call them and then they were not able to complete my application because their main office was closed due to bad weather. However, they had the nicest customer service I've ever dealt with at a bank. Will give them a call back on Monday.

@ newpotato. I should have mentioned that I need a checking account because I want to link it to Paypal.

@ zippy. Citibank in Prague does not deal with US accounts at all. For example, you can't deposit money in a US Citibank account at a foreign Citibank branch. They also charge ridiculous fees for using foreign ATMS (at least they did in 2007). That's the reason I closed my US bank account in the first place. As far as I can see, Barclays is a UK and offshore bank and I need something in the US.

More suggestion are welcome.
posted by Ariadne at 1:08 PM on October 29, 2011


I can't tell if they will take a passport instead of State ID, but USAA Bank is pretty awesome and has good online facilities. You don't have to be military to bank with them.
posted by procrastination at 1:14 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am pretty sure that what you're looking to do is impossible. As I understand it, part of the Patriot Act requires that bank accounts domiciled in the United States be tied to a physical address located in the United States.
posted by dfriedman at 2:28 PM on October 29, 2011


I am pretty sure that what you're looking to do is impossible. As I understand it, part of the Patriot Act requires that bank accounts domiciled in the United States be tied to a physical address located in the United States.

My USAA is not tied to a physical address in the U.S. (However, it used to be. I'm not sure if you can open an account with USAA from outside the U.S.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:41 PM on October 29, 2011


My USAA profile is not...
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:42 PM on October 29, 2011


@ dfriedman I have a valid US address. I simply don't have a driver's license. I know it is possible to open a bank account in person with only a US passport, SSN, and birth certificate because i have done it as late as 2005.

@ procrastination I will look into USAA on Monday when I can call them. I don't want to get halfway through the application process just to find out they require a driver's license. Thanks.
posted by Ariadne at 4:05 PM on October 29, 2011


Chase? Maybe they'll be good with a passport?
posted by Ideefixe at 5:35 PM on October 29, 2011


I know it is possible to open a bank account in person with only a US passport, SSN, and birth certificate because i have done it as late as 2005.

It's possible because someone didn't do their job very well. The Patriot Act does require some proof of a physical residence. (Likewise, account addresses shouldn't be PO boxes, though the mailing address could be one).

A passport is a valid primary ID, but they should have requested a secondary ID that verified address. It could be just a utility bill. (Do you have an old one lying around? No one would bother verifying the age of the bill, and you can make the mailing address anything you'd like.)

I have worked at two retail banks in the past, and I opened accounts. There were frequent screw ups, (I had to write people up for this sort of thing), so you might get someone who will open an account without proof of address.
posted by spaltavian at 6:44 PM on October 29, 2011


I opened a "Personal Internet Banking" account at HSBC US from overseas a couple of years ago. In addition to the online form, they asked me to fax a copy of my passport, but no DL or proof of address was required.
posted by twisted mister at 11:56 PM on October 29, 2011


My husband, a US resident and citizen, doesnt have a driver's license. He's opened an ING account with a US passport. Not sure why ING won't work for you.

But you know who could answer this question better than I? New Yorkers who go their whole lives without driving. There's got to be a way to zero in on NYC-centric banks--which cater to millions without licenses.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:20 AM on October 30, 2011


Guessing something like US Global Mail wouldn't work for you, since it's a PO Box type of address...?

It looks like this:

Your Name or Company
PMB NNNN or #NNNN *
1321 Upland Dr.
Houston, TX 77043

*USPS regulations prescribe that they can reject mail which does not have either "PMB NNNN" or "#NNNN" where NNNN is replaced by your box number. If the mail gets to our facility we will of course accept it. But we do not have any control over the USPS rejecting mail as undeliverable if it is not addressed properly.

Personally, I kept my American bank account open, and my mother opened one in her name (then forwarded on the money in question via Paypal).
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:48 AM on October 30, 2011


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