Can a Swede open a US bank account?
July 21, 2008 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Getting paid by US checks is pricey and time-consuming when I have to cash them over here (Sweden) - solutions? Opening a us checking account? Can I?

When I was a student in the US I had a citibank account, but I think my student status allowed for that one. I'm not sure a US account is the answer but it seems likely, I want to avoid the high check-cashing fees on those very small checks - it takes three days for any bank here to confirm that it is a real check, and the cheapest fee to do this is 150 SEK. Sometimes the wee checks aren't even worth that. Open to other solutions, but it seems having a US bank account, where I could cash the checks, and then transfering the money to my own bank here in sweden would be the solution. If so, can I open a US account? Google brings me lots of shady pages on the topic, I don't trust them. Swedish citizen in Sweden.
posted by dabitch to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry for not answering the question, but is it at all possible for you to be paid via PayPal? That's my usual solution for getting paid by people in the US, and it works really well. The fees are much lower compared to trying to cash cheques or anything like that.
posted by different at 2:45 AM on July 21, 2008

If you have a taxpayer ID number you should be able to open a U.S. account. My bank in Seattle has been mailing statements to Stockholm for 15 years. The problem with a US account is that if you are using this for business, you might create some tax obligations in the US.

You should be able to open a "valutakonto" in dollars at any of the big banks Handelsbanken, SEB in Sweden. Handelsbanken doesn't take any fee for "överföring mellan konto med växling". I don't know how it would work with depositing checks though - I've never tried this. It is really quaint and old-fashioned that Americans still use them, but useless to me.

If you run into a pinch and are close to Stockholm and need a US check cashed into SEK, send me a Mefi mail and I'd be happy to extend some Mefi-solidarity and help you out.
posted by three blind mice at 3:03 AM on July 21, 2008

Talk to Citibank Sweden. If they let you open a pair of accounts (US and Swedish), you can mail your US check for deposit to Citibank in Chicago, and then transfer the cash into your Swedish account fee-free.
posted by cmonkey at 3:41 AM on July 21, 2008

Yes, with a TIN, as mentioned above. You and your transactions will be subject to a slightly higher level of scrutiny due to Patriot Act, but as long as your name isn't on an OFAC list and you don't live in a country where a US Bank will not/can not do business, it shouldnt' be a problem.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:36 AM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: Different, no it's not possible for me to open a paypal account. (They don't accept my only credit card, and I've had a horrible eperience with them in the past so quite frankly I want nothing to do with them any more).

Thanks cmonkey and three blind mice - I called SEB and Citibak Sweden to inquire about your suggestions. Citibank sweden says I have to open a Citibak US account without their help, since they are only a "phone bank" in Sweden without offices or accounts per se (loans and credit cards only) and SEB says that a valutakonto doesn't include cashing US checks. Drats.

Back to square one, can I open a US bank account?
posted by dabitch at 4:36 AM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: missed ersatzkat's comment on preview - i guess I must figure out how to get a TIN first then Thanks all.
posted by dabitch at 4:38 AM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: hang on, the IRS pages are very useful for this - ITIN applications - thanks again!
posted by dabitch at 4:39 AM on July 21, 2008

We pay our overseas employees by wire transfer, which is far more trouble for us but far easier for them.
posted by meta_eli at 5:24 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Wire transfer is how I get paid from the US. Why should YOU be hassled? Getting them to send electronically to your Swedish bank is completely possible.

Maybe it is just my own paranoia, but there is no way I would be comfortable having my money sitting in the United States.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:58 AM on July 21, 2008

Is there a specific reason why you're being paid by cheque? In my experience, bank transfers are easier for everyone involved.
posted by missmagenta at 6:55 AM on July 21, 2008

international wire transfers tend to cost about $10-20 each in the us. i'm at the low end of that but if there's any issue with the transfer and i ask them to 'investigate' (ie, tell me what happened) i get hit with at least another $30 fee.

google checkout could be another payment option.
posted by noloveforned at 8:03 AM on July 21, 2008

Are there any European Banks with retail branches in the US?
posted by mary8nne at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2008

I would check to see if there is a HSBC branch in Sweden. They were able to open up a US (I'm a US citizen) and an Australian account from the US. Needed to have Tax ID numbers for both countries, but it was relatively painless and they do this quite a bit.

Can't tell you how difficult it would be for a non-USian to open an account from outside the country, but if any bank could do it I would bet on HSBC.
posted by qwip at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2008

You can open an account through a US bank in your country, but it will not be a really "US bank" account, it will usually require a large initial deposit, and will have lots of limitations that may prove annoying.

Check out:
posted by alexanderhay at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2008

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