Q: I’m a foreign exchange student from Hong Kong who will be traveling to the U.S. for classes. I want to open a bank account through the phone or Internet and transfer money before I travel to the U.S. Is there any way to do this?
– Christina W.
A: To open an account online or through the phone, most U.S. banks require that applicants provide a U.S. address and a social security number. Unfortunately, without these two pieces of information, you’ll have to sign up for a bank account in person.
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At a branch, the bank will be able to verify your identity through other personal documents (e.g., passport, student visas, etc.).
One way to get a bank account before arriving in the U.S. is to find a bank in Hong Kong with a presence in the U.S.
Citibank and HSBC allow cross-border account opening of overseas bank accounts. You can fund these accounts ahead of time so that you don’t have to carry large amounts of cash during your travel. You’ll also avoid fees and delays if you wait to open an account in the U.S. and request a funds transfer from home.
While these two banks offer a very convenient service for customers who are looking to travel abroad, they may not be the right fit for you. It may be that there are no Citibank or HSBC locations near your place of study. Or, you simply want to go with a different bank.
If you’re going to wait until you coming the U.S. to open an account, you may consider getting a prepaid debit card — found at many supermarkets and drug stores — immediately upon arrival. It’ll come in handy if you need to swipe for a purchase. (However, don’t load too much money onto a prepaid card as it is likely to have a slew of fees.)
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