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BikerMike

Opening a US bank account from SA

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Hey everyone,

I was wondering whether it is possible to open a bank account from SA either online or some way without requiring a social security number et al. We're hoping to get a credit card as well so that we can start transferring money as well as start building a credit record in the US whilst we're going through the process. 

Our move will only be in 2018 so I've heard that it is a good idea to start building a credit record as banks give you a better interest rate.

Any info would be welcome!

Mike

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I doubt money laundering regulations (in most countries) allow one to open a bank account online...

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BikerMike if I understand you, you want to open a bank account while still in SA, and not yet in possession of your SSN AND potentially a credit card.

In my experience = No.

You can (and I know someone who has done this) open a bank account while physically here in the USA without being either a resident or having a SSN.  That meant going into the bank, presenting photo ID (SA passport) and proof of physical address.  That could get you a savings account/checking account with check book, and a debit card.  It won't get you a credit card.  Even if you don't have a SSN, you would need to prove you can pay back the credit - so they want to know permanent address, job and income history (in the USA - foreign doesn't count), which you won't have.

Just having a bank account, and a debit card does NOTHING to put you on the radar for a credit score, as the bank is not extending you credit, so nothing is reported to the credit agencies.

As to credit card - you won't get one without proving you can pay it back (i.e. job, or significant funds already in a bank account) and either a SSN or ITIN number AND a physical address so they can find you if you become delinquent.  At first, this will be a secured card.  My advice there is go high.  If you secure $500, you will get a $500 credit limit, but if you secure with $5 000, you will get a $5 000 credit limit.  Usually, after a year, if you have managed the secured credit card well, they will convert it to an unsecured one - and in that case you will have $5 000 unsecured credit.  Usually that first card is a very basic card - i.e. not earning you miles or other benefits, but once your credit score is on the map and getting better, more of these 'premium' cards would become available to you.

Everyone wants to start building credit history ASAP, but it is just one of those things that takes time.  It can be hard if you have had good credit in SA, assets, all types of credit cards etc, and land here to find you are an absolute nobody in the financial world.  :-(  In time, it all comes right :-)

Some of the big national banks - e.g. Chase, do have international products for foreigners, but that doesn't help you with a credit history, if that is what you are after.

 

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Also, I find the whole thing about how difficult it is to get a credit history somewhat overhyped. I had a "good" score after a year (somewhere around 730 I think) after just a year based on just one credit card. It's obviously improved since with longer credit history and a couple more accounts, but you're not going to get penalized much if at at all on a 730 score.

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9 hours ago, SJ272 said:

I doubt money laundering regulations (in most countries) allow one to open a bank account online...

I did this with the Commonwealth Bank (Australian Bank) in 2007 before moving there for 2 years. It would be a shame if that is not possible :(

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Thanks for the advice so far guys, much appreciated.
One of the reasons to open an account is to start transferring some money (I am aware of the paypal method) cause our SA rand is taking a dump every day with Zuma at the helm.

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Have a look at some of the international models - e.g. Chase, Citi, Bank of America etc as a starting point - you can open an account in $ and transfer across.

As SJ272 says, building up a credit score isn't that long or hard - just focus on it early, and it will fall into place fairly soon.  But Day 1, it is pretty much non- existent.  This can initially impact things like car (and bike) insurance premiums quite a bit, so be aware of that.

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5 hours ago, BikerMike said:

I did this with the Commonwealth Bank (Australian Bank) in 2007 before moving there for 2 years. It would be a shame if that is not possible :(

A quick google search shows you can open an account online with some banks but they require SSN and state or military ID. Which makes perfect sense, otherwise anyone could open a laundering account with fake info...

 

Your best bet does seem to be open an international account to transfer dollars into in the meanwhile.  I used to have a USD account with standard bank, via their Isle of Man branch, when I was still in SA. I seem to recall that the fees depended on the type of account you had with Standard in SA, ranging from free to quite high. 

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3 hours ago, Malamute said:

.  But Day 1, it is pretty much non- existent.  This can initially impact things like car (and bike) insurance premiums quite a bit, so be aware of that.

It can, but it doesn't have to. GEICO seemed far more interested in things like our level of education (and also accepted the no claims bonus statement I had from my SA insurer) - but not all insurers did- its definitely worth shopping around for insurance quotes. 

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On 6/17/2017 at 3:47 AM, BikerMike said:

I did this with the Commonwealth Bank (Australian Bank) in 2007 before moving there for 2 years. It would be a shame if that is not possible :(

I did the same with ANZ bank. They allow you to open the account online in a matter of minutes so that you can transfer money into without being able to access the funds therein. You can only get access to it after presenting yourself to the bank armed with the appropriate paperwork - that way they keep tabs on potential money launderers. In my experience, the US banks unfortunately don't offer this option.

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I have quite a few friends that i can lean on to perhaps act as a power of attorney if that is at all possible. 

The offshore standard bank account seems pretty good as an option too. 

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On 29/06/2017 at 1:21 PM, BikerMike said:

I have quite a few friends that i can lean on to perhaps act as a power of attorney if that is at all possible. 

The offshore standard bank account seems pretty good as an option too. 

Not sure what the offshore standard bank account is. Do you mean the US$ account? 

I have the same idea as you and am also looking into it. I will let you know if I find something. Even to get a secured CC, you unfortunately need proof of a US address. The application is online but you will need to fax them your proof of address. I got one from Capital One this way when I just arrived in Canada. My credit score started to pick up after 6 months. Also, get a monthly deduction on your bank account asap, i.e. phone bill to pay, so that it shows that you are responsible with your money (it will show current on your credit score if your payments are up to date). Mine was only for 500$. I did not feel comfortable in giving a new lender more money than that.

You can open an account with Royal Bank of Canada from SA. Perhaps you can consider a cross border trip to get your money (you will need to present yourself to the bank to access the money). A lot of people immigrating to Canada are doing this.

Before coming back to Canada a few years ago, I got an American Express Card and put my money in that. I then withdrew the money on this side. I believe you need proof of travel and your passport to do this.

Edited by Nettie

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