How to Open a Bank Account Without an SSN

The process of opening a bank account as an international student in the US can be quite daunting and overly complicated. It can also be annoying when banks ask you for documents that you don’t have, such as a social security number or SSN for short. We’re here to make it easier for you to understand what you need to successfully open a bank account and smoothly transition to life in America.

Can you open a US bank account without an SSN?

Yes, of course! Although most consumer banks require an SSN to open an account online, there are other options available. For example, students can register for an account at a physical bank once they arrive in the US or conveniently apply for an online account that was created for international students with Ellis before even entering the country. 

Why do banks ask for an SSN?

One of the most crucial legal items that American citizens have is an SSN. The 9-digit numbers are used for a variety of reasons, such as identification and tracking income by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Banks ask for residential or working individuals to supply them with an SSN to add a sense of security in their system.

What is an ITIN and do you need it?

During your research, you might have seen ITIN come up a few times. The acronym stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which you do not need if you are a full time student (it’s for non US residents who need to file US tax returns).

What documents will you need?

To open a bank account in person, you will need your basic information, passport, I-20 form, proof of student status (enrollment letter), and a sum to deposit. For Ellis Money, you can sign up from anywhere with your phone and will need your basic information, passport, and I-20 form.

What’s the best option?

We have spent a lot of time looking at different banking options for international students and most, if not all, of them don’t quite fit the international students’ needs. If you want to go with a traditional bank then Chase and Bank of America might be your best bet. However, these banks charge varying amounts of domestic as well as international wire transfer fees ($15-$45) and require a minimum monthly balance. The best, easiest, and most convenient option would be to apply for an Ellis Money bank account as you will be able to sign up before even stepping foot into the U.S. and get the perks right away. Here is a comparison table for big American consumer banks and Ellis Money:

Table comparison between US consumer banks and Ellis Money
Table: comparison between US consumer banks and Ellis Money

As you can see, Ellis Money has been designed to fit the international student needs, making it the best option.

How to open an Ellis Money account

  1. Download the Ellis app on your device (available in iOS and Android)
  2. Create an account on the app
  3. Select Ellis Money and start the application
  4. Input your information and submit an application
  5. Upload the necessary documents
  6. Get approved in less than 24 hours!

Table of Contents

Get the Ellis App

Made for international students, by international students
Download app