Opening a bank account is one of the first matters an expat will want to complete. That way they can deposit a paycheck and use the money for deposits on electricity and phone, for example. The difficulty with opening a bank account is that the standard information, such as social security number, may not be available yet.

Generally, to open a bank account, the required documentation consists of:

  • Social Security Number (See the Tax – Social Security number section for more information.)
  • TX Driver’s license or ID
  • All contact information (name, address and phone)
  • Minimum deposit (in some cases, depending on account)

As an expat who has just recently arrived, you may not have a social security number or a TX Driver’s license yet. You will need to prove that you a resident in Texas and a foreign passport alone will not be sufficient to open a U.S. bank account. In that case, have your employer give you a written note attestation that you work for them and ask your landlord for some type of proof that you live there. If you have a social security number already but haven’t applied for a Texas driver’s license yet, the social security identification number along with photo identification such as a passport should be sufficient for obtaining a bank account.

To open a bank account, you should visit the bank’s branch and speak to an account advisor for your best options about required documentation for you as an expat, as well as account options as fees and rates vary greatly. There is no need for an appointment as long as you visit the branch during business hours of the lobby. You are not able to open an account in the drive-through.

If you already have a social security number, there are also ways to open an account online.

The two basic types of accounts are: Checking and Savings.

Most checking accounts are free of fees but require you to carry a minimum balance or have an automatic deposit (pay transferred directly into your bank account by your employer). Interest is seldom paid on checking accounts.

Savings accounts can pay a small interest but may have a fee if the balance is lower than required. Minimum balances range from $100 to the thousands. The higher the minimum balance, the higher the interest rate.

For both accounts, the bank can provide ATM cards (automatic teller machine) upon request. The cards allow you to withdraw or deposit money at any ATM machine and pay for purchases at all debit/credit card machines. Most ATM cards also offer a credit card combined as one single card to allow you to pay at credit only machines. No matter whether you chose debit or credit, the money will be deducted from your account immediately.