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Maybe the title is a misnomer but I have a question and am not sure if this is the proper board. If it is not, can someone provide me a link for the proper board?

Well, my boyfriend is based abroad and would like to open a bank account in U.S. dollars. Can he do so through one of the online banks? He doesn't have a U.S. address or social security number.

What are the advantages/pitfalls of this method. I think he's thinking of opening a savings account in dollars so it can maintain its value without being subjected to inflation. But he will have a checking account in local currency at a local brick and mortar.

Thanks in advance,

Phoenix
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Well, my boyfriend is based abroad and would like to open a bank account in U.S. dollars. Can he do so through one of the online banks? He doesn't have a U.S. address or social security number.

I don't know of any bank which will open an account for someone without a social security number. I suspect this is due to the reporting requirements to the IRS, but I'm not sure.
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I don't know of any bank which will open an account for someone without a social security number. I suspect this is due to the reporting requirements to the IRS, but I'm not sure.

---------------

But I thought foreign nationals open bank accounts all the time in Miami. He does not yet have a visa so traveling to Miami is out of the question. This is just so confusing and I have absolutely no idea where to get information.

Thank you,
PR
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But I thought foreign nationals open bank accounts all the time in Miami. He does not yet have a visa so traveling to Miami is out of the question. This is just so confusing and I have absolutely no idea where to get information.

I understand many who do not have a SSN get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for use instead, but I don't know if this addresses your particular issue.

Best would be to directly contact the banks you have in mind and simply ask whether they can accomodate you. Online banks should usually respond to email quickly.
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You do not have to be us citizen to have a US bank account. Thousands (millions?) of foreigners keep money here. Yes you can open bank accounts in USA without a SSN. You may need to get a TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) from bank or IRS. This was recently an issue in trying to get illegal aliens to use bank services. The USA is (believe it or not) a "Tax haven" (for foreigners). But there are still tax and reporting requirements (I can't give you any more details -- sorry). Probably a big issue would be do you need a USA address? Maybe you can use the friend that lives in USA. If you get a checking account with debit card, you should be able to access the atm network internationally. Probably your checks will not be good outside the USA however.
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Thank you for the information abouy the TIN. I definitely will look into it.

And I'm sorry if my question was a bit unclear: my boyfriend was only interested in opening a savings account in U.S. dollars in order to maintain its current value (in order to avoid the consequences of devaluation). The banks in Argentine no longer maintain accounts in U.S. Dollars due to new legislation; all accounts are in pesos and the devaluation rate can fluctuate daily. He will maintain his local checking account containing 2 months of expenses in Argentina to pay bills of course. I just figured that with an online bank or a bank with online capabilities, he would be able to transfer funds between the two accounts easily. He's never been to the States so I didn't even consider a Stateside checking account.

Thanks again,
PR
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I just figured that with an online bank or a bank with online capabilities, he would be able to transfer funds between the two accounts easily.

This is almost certainly not true. Even transfers between two different online banks in the US may not be easy, if neither bank offers such features. Also, within the US, such transfers usually use the national automated check clearing systems, for which there is no international equivalent. You will be very disappointed if you expect to be able to transfer funds between Argentina and the US at the click of a mouse. Mailing checks or costly wire transfers are still the norm for international transactions (though I suppose ATMs might be usable for withdrawals, but not deposits).
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After your boyfriend gets TIN, he may want to look at foreign currentcy accounts at EverBank. See discussion about them at:

http://groups.msn.com/OnlineBanking/everbank.msnw?action=get_message&mview=0&ID_Message=6262&LastModified=4675380797680338186

He may also want to avoid PCBanker due to its IP blocking policy if he needs an online access to his US savings account. Read more about it at:
http://groups.msn.com/OnlineBanking/pcbankerboard.msnw?action=get_message&ID_Message=6522&ShowDelete=0&CDir=-2
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information abouy the TIN. I definitely will look into it.

First comment: You need to look for an ITIN (not TIN, TIN is for US residents) and for form W-7. From the IRS web site: http://www.irs.gov/faqs/display/0,,i1%3D54%26genericId%3D13288,00.html

What is ITIN?
An ITIN, or IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number. An ITIN is issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA). An ITIN is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9", formatted like a SSN (NNN-NN- NNN). The temporary IRS Number previously assigned is no longer valid.
What is the purpose of an ITIN?
The ITIN is for tax purposes only.
The issuance of an ITIN does not:
a. entitle the recipient to Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
b. create an inference regarding the individual's immigration status;
c. give the individual the right to work in the U.S. Any individual who is eligible to be legally employed in the U.S. must have a SSN.


Second: I am not sure if he really needs an ITIN or not. The ITIN is for tax reasons from the US edge, you might be able to open the account without ITIN but you have to ask the bank about it.

Third: You do not need a US address. Some banks open accounts to non resident aliens (this is the term you should use each time you ask questions about anything) without even requiring the physical presence in USA to apply. I know for sure that the "big" names like JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, HSBC etc do it. I would bet that they exist many others. For JPM, Citibank and Wells Fargo I have found information for non resident aliens at their web sites. Other more "regional" banks they seem not ot offer clear advice for non resident aliens at their web sites. I suggest you start from those big names to get an idea what they offer and also find out if you will need ITIN to apply or not.

Four: Here starts the real stuff... Those big banks from what I have seen in their sites charge every possible and impossible fee you can imagine for their services, therefore I doubt if it makes any sense for a foreigner to open a simple bank account there if the ammounts involved are less than -say- $20,000. Now your case is a little different because it is really the devaluation of peso risk that you r trying to avoid and not looking for good interest rates so perhaps it would make sense to opt for some of those almost 0% checking accounts or savings accounts with extremely low interest.

Five: The wire services and all that, if it is legal and if you can accomodate with the wiring fees, do not necessarilly require an online bank. Most of the "big" banks would offer you phone-banking not to mention that they probably offer their online banking facilities to non resident aliens (although I would not be surprised if someone could not proceed to international transactions through the online banking). This should not be a problem except of course that he would need to call each time he wants to order a transfer. Bear in mind that often both edges(=both the US sending bank and the argentinian receiving bank) will charge you a fee for wiring. The fee for sending is usually a fixed ammount like $15 plus a percentage of the ammount. Also bear in mind that if currency conversions occur the moment he receives (=if he gets in his hands Pesos while the american bank sends Dollars) the rates of the conversion and the commissions at the Argentinian end will increase the costs & usually at not very favorable rates.

Six: A not very "orthodox" alternative maybe could be for him to open a brokerage account with a discount broker in USA that offers checkwriting and/or a debit card.

Seven: Since his real goal is to protect himself from the devaluation of the Peso and since the interest rates for US $ are really low, if the ammounts involved are not "significant" (=I would consider significant something over 15-20 thousands) I would probably opt to keep my dollars in Argentina (under the pillow etc) and save myself the hassle. If the ammounts are under $5,000 I think the different costs would be significantly more than the interest received. This of course raises some security problems (ie how safe it is to keep $ at his house etc).

Eight: If it is allowed to keep account there in Euros I would try this solution. If I was obliged to move the money outside and for whatever reason I could not do it in USA I would search European banks starting from UK and Spanish banks (I would assume without knowing though that perhaps Argentina has "special conveniences" for Spain and vice versa plus it saves him the language problem if any).

Nine: From your posts I have not understood... how he will convert his pesos to american dollars? Or he already has the money in $$$? I would guess that if they have restrictions even to keep $$$ accounts in their banks much more they would have restrictions on currency conversions. Of course there is always the "black market" :-) but I am not sure if you have solved the conversion issue first. Also once he has the $$$ you should also first solve the issue of how he will pass the money from Argentina to USA (usually the restrictions are tough if a country is trying to stop currency bleeding and perhaps you need to go through illegal ways- illegal for Argentina that is it).

Have in mind that I am far from being a banking expert ( I am rather ignorant and clueless) therefore whatever I say take it with many grains of salt. I am a non resident alien though :-)

Summary in *my* oppinion:
1. first he converts his pesos to $$$ even if this means keeping the $$$ home and of course if he really knows that the peso will keep devaluating. (I have no clue about it, I take it for granted that it will devaluate further else the whole discussion is pointless)
2. he finds out how he will pass the money in USA
3.he searches american banks starting from the big ones I mentioned
4. finds out from the banks if he needs ITIN to open a bank account
4a. If an ITIN is needed he proceeds to obtain it (the IRS web site says how)
steps 3-4 you can do it for him while he is doing the 1-2.

Also you might want to give a look at the Fool board about Alien non-resident Investinghttp://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?mid=17649558&bid=114516 . It is not really active board but every now and then people have asked about banking in USA for NRAs so you might want to review some older posts there and the various answers given.
If you go to search in the websites of the banks I mentioned and you have troubles locating the info for international customers ask here so I would try to pass you the links (the damn info is sometimes located deep in the dust).

Sorry for the long post and hope it helped you a little
best regards
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smyr and others,

Thank you for all of your replies. As you obviously can tell, we're pretty much at a loss about what he should do as the exchange rate from peso to dollar was one to one until last December.

And in response to your question, smyr, he freelances and gets paid in U.S. Dollars from primarily one U.S. employer but his post is in Argentina (I believe that he is one of two employees based outside the U.S.) The funds usually are converted from dollars to pesos based on the then current exchange rate and, of course, a pretty conversion fee is assessed. Hence the concern about the devaluation of the peso in relation to the peso plus the desire for a bank within the U.S. I will definitely research the issue further in order to educate myself further. I didn't really consider European banks because I thought I may be able to facilitate (I live in the U.S.; yes, this is an EXTREMELY long distance relationship) plus I don't yet know how to access the reputability of banks. I've come across some suspect websites in the past few days. I've pretty much been going by name recognition, which probably isn't the best tactic, I know. But I will also look at the Spanish banks. Of course, he also freelances with Argentine firms which can go directly in his local bank account. I think his bigger concern is protected the value of the U.S. dollars that he earns. I don't know if I'm further confusing the matters.

Thanks!!!!!
PR
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I don't know if I'm further confusing the matters.

Your description actually simplifies matters a great deal. The largest problem he faces is getting the money into a US bank account. But, if he is being paid from US sources, it should be easy to have those payments go straight into his US bank account via direct deposit. Then there would be no need for currency exchanges, or mailed bank drafts, or wire transfers, thus eliminating the problem. Your boyfriend could use an ATM to withdraw money from the account, as needed.

I'm not sure why you're having trouble with the reputability of banks. I assume you're happy with your own bank's performance and reputation (otherwise, why are you still banking with them?). Have you tried asking the bank you are currently with if they can open an account for your friend?
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I'm not sure why you're having trouble with the reputability of banks. I assume you're happy with your own bank's performance and reputation (otherwise, why are you still banking with them?). Have you tried asking the bank you are currently with if they can open an account for your friend?

_____

I guess I just wanted to examine all of the options and to compare relative fees and the like. I must confess to discriminating a bit against the larger banks due to preconceived notions about excessive fees (although I do have an account with one such bank). I do like my bank a lot and surprisingly do not get assessed many fees. Last year I did look into opening an account for him but at the time I was thinking of a joint account in which I would be the principal accountholder. I spoke to a representative on the phone who doubted the feasibility of opening an account for someone who wasn't in the U.S., which was a bit offputting. But with all of the information that I now know, I'm sure that I just wasn't asking the right questions, using the proper terminology, or speaking to the right person. Plus, I probably need to have a personal consultation with a bank representative rather than speak to telephone representatives.

I also lurk on this board a bit and knew that some posters do no reside in the U.S. and thought that they may have suggestions or ideas. And I thought that an online banks would be better equipped to handle such transactions but I now realize that I misunderstood the nature of the account. I really am glad that I asked these questions and that you all in turn have asked follow-up questions to help wade through the puddle of my confusion, so to speak.

And I can understand your question about my concern about the reputability of banks. It's just that for someone who is unfamiliar with the proper procedures and options, it oftentimes can be very easy to get confused or taken in by scams. Plus, popular buzz terms fall into the popular vernacular such as "offshore banking," which a consumer may think is one thing but actually is another bag entirely. In addition, as I am a U.S. resident, I underwent a different set of procedures to open my account so I was ignorant of what to expect with my boyfriend's account but knew that foreign nationals often open bank accounts in the U.S. I guess that I'm just starting to view bank accounts like investment vehicles and realize that I must conduct some sort of due diligence and didn't know how to do so.

Thanks for all the help!!
PR
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Hello,

The funds usually are converted from dollars to pesos based on the then current exchange rate

like others suggested you, he must ask from his employer not to convert the $$$ for a start. In the meantime you can find a bank in USA (even a brokerage like Datek might work with less paperwork maybe) and he just instructs his employer to directly deposit the money into that american account. It is for sure a big overkill to convert dollars-pesos-then dollars again. Definately his bigger concern is to protect the value of his dollars therefore he should not care too much about interest rates for now. A caveat emptor with brokerages is that often they require the deposit to originate from a source with same name as the brokerage account holder so if he opts for that solution to park his money make sure you ask the brokerage those questions too. When you ask people at your local branch it is possible that they do not know the answers even if their bank offers such services centrally. Usually the central offices of the "big" names that tend to deal with such accounts are in the "bigger" states (NY, FL, CA etc)

I am not sure I understand the reputability issue either. If you refer to solvency of a bank, it is a big concern of course and you should not go with anything that looks "suspect" to you. If he goes with american account you should make sure that it is FDIC insured and the bank must be known. You will not go with "Smyr's bank" (that nobody has heard of) or any other scam scheme. My suggestion is not to bother with "offshore" stuff either since the target group of offshore is another category of people therefore the fees are accordingly high.
Do not search the web "in the blind". Go to the web sites of banks that you know and see there if they have links for international customers etc. Careful though not to pass to the websites of their daughter companies operating in other countries ( = if there is such option at their homepage you select country USA not Argentina).

I will repeat in case it was not clear: even if he has an "online" bank I doubt he will be able to proceed to international transactions through the computer. If you looked the links markber gave about Everbank I think it says that you can not proceed to international transactions online (you either call or mail written instructions).

If they have an "american" bank in Argentina (Citibank, JPM Chase etc... the term "american" is misleading because if the bank is incorporated in Argentina it operates under argentinian law and really it is an argentinian bank even if the shareholders are "americans") the best for him is to open an account at that bank in pesos and an account in the US branches of this same bank in USA. This might eliminate the "correspondant bank" fees. For example my Citibank in Greece clears checks sent to USA at their NY offices so they do not really use a "correspondant" bank. Of course for everything related to fees you better ask over and over to avoid surprises.

Foobar mentions the use of ATM to withdraw money. The potential problem here is that ATMs in Argentina I would bet only give money in pesos therefore the $$$ will be converted into pesos before they arrive at his hands. This is not usually a concern (of course you get charged the fees for using ATM abroad and all that) but in this specific case *might* not be what he wants: usually with problematic situations like the one there, the "official" rates might be *way different* from the (illegal) unofficial rates "at the street". If he is satisifed with the official rates of conversion then this is not a problem.

Some links:
WellsFargo http://www.wellsfargo.com/per/ipb/index.jhtml;jsessionid=PUZGTJVV0ESCKCQMKU1E4GQKLAFFOUM0

Citibank (I am not sure if this is the correct page for him but you may ask them)
http://www.citibank.com/pboe/homepage/index.htm

JPMorgan Chase
http://www.chase.com/cm/cs?pagename=Chase/Href&urlname=chase/pf/banking/intbank
here you might want to read their FAQ- even if you are not interested about them the answers might give you a better insight:
http://www.chase.com/cm/cs?pagename=Chase/Href&urlname=chase/pf/banking/intbank/custservice/faqs

best regards and if you find anything more you could post to enlighten us (I wonder if the USAA bank so much recommended here would offer accounts to non resident aliens)




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Again, I must thank you all for both your on-board and off-board replies. You have been extremely helpful to an obviously confused poster. :) My bank itself did not have information about foreign national accounts but I called and spoke to a representative to inquire. I was transferred to their international office which explained the process.

Basically, for my particular bank (HSBC), after he establishes an account with them abroad in local currency, he can request that they also open an account here in U.S. Dollars and the bank takes care of everything for him. They cautioned me that he may need to open a minimum of 3 accounts with them: checking/savings account in Argentina and both a checking and savings account in the U.S. This is because as several of you have pointed out, he would only be able to withdraw money from the U.S. by using his ATM card but he it is possible that he will not be able to withdraw money directly from the U.S. savings account itself. But he can get over this hurdle by calling the international office, which will transfer funds from U.S. savings account to U.S. checking account or he can do the same transaction online.

While the process is not as seamless as I thought it would be in some regards (i.e. usage), it certainly is easier in others (i.e. opening). If he is able to open this account, his employer could just deposit U.S. Dollars into the U.S. account, which will simplify life greatly. :)

In case you were wondering, they also informed me that I would undergo a similar process if I wanted to open an account there.

As an aside, I would just like to add that I opened an ING account several months ago based on the comments and sometimes heated discussions posted here. Although the interest rate has dropped and the service is of the no-frills variety, I'm pleased at it meets my needs. While I have been tempted on various occasions to switch to Netbank or Stonebridge Bank, my bank never stops surprising me (in a good way). But I am glad to know that there are options available if ever needed.

Thanks!!!

PR
(is it just me or are all my posts lengthy???)
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