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I am travelling to the US on vacation. I would like to open a banking account, probably a free checking account so that I can purchase tickets & rent hotels online. How do I go about this? Is it easy to open a free checking account in the US.

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What's the advantage of a checkings account a credit card of your home bank cannot provide? For your use cases purchasing tickets and booking hotels a credit card is sufficient. – Simon Oct 31 '13 at 13:33
@simon Well typically local currency denominated credit cards have a surcharge ( which goes up to 3.5% and the exchange rates they used are much above the market rate). If you travel with USD currency and can deposit it in a bank, you minimize the risk of travelling with huge wads of cash and get all the flexibility which comes from using a CC/DC. – Paul Nov 1 '13 at 7:30
I'm not sure but it might matter what country you're from. I seem to recall that twenty or so years ago when I was travelling there that it was not possible/easy for a non-resident to open a bank account in the US. That may have changed. From memory a social security number was needed in those days. – hippietrail Nov 2 '13 at 7:44
My credit card charges 1.5% abroad and I withdraw cash with my card from my home account, which is still cheaper than withdraw from my credit card or changing cash. I don't know about US accounts, but here (Germany) checking accounts are usually only free of charge, if there's an certain income every month. YMMV, but I would evaluate carefully, if the hassle of opening an US account is really worth it for a vacation. – Simon Nov 4 '13 at 7:21

Ok here's the deal. Through TD Bank you can open an account very easily in the US. You dont need a SSN. If you maintain a $100 minimum balance, there's no charge on the account. I didnt have a pleasant experience with Walmart or Bluebird. Their customer service is clueless.

The TD Bank customer care is awesome. You can always get connected to a real human customer care representative without through jumping loops. It's open on 7 days a week. It's a real banking account so all the positives that come with it.

The only problem is they are an East Coast bank with no branches elsewhere, so unless you happen to be on the east coast you might not be able to open an account.

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This was actually asked a while back on Money.SE. I'll summarise the accepted answer there:

Basically, it depends. Not all banks will allow you to open one as a foreigner, and you'll still need supporting documentation - passport, proof of residential address back home, and so on. Some, however, may require a US address, or proof of visa or residence status, at which point you'll have problems.

Have a read of the other answers on there, and it may give you an idea of what to expect.

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Thanks, the answert was useful. I guess there is no best answer in this case. "It depends" I guess. – Paul Nov 1 '13 at 7:36

You can always put money on a reloadable bank card. It's what most cash-workers do here in the states to avoid having to carry around large sums of cash, while still not having to open a bank account and possibly be audited for not reporting taxable wages.

Stop by one of thousands of Walmart locations, cash in hand, and they'll have you set up in 20 minutes.

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That's a useful option, thanks! – Paul Nov 4 '13 at 18:39
When applying online for such a card, it requests a Social Security Number, on top of US address, so I don't think a foreign visitor could acquire such a card. – ilakast Dec 19 '13 at 21:39
There's a 500$ initial limit on initial reloading. And on the whole it wasnt a pleasant experience for me and they needed an SSN – Paul Jan 14 '14 at 8:54

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