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Best US neobanks for non-US residents

If you’re still up for a bank account in the US, here’s the list of the best offers from the most prominent neobanks

US neobanks

Best US neobanks for non-US residents. Source: pexels.com

Most of us still vividly remember the horrible tragedy of 911 that shocked both American society and the whole world. A lot of legislation aimed at preventing terrorism followed in the aftermath. Some of it impacted banking as well. In particular, the USA Patriot Act made it difficult for foreigners to open accounts or engage in monetary transactions in the United States.

Neobanks take some hurdles away from the non-resident path to getting served by a US financial institution. Nevertheless, you should prepare for lengthy application approval and more thorough ID checks.

Sable

This startup is notable for concentrating its financial services on people new to America. Its founders have come to the United States from different countries, so they know a lot about the issues newcomers have with financial inclusion. The startup partnered with Evolve Bank & Trust to provide basic banking features. Sable has also created one of the few existing opportunities for immigrants to start building a US credit history from day one.

Non-US residents can get access to Sable accounts with a valid passport and US Visa or a valid non-tourist I94 entry stamp based on your ESTA application. Opening a Sable account is an online process, so your physical presence in the US isn’t required. However, you’ll need to provide a US mailing address so that you can get a physical debit card.

The financial products currently available include a secured card and a checking account. Savings accounts and credit cards are expected to come soon.

The Sable secured card is basically a prepaid card that requires you to add a deposit (up to $10,000) before spending money on- and offline or withdrawing cash at ATMs. The card establishes a credit limit against the amount of money you deposit. Therefore, you spend your own money and build credit history at the same time.

The checking account allows customers to make transfers and use an associated debit card to make online or in-store purchases and withdraw cash at an ATM.

Sable doesn’t charge any monthly service fees, nor does it have a minimum deposit/balance requirement for the banking account. The challenger bank doesn’t charge fees for the secured credit card apart from any interest accrued on the unpaid balance for the monthly billing period. Foreign transactions are also available free of charge.

Varo

This year, the mobile banking startup Varo announced it had been granted a national bank charter and secured regulatory approvals to open a full-scale Varo Bank. Its personal accounts are used by over 2 million customers. The challenger bank has recently taken on the customers of Moven, which decided to shut down its direct-to-consumer offering and concentrate on B2B services. The startup was last valued at $417.8 million.

Non-US residents can access the services of this mobile-only bank with some limitations. The Varo Bank Account is available to persons residing (having a physical address) in the US, who are at least 18 years of age with a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN).

In addition, Varo users must have an iOS device meeting the requirements specified by the Electronic Communications Agreement. Otherwise, they won’t be able to install the relevant mobile banking app.

Those who meet all the eligibility criteria can quickly sign up for a Varo Bank Account that has one of the best zero-fees policies nationwide.

Varo customers pay no monthly fees, no transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, no cash withdrawal fees at Allpoint ATMs. Moreover, there’s no minimum required balance needed to start using Varo. Instant P2P transfers take place between Varo users free of charge. Its savings accounts offer higher-than-average yields on your savings account balance.

Another benefit is the newly-introduced Varo Advance. Qualifying customers can get instant access to $100 while waiting for their paycheck to arrive. The sum should be repaid within a month. Varo also offers auto-savings tools like Save Your Pay and Save Your Change, and access to direct deposits up to two days early.

Simple

This neobank provides FDIC-insured checking accounts to US citizens and Permanent Residents through a partnership with BBVA USA – part of the BBVA Group, one of the largest banks in Europe.

Simple offers accounts to approved applicants with a Social Security Number who live within the country. Thus, only those non-citizens authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who have got a Social Security number can avail themselves of its services.

If you live outside the U.S., you can’t open an account, and if you move internationally after opening a Simple account, the neobank may have to close it (traveling doesn’t count).

The conditions of Simple accounts are quite favorable. Basic banking features (offline and online purchases, check deposits via your smartphone, direct deposit, earning interests on your daily balance, paying bills, money transfers, cash withdrawals, etc) are complemented with smart budgeting tools and a Visa debit card.

As for fees, most of them are zero. You can cash out your balance free of charge at the vast Allpoint ATM network. There’s no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance requirement, no overdraft fee, and no funds transfer fee. Your savings earn 0.60% APY in Protected Goals Accounts.

Pre-qualified Simple customers can get use of a Simple Personal Loan online offering. The terms are fixed, but there are a few variants of loan conditions to choose from, so you can adapt it to your personal needs.

Aspiration

This neobank is a good choice for those caring about environmental issues and social responsibility. Although, technically, being a broker-dealer, Aspiration partners with a few banks to securely store its customers’ funds.

Moreover, those who have entrusted the startup with their money will be pleased to know their deposits won’t fund fossil fuel projects. The customers can participate in tree-planting instead by rounding up their purchases via Plant Your Change Service. Besides, a part of the fees charged goes to various charities. Customers also get generous cashback (3-10%) when buying at the partners from the Conscience Coalition.

As for eligibility, like most US neobanks, Aspiration requires a valid SSN and a physical in-country address. Thus, the socially-conscious cash management services and sustainable investment products are available only to those non-US citizens who have a permanent residence permit known as a green card; who temporarily work and live in the US with H-1B non-immigrant visas; and who have a status of a refugee or were granted asylum. International students who work in the US at least part-time can also receive an SSN, and therefore, are able to become Aspiration clients.

Aspiration offers two types of monthly plans: for $0 and $15 fees. Those who choose a paid membership receive better cashback rewards, personal impact scores to help their shopping match their values; up to 1.00% APY on savings; 1 out-of-network ATM reimbursement per month; carbon offsets for all their gas purchases with Planet Protection, an eco-friendly debit card made from recycled plastic, etc.

If you prefer a free basic Spend & Save account, you get unlimited fee-free withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs and a lower APY rate. Nevertheless, other service fees remain the same. If you aren’t ready to pay $15 per month but do want to make some charitable contributions, you can set your own fee using the Pay What’s Fair principle.

Investment and IRA features require a $10.00 minimum opening deposit. Sustainable investing is facilitated by professionally managed funds. The fund’s custodian (UMB) charges a $15 annual fee for IRA accounts.

Zenus

Set for launch in Q4 2020, this Puerto Rico-based digital bank has delayed its US launch until next year due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, joining its waitlist may be worthwhile for US non-residents since the offer allows people and businesses around the world to open a US bank account. That’s right, no citizenship or residency is required. The only limitation is that your country must not be sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The final product fees and features are yet to be defined. The company is planning to partner with Visa for its debit card though.

Oxygen

San Francisco-based digital banking service Oxygen is the only US neobank that combines both personal and business offers, providing business accounts even for gig workers. In fact, users can also create an LLC via the app.

Access to its services is granted only to holders of valid SSNs, though. Thus, not every immigrant is eligible to use the Oxygen banking app and access its accounts powered by Bancorp.

Customers enjoy a few significant benefits: no monthly or overdraft fees, cashback rewards, early paycheck deposits, multiple virtual cards, and physical Visa debit, cash flow projections, integration with accounting tools, and more.

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