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US Bank Account For Canadian: How I Found The Best Option For Me

In this post, I will tell you all about my quest that I called “US Bank Account For Canadian”. I hope this post will be useful for you if you are a Canadian and need to open a US account yourself.

Why would one need a US account?

A bank that is located in the US operates according to the US laws. This makes it possible to use it for various services that are internal to this country.

There can be multiple reasons for that.

For example, you can be paying for goods/lodging in the US if you have a house there – hello, snowbirds!

You may also have a business that is oriented towards the US and you would like to save on the cost of converting USD to CAD. Like me.

You would still have to use a money transferring service similar to TransferWise (an affiliate link) to send money from Canada to the US and vise versa. But at least, when you need to pay for goods in the US, you can spend US dollars from your account – or even use a US credit card.

Before diving in, I just need to say that I did the investigation about personal banking. For business accounts, this info may or may not be applicable.

Comparison Of US Banks for Canadians

Many Canadian banks offer accounts in USD currency.

However, they are not what you need if you want a genuine US account because these accounts are located in Canada. In fact, you may need is an account that is open in a genuine US bank that is located in the USA.

As an alternative, you can find Canadian banks with a US branch. This would work too since the branch would have an American address.

If an American bank allows a Canadian to open an account, it should ideally allow doing so remotely. Unless you live very close to the border, it would not be very practical to travel to the US each time you need to do something in your bank.

I did research and made a list of Canadian banks in the USA that can open a US account for a Canadian.

I also called many of the US banks… However, the majority of them do not open accounts for Canadians. That’s why you see a lot of Canadians banks and only one US bank in my table.

Bank How to open account Need a Canadian account?
BMO Harris over phone no
CIBC US online yes
RBC Georgia over phone or from Canada yes
TD Bank from Canada no
Desjardins Florida from Canada or US (Florida) no
NatBank by National Bank from US no
Chase (a US bank) from US no

There are a few more banks from the Canadian Big Five list as well as other US banks that I contacted but did not include in my table. Read about these banks below.

HSBC

HSBC does international banking and is operational in the US. However, to open a US account, HSBC now requires a U.S. residential address that you have had for the past three years as well as a valid U.S. ID. 

Scotiabank

Scotiabank does not do personal banking in the US so they are off the list.

Some of the US banks

I contacted many US banks. Some of them were: Chase, Ally Bank, Discover Bank, Nationwide Bank, Capital One 360, Simple Bank, Barclay, etc.

Chase was the only bank among them that can open an account for a Canadian. Unfortunately, they do not do it online, and you would need to come in person to one of their local US branches. As I mentioned above, it is not the most convenient way to do banking if you permanently live in Canada.

Now let’s look closely at the banks from the table above to see what are US accounts they offer.

Comparison of US Bank Accounts For Canadians

Here is a short overview of basic checking accounts offered by the US branches of the Canadian banks I mentioned above (on mobile, swipe to the left to see the rest of the table).

Bank Account Name Deposit Amount
to wave fees
Monthly
Fee
# free
transac.
Extra
transac.
cost
Interest
RBC Georgia Direct Checking $50.00 n/a $3.95 10 $1.00 yes
RBC Georgia Premium Checking $50.00 n/a $9.95 unlim n/a yes
TD US TD Simple Checking $0.00 n/a $5.99 unlim n/a no
TD US TD Convenience Checking $0.00 $100.00 $15.00 unlim n/a no
TD US TD Premier Checking $0.00 $2,500.00 $25.00 unlim n/a yes
BMO Harris Smart Money Checking $25.00 under 25 yo $5.00 unlim n/a no
BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking $25.00 n/a $0.00 unlim n/a no
BMO Harris Premier Account* $25.00 $25,000.00 $30.00 unlim n/a yes
Desjardins Florida Low Cost Checking $50.00 n/a $7.00 unlim n/a no
Desjardins Florida Regular Checking $50.00 $850.00 $8.00 unlim n/a no
Desjardins Florida Premium Checking $50.00 $2,500.00 $12.00 unlim n/a no
CIBC US USA Smart Account $50.00 $3,000.00 $4.95 12 $1.25 no

* – I took the rates for New York City.

What account to choose really depends on your goals and needs

If you ask me, I would (and did) choose the ones that allow me to:

  • do all the communications remotely
  • wave monthly maintenance fees
  • not have a transaction limit.

And, ideally, it should offer interest on the account balance.

So there are only three banks that fit these criteria: TD US, BMO Harris, and CIBC US.

TD US

Pros 👍
  • ability to open a US account online
  • does not require having a Canadian account
  • a very reasonable balance to waive the fees

Cons 👎

  • interest is paid only on the highest tier account

Canadian residents can bank with TD Bank in the U.S. as Cross-Border customers. However, this account will still be a Canadian one and does not fit our criteria about an account with a US address.

The ones that do fit the criteria are the ones in the table above. You do not need to use the Cross Border solution for those.

BMO Harris

Pros 👍
  • ability to open a US account over the phone (and soon, online)
  • some accounts have no balance requirement to waive fees

Cons 👎

  • interest is paid only on the highest tier account

BMO Harris has partnered with BMO a few years ago to provide a cross-border solution. However, these are still two different bank entities.

To get a BMO Harris account, you do not need to open a Canadian account. 

CIBC

Pros 👍
  • ability to open a US account online
  • easy to transfer money between the Canadian account and US one
  • the account is compatible with Apple Pay

Cons 👎

  • the balance to keep to waive fees is pretty high
  • must be an existing client of CIBC
  • no interest paid

For Canadians who need a US account, CIBC got a banking product that is a bit similar to the Cross Border by TD. The biggest difference is that this is a genuine US account for a genuine US bank.

Before opening this account, you still need to be an existing CIBC client.

Which Bank to Choose?

As I said earlier, it all boils down to your personal circumstances.

If you are already a client of CIBC, then going with their USA Smart Account might be what you need.

If you are not or do not like their USA account, then I guess, you can choose between TD US and BMO Harris.

Both have competitive features and the choice is tough.

Let’s compare these accounts again (on mobile, swipe the table to the left).

Account Name Initial
deposit
Amount
to wave fees
Monthly
Fee
# free
transac.
Extra
transac.
cost
Interest
TD Simple Checking $0.00 n/a $5.99 unlim n/a no
TD Convenience Checking $0.00 $100.00 $15.00 unlim n/a no
TD Premier Checking $0.00 $2,500.00 $25.00 unlim n/a yes
BMO Harris Smart Money Checking $25.00 under 25 yo $5.00 unlim n/a no
BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking $25.00 n/a $0.00 unlim n/a no
BMO Harris Premier Account* $25.00 $25,000.00 $30.00 unlim n/a yes

I would say that if I tend to have a lot of money on my checking, I would want it to pay interest. Both TD Premier Checking account and BMO Harris Premier Account pay interest. However, BMO Harris requires a much higher balance to waive fees. So, in this case, I would choose TD Premier Checking account.

If my checking balance tends to be small or even zero, I wouldn’t care about interest but I would again care about waiving fees. In this case, I would go with BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking that just does not have monthly fees.

How To Transfer Money From Canada to the USA

What about transferring funds from the Canadian account to the US one and vice versa?

CIBC has it built-in into their USA Smart Account, which seems to be really convenient. With TD US (if you are not using Cross Border)and BMO Harris, you will need to use some third party solution.

But is it actually a problem? 

And is it good at all to use the currency exchange rates provided by your bank?

The answer is no and no. The majority of banks have horrible currency exchange rates and the third party currency exchange solutions can offer better rates.

For example, I use OFX Canada (an affiliate link that will give you access to better rates) to transfer money between foreign accounts.

If you are curious to learn what it is and how their rates are compared to TD Cross Border rates, check out my OFX review.

As an alternative, you can use TransferWise (an affiliate link).

How To Obtain Valid Information About Canadian Banks In USA

While doing my research, I learned one thing: Do not put too much trust into what support agents tell you.

The best way to obtain truthful information, especially if it differs from what you read in online reviews or on their website is to call a few times and then compare the answers from different agents.

When an answer sounds weird or undesirable, the best thing is to call back and ask the question again. It is frustrating, but the answers too often depend on the professional level of the agents or maybe how they felt or their mood.

I learned it from my personal experience.

In the beginning, I believed everything the agents were telling me. But at some point, I found out that some of the answers did not match some information I found on the website.

After that, I started calling the same banks 2-3 times to ask the same questions again and again. I also changed my questions based on the information I already learned.

It all helped to obtain the truly valid information about banks and accounts they offer.

How To Open a US Bank Account From Canada

For various reasons, I decided to go with BMO Harris.

BMO Harris has partnered with BMO (Canadian bank); both banks are pretty independent of each other.

They do not require Canadian residents to have an account with the Canadian BMO. And they can open an account over the phone.

First, call them and initiate an account opening. You need to provide them with your name and postal address.

After accepting your verbal application, the bank will send you a package with papers to sign. Receiving it may take a few days since they mail it from the US.

While waiting for the package, you need to understand how you will pay the initial deposit in USD.

The easiest way to do so is to:

  • open a USD account with your bank
  • deposit the required sum there
  • write a money order to yourself that you will send later to BMO Harris

After receiving the account papers, you sign them and send them back along with the deposit money order and a copy of your driver’s license from both sides.

Once the bank receives your papers, the account gets open. You will receive another mail with confirmation.

That’s it!

US Bank Account For Canadian: My need

Why I Needed a US Based Account

This article was initially written when I was looking to open a US account myself.

Why did I need to do it?

As you may already know from one of my older posts, I had two reasons to open a US bank account:

  1. receiving payments for my blogging activity (from my niche websites)
  2. buying websites

You might be already a bit familiar with niche websites and what they are all about. If not, read this post by Steve Scott.

I decided to go with the Amazon Affiliate program and build my first niche website around it (fast forward, here are the niche websites I got by the end of 2015.)

Account For Amazon Affiliate Program

For the Amazon Affiliate program, I needed a US account in the USA in order to minimize banking fees.

Amazon Affiliate program supports 3 types of payments:

  • gift card;
  • checks;
  • the direct deposit paid directly to your account.

Depositing the checks, which are foreign to Canadian banks, invokes all sorts of international banking fees, delays, and unfavorable currency conversion rates.

Direct deposit is the cheapest and fastest way to get money. However, it can be done only to a US account opened in a bank located in the US. 

This was the first reason why I needed a US-based account.

Account For Buying Online Business

When it comes to buying an online business, I use a dedicated financial broker that facilitates the process of buying and selling. From my point of view, this is a must, and I will write in a separate post why I think so.

One of my favorite brokers is Empire Flippers (again, I will explain what it is and why it is my favorite in a separate post).

Every week, these guys publish 2-8 online businesses for sale.

While it seems like a lot of websites, in fact, the cheap ones (the price is < $15,000 – yes, this is cheap compared to a few hundred thousand dollar websites!) get sold in a few hours after the publication. The websites disappear so quickly that very often there is no time left to do proper due diligence.

It makes it so hard to buy a non-expensive website!

What’s important in this race is not how fast you tell them that you decided to buy.

What matters is the speed with which the payment appears on their account.

Empire Flippers accepts wire transfers, and the very first wire transfer that drops on their account wins the race.

And their account is in a US bank…

You see what I mean, right? No? Let me explain.

A wire transfer from a Canadian bank to a US one may take somewhere between 3 to 5 days. Meanwhile, a domestic transfer, from the USA to the USA, takes 4 – 24 hours. Hours! I have no chances to win the race while trying to pay from a Canadian account.

I did try once.

After they published a new set of websites, I spotted a great and cheap one and rushed to my bank, which was only 5 min away from my office.  Luckily that morning I did not have any meetings at work.

After getting to the bank, I did the wire transfer and crossed my fingers hoping for the best. However, only 12 hours later I learned that the website was sold to somebody else who clearly did not need 3 days for their payment to go through.

This is the second reason why I needed a US-based account.

But is it possible to open one if you are not a US resident? If you are from Canada, the answer is yes!

How I Opened a US Account With BMO Harris

Please note that I opened a BMO Harris account in 2015 and since then, some numbers and steps may have changed.

So, after collecting the info about all the accounts above, I decided to go with BMO Harris.

The only few things that BMO Harris needs to open an account is a $100USD check as a hard deposit and your papers.

The easiest way to obtain the USD check would be to open a US account with your bank, deposit the money, and write a money order to yourself.

Luckily, my bank (BMO) allows opening USD accounts and my banking plan (Plus Plan) also allowed me to open additional accounts for free.

I opened a USD account online, took $140CAD cash from my regular account and exchanged it for $100USD at a good currency exchange office (not a bank). Then I put it on my new USD account and immediately made a money order to myself.

All this took about 1 hour, most of it waiting in line at the currency exchange office 🙂

After opening an account with BMO Harris on the phone, I got a package from them by mail in one business day

I signed the papers and sent them back along with the check and a copy of my driver’s license from both sides. 

Once they received the papers, my account got opened. Hurray!

But it was only half of the task. The other half was to set up the wire transfer process over the phone.

In a few weeks, I found a website to buy and paid for it using a wire transfer. Here I wrote how it went.

US Bank Account For Canadian - sponsored

International Banking Markups

It’s important to remember that sending money from the USA or Canada in foreign currency is extremely expensive.
The wire fees are at around USD 25-50 per transaction, but above that, banks charge at around 2% of the lump sum in markups.
If you are lucky enough to be successful at what you do, this 2% markup can become hundreds or thousands of dollars annually.
The alternative is a bespoke currency service, with lower margin and no wire fees.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I received a small fee in order to publish them. Thank you for supporting my blog by visiting it!

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