What Banks are Immigrants Using and How Much Does it Cost Them

Posted by in Data | Updated on August 30, 2022

To better understand the banking habits of U.S. immigrants, we analyzed how and where 3000 immigrants are storing their money as well as the various banking fees they were paying.

Key Takeaways

  • A vast majority of immigrant bank accounts are with just five financial institutions
  • A vast majority of immigrants only have one bank account
  • Across all transaction fee categories, no one bank stands out as particularly better for immigrants

Which Banks are Immigrants Using?

To begin, we took a look at where U.S. immigrants are storing their money.

More than 80% (82.06%) of U.S. immigrants have accounts with just 5 U.S. banks.

In terms of total size, each bank maintains a percentage of immigrant bank accounts that’s, more or less, in-line with their where they rank: Bank of America (2), Chase (1), Wells Fargo (3), PNC (4), Citi (5).

The remaining 17.94% of accounts are split across 64 banks and credit unions, with no one of those institutions servicing more than 2.2% of the remaining accounts.

How Many Bank Accounts Do Immigrants Have?

Next, we looked at the number of bank accounts the average immigrant has.

According to the data, an overwhelming majority (94.7%) of U.S. immigrants only have a single bank account in their name. Just of 5% of immigrants have a second bank account.

In the next sections of this article, we’ll look at some of the common banking fees immigrants pay.

Overdraft Fees for Immigrants by Bank

One of the most common banking fees account owners pay is overdraft fees.

On average, immigrants page between ~$33 and ~$48 per overdraft fee across 4 of the 5 top banks for immigrants. Interestingly, Chase is an outlier in the data, charging immigrants ~$14 per overdraft fee.

Insufficient Funds Fees for Immigrants by Bank

Another common bank fee paid by account owners is insufficient funds fees.

Across the other 4 of the 5 banks we looked at, immigrants pay ~$35 to ~$47 per insufficient funds fee. While the data available does not include information for PNC, it appears that across banks insufficient funds fees are fairly consistent, with only a ~$12 difference between the most and least expensive fees.

Wire Transfer Fees for Immigrants by Bank

One of the most popular transactions among immigrants is the wire transfer.

Like insufficient funds fees, wire transfer fees are fairly consistent (even more consistent, in fact) across the top banks for immigrants. On average, immigrants pay $17.89 in fees per wire transfer transaction, with Citi charging the least per transaction at $16.83 per transaction and Chase charging the most at $20.38 per transaction.

Foreign Transaction Fees for Immigrants by Bank

Another transaction fee that is prominent among fees paid by immigrants is foreign transaction fees.

While foreign transaction fees are among the smallest fees paid by immigrants, they have the largest disparity. On the high end of fees, Citi charges immigrants $4.93, while Wells Fargo charges immigrants less than half that at $1.46 per transaction.

Late Fees for Immigrants by Bank

Next we looked at late fees, one of the most expensive transaction fees immigrants pay.

Late fees is another category with a larger disparity from high to low, with Wells Fargo charging immigrant customers an average $32.20 per transaction and Citi charging $23.08 per transaction.

ATM Fees for Immigrants by Bank

Perhaps the most common fee paid by all account owners, immigrants included, is ATM fees.

Of all of the fees discussed here, ATM fees are by far the smallest cost to immigrants, costing them on the low end $2.60 (Wells Fargo) and on the high end $3.31 (Chase) per transaction.

Conclusion

While no definitive statements can be made about which bank is the overall best option for immigrants based on the data available, some insights into their banking habits can be gleaned.

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In terms of the number of accounts, immigrants tend to lean conservative, with a vast majority of immigrants having only a single account with a single institution.

With transaction fees, no one bank stands out as being particularly more beneficial than any of the others. By fee amount the best and worst banks are:

FeeBestWorst
OverdraftChaseWells Fargo
Insufficient FundsWells FargoCiti
Wire TransferCitiChase
ForeignWells FargoCiti
LateCitiWells Fargo
ATMWells FargoBank of America

At first glance, Wells Fargo appears to have a slight edge on the other banks, offering 3 of 6 of the best/lowest fees, but Wells Fargo also offers two of the worst/highest fees in 2 other categories. Ultimately, it’s too close to call a single bank the best for immigrants.


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