Can You Apply for a Bank Account with an ITIN if you have a Social Security Number

Adam Rust

Cultural concerns among Latinos immigrants over how they protect their Social Security numbers may undermine their ability to migrate into the US banking system.

According to bankers who provide financial services to immigrants, many applicants withhold their SSN when they apply for a bank account. In fact, as many as four of every ten people who apply for accounts at certain Latino-focused banks submit a form of identification other than their SSN, even though they have a number.

It comes down to the fact that they hear from within their peer groups that their SSN is too important to risk sharing with an online company – even one operating under strict regulatory supervision such as a bank. New residents understand that getting a social security number confers immediate benefits. Having received a card, a person qualifies for retirement benefits. According to the Council of Economic Advisors, a majority of elderly Latinos receive more than 90 percent of their retirement income from Social Security.

Getting a Social Security number represents a significant step to full assimilation in the United States.

Those concerns have gained more credibility inside immigrant communities because of recent changes in our country’s political environment.

According to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, the share of Hispanics who believe their status within our country is worsening has doubled since 2015, and more specifically, that approximately one-half hold concerns that someone they know will be deported.

Picture of card
Picture of card
Immigrant Bank Account SSN or ITIN

Normally, concealing your social security number will mean that the bank denies your application.

Anyone with a social security number who instead tries to provide an individual tax identification number (“ITIN”) will be scored as a security risk under identity verification algorithms.  

As a result, if you have a Social Security number, then you must include it in your application for a bank account.

Contracts established by banks with third-party technology companies allow them to verify the information provided to them by an applicant. With the benefit of those algorithms, they can ascertain when a person is attempting to suppress their identity. Banks deploy this technology when applications occur over the internet or through a mobile app download. It’s not a choice for the banks – they must authenticate a person’s identity to comply with banking laws.

Besides, you will regret it. You will complicate your finances. The fact is, it is not a good practice to continue to use an ITIN after you get a Social Security number. The IRS requests that people discontinue the use of their ITIN once they receive their Social Security card. “It is improper to use both the ITIN and the SSN assigned to the same person to file tax returns.” By attempting to use both, a person could create havoc with their tax return and potentially undermine their ability to qualify for a refund.

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Adam Rust has worked to defend consumers against harmful financial practices since 2005. He has written extensively about overdraft fees, payday lending, credit insurance, student loans, prepaid debit cards, high-cost installment loans, and subprime mortgage lending. The New York Times interviewed him when it reported on the CFPB's rulemaking on prepaid debit cards; subsequently, his research paper framed the debate on consumer protections.

He serves on the Board of the US Faster Payments Council. He is Director of Research at Reinvestment Partners in Durham, North Carolina. He is the author of BankTalk. He is the author of "This is My Home: Challenges and Opportunities of Manufactured Housing" and has testified to Congress on how to redress some of the problems with manufactured housing. See more on his LinkedIn profile.