How to Open a Checking Account: All the Documents You Need

Get the information you need to open a new bank account.

Whether you’re opening your first checking account or moving your existing accounts to a new bank, you will need specific documents. The general guidelines for opening a checking account are valid whether you are opening a new account online or at your local brick and mortar bank location. It’s important to note that a checking account can be opened by individuals who have reached the age of majority. If the new checking account is for a minor, an account can still be opened if a parent or legal guardian is listed as the co-owner of the account.

Read on to find out what you need to get your checking account started.

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Documents Needed to Open a Checking Account

Documentation to open a bank account is required as part of a bank’s regular security measures to protect both the bank and you as the consumer. To avoid fees and open a free checking account, make sure you understand the minimum balance requirements to be maintained in your new account. A minimum deposit might be required after you complete the initial account paperwork. If you are unsure of how to open a bank account, have the following documents available when opening your account:

  • Driver’s license or other photo ID
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of current residential address
  • Email address
  • Co-applicant’s information (if opening a joint account or an account for a minor) 
  • Minimum deposit

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Additional Identification Requirements to Open a Checking Account

If you do not have what you need to open a bank account, or if you have a special situation that must be considered, schedule a meeting with a bank associate to discuss what documentation is needed. Here are more details about the documents you can use for some of the requirements mentioned above:

  • Photo ID or driver’s license: This information is required by the bank for security purposes. Acceptable alternatives include state-issued ID, military ID, U.S. passport or federal government ID. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, you can also use items such as a Mexican Matricula Card or a Guatemalan consular ID card if you also present a Social Security number, ITIN, passport number, alien identification card number or government-issued ID.   
  • Proof of residential address: Some banks will require two pieces of information to verify your address. Acceptable documents include lease agreements, deeds and vehicle registration. Utility bills such as cable, phone, gas and/or water can also be used. 

More Opportunities: Best Checking Account Bonuses, Promotions and Offers

Where to Get These Required Documents if You Misplaced Them

If you have misplaced one of the documents necessary to open a new checking account, no need to panic. Contact the bank and discuss it with an associate. In certain situations, the bank will accept an alternate form of identification. If necessary, the bank can assist in directing you to the resource you will need to obtain a replacement for your lost ID.

Learn More: What Is a Checking Account?

How to Open a Checking Account Online for Free

For security reasons, not all banks will allow you to complete an online account opening for a new checking account. Bank of America is a good example of one bank that does allow you to open a checking account, savings account, CD or IRA online. It is possible to open a free online checking account if you make the minimum required initial deposit and maintain a minimum fund balance in the account at all times. 

Bank of America has an online application process for checking accounts where applicants can securely enter the personal information required to open an account. However, the process is not complete as soon as you enter your information online. Security checks and additional forms will be required. At Bank of America, some of these forms can be electronically signed, but you will still be required to sign a signature form and mail it back to the bank to complete your application process. Bank of America specifically notes that additional documents to complete the application process for your checking account will be mailed to your residential address, which can take seven to 10 business days. In the end, although it is possible to open a checking account online for free, it might be easier to go in and open your new checking account in person. 

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About the Author

Deborah is a freelance consultant and business strategist with over 28 years of experience in the finance industry. While in the corporate world, she worked with notable finance companies including Arthur Anderson, Nikko Securities, The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Société Generale FIMAT trading management.