What Do You Need To Open a Checking Account?

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Checking accounts offer security for your money. Your funds are insured and you don’t have to worry about carrying large amounts of cash.

The process of opening a checking account is simple. You’ll need to decide on the right bank and gather a few documents.

What Do You Need To Open a Checking Account?

Documentation is required as part of a bank’s regular security measures to protect both the bank and the consumer.

What is required when opening a checking account? When opening a checking account, you’ll need to have the following:

  • Driver’s license or other photo ID
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of address showing name and address of current residence
  • An initial deposit, if needed.

Note that most banks require you to be at least 18 to open a bank account on your own. If you’re opening a joint account or an account for a minor, you’ll also need your co-applicant’s information.

Keep In Mind

In addition to the documents, you may need a minimum deposit to open the account. Some checking accounts require a minimum opening deposit, a minimum balance to maintain or both. Be sure to read the fine print. Fortunately, there are checking accounts with no minimum deposit as well as ones with no minimum balance.

Earn Perks With A New 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 above.

Photo ID or Driver’s License

Banks require this information for security purposes. Acceptable alternatives include state-issued ID, military ID, a 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 cannot present a Social Security number, your individual taxpayer identification number, passport number, alien identification card number or government-issued ID would work in some cases.

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 those for cable, phone, gas or water can also be used.

Earn Perks With A New Checking Account

How To Open a Checking Account

The exact requirements to open a checking account vary by bank. Here’s an overview of how to open a checking account at most financial institutions:

Steps To Open a Checking Account

  1. Compare banks’ fees and services before choosing where to open an account.
  2. Gather your driver’s license or photo ID, Social Security card and proof of address.
  3. Visit a branch or the bank’s website to apply for an account.
  4. Make the minimum opening deposit, if any.

Here’s a closer look at the steps you’ll need to take to open a checking account.

1. Choose a Bank To Open an Account With

Consider which banks are convenient for you, how much they charge in fees and any other services each bank offers. Take a look at our list of Best Checking Accounts.

2. Gather Your Personal Information

Find your personal documents, including your driver’s license or state-issued ID, so the account-opening process goes smoothly. What do you need to open a checking account? You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your contact information, including your name, address, email address and phone number
Earn Perks With A New Checking Account

If your bank requires an opening deposit, you’ll also need the money or your routing and account numbers associated with another account.

3. Apply for the Account and Get Approved

To open a checking account online, visit your preferred bank’s website and look for the online application. Then follow the instructions to open an account.

If you choose to open a checking account in person, visit your preferred bank’s local branch, then speak to an associate to submit an application.

4. Fund the Account

Once your application is approved, deposit the money needed to fund the account. The minimum opening deposit varies by bank, so that’s essential information to find out about before you open a checking account. Or consider a free checking account with no minimum deposit.

What You Need To Know if You’re Closing Your Old Checking Account

If you’re opening a new checking account with plans to close your current one, here’s a rundown of things you should be aware of and do. 

  • Make a list of direct deposits and automatic payments. If you’re closing your current checking account, you’ll need to make a list of any direct deposits and automatic payments that are deposited to or withdrawn from the account. Once your old checking account is closed, the transactions will cease. Then, you’ll need to contact your employer or government agency and change your direct deposit information. You’ll also need to contact your creditors to give them your new banking information.
  • Wait until you’re ready to close the account before withdrawing all of the funds. Some checking accounts have a minimum balance requirement to avoid the monthly maintenance fee. If you withdraw all of your funds, it will trigger the monthly maintenance fee, and you will have to pay it.
  • Contact your bank to find out how to close your account. Depending on your bank’s policies, you may have to fill out an account closure form or write a letter stating you want to close the account. Ask your bank to confirm that the account is closed in writing.
  • Destroy any checks or debit cards connected to the closed account. Once the account is closed, you’ll no longer need the checks or debit card connected to it. Destroy those by shredding the checks and cutting up the debit card so no one will be able to attempt to use them.

What To Consider Before Opening a Checking Account

Before opening a checking account, you’ll need to decide which bank or credit union you want to work with. Then you’ll need to choose which checking account to open, as most banks offer several options and run promotions. Consider these questions to help you narrow down your options.

  • What is the easiest bank to open a checking account with? The easiest bank could be one that’s down the street from your home or workplace. It could also be an online bank if you don’t plan to use the services of a branch.
  • How much is the opening deposit? Some banks and credit unions don’t require an opening deposit, while others have a minimum. Consider how much you’ll need to deposit when you open the account. Most banks set opening deposits from $25 to $100.
  • What fees does the bank charge? Look at whether the bank charges monthly maintenance fees for the account. Monthly maintenance fees can run from $0 to $30. Also consider how much it charges for overdraft fees. You can expect to pay around $30, on average, for an overdraft fee, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
  • What other services does the bank offer? Are you looking for more than a checking account? Consider what other products or services you might need from your bank or credit union, whether it’s a savings account or a mortgage.

Checking Account Alternatives

If a checking account isn’t right for you, consider the following alternatives that are available.

Cash Management Account

Cash management accounts are offered by nonbank financial institutions like investment firms. If you’re an investor with an institution that offers these accounts, having more of your money in one place can simplify your financial life.

Prepaid Debit Card

Prepaid debit cards allow you to add money using cash or direct deposit, or by transferring funds from a bank account. These cards are best for those who may not be approved for a checking account.

Final Take

Checking accounts offer you solid security for your money. After deciding on the right bank, the process of opening a checking account is very simple. The four things that are required to open a checking account are your driver’s license or other photo ID, Social Security card, proof of address showing your name and current residential address and an initial deposit.

More on Checking Accounts

Compare Checking Accounts

GOBankingRates’ Best Banks 2023

Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.

This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication. Information is accurate as of Nov. 11, 2022. 

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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Earn Perks With A New Checking Account

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.
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