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

Get the info you need to streamline the account-opening process.

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. Read on to find out what you'll need and see the steps to take to get started.

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.

What Fees Does the Bank Charge?

Look at whether the bank charges monthly maintenance fees for the account. Also consider how much it charges for overdraft fees.

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.

What Do You Need To Open a Checking Account?

You'll need to gather a few documents before you can open a checking account. Documentation is required as part of a bank's regular security measures to protect both the bank and the consumer.

When opening a checking account, you'll need to have the following documents:

  • Driver's license or other photo ID
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of current residential address

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.

 

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 present a Social Security number, individual taxpayer identification number, 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 those for cable, phone, gas and/or water can also be used.

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.

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. You'll need to provide the following information:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your contact information, including your name, address, email address and phone number

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 these free checking accounts with no minimum deposit.

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.

This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.

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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.

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