How to Open a Bank Account
Bank accounts aren’t just for those with mounds of cash. A bank account can help people reach money goals, pay down debt, and build up those cash piles.
Opening a bank account is easy to do, and we’ll show you how step-by-step.
Decide What Type of Account You Need
First, you’ll need to choose the type of account that best fits your needs and goals. Some things to consider:
- What is the purpose of the account? If your main goal is to save, a high-interest savings account might be best. If you’re looking to pay bills and set up direct deposit, then a checking account is needed.
- Who will be on the account? A joint account is excellent for couples or families to keep track of finances. An individual account is suitable for those working towards a personal financial goal.
First-time account holders generally open the following accounts:
Minors can open accounts through a guardian or parent. A savings account is a fantastic way to teach children the importance of saving. Once the child turns 18, they will need to remove their co-signor from the account. Some banks and credit unions will automatically switch to an adult account. Check for any new fees or minimum balances with the turnover.
Talk to a credit union representative if you need help deciding what account to open.
Chose a Bank or Credit Union
Maybe you’re unsure about the differences between banks and credit unions. They do operate a bit differently. Both are safe places to hold your funds and offer similar services and products.
Community and national chain banks will offer all the basic banking needs a first-time account holder might need. You’ll find a variety of checking and savings accounts and other products and services. National chain banks will have an extensive ATM network, and funds are insured through the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) for up to $250,000.
Credit unions are member-owned, not-for-profit financial institutions that provide the same services as banks. Credit unions are well known for giving members the best rates and lowest fees possible. And, yes, credit unions have a wide network of surcharge-free ATMs, with over 30,000 across the US. Your money is safe too. Just like banks, credit union funds are insured through the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) for up to $250,000.
Some online financial institutions have no physical branch to visit, and they operate entirely online. Many of these banks may not offer paper checks, only have mobile deposits, and you can only resolve a problem or complaint through a 1-800 number. The benefits of an online-only bank are:
- Online bill pay
- No paper bills or statements
- Can manage your account at any time
If you’re unsure about going to a completely online banking experience, know that most credit unions and banks have similar features with powerful mobile banking apps plus the convenience of going into a physical location when you need to.
Ready to Open an Account?
After talking with friends or family, reading reviews, and researching online, you’re ready to open an account. If possible, it is helpful to visit the bank or credit union in person. This is an excellent way to see their customer service in action. Did you have to wait a long time? Is there parking? Are tellers friendly and helpful?
What to Bring When Opening an Account
- Driver’s license, ITIN (individual Taxpayer Identification Number), or other government-issued identification
- Social Security card
- A current utility bill to prove your physical mailing address
- Funds for deposit
Check with the bank on how much funds are required when opening an account. At credit unions, you’ll only need $5 to open an account and become a member; make a larger deposit, and be issued a debit card, checks, and more.
Opening an Account Online
Credit unions and banks allow you to open accounts online, saving you a trip to the physical location. This is a handy alternative if you’re joining a credit union that is not located within driving distance or out of state. You’ll still need the above documents to establish your identity. Each financial institution may have specific requirements for opening an account online.