I recently opened a new checking account for the first time in a decade. As I walked into the branch, I was wondering if I was prepared.
What do I need to open a bank account?
Fortunately, I lucked out. Everything I needed was either hiding in my wallet or my memory. If you want to avoid a hiccup the next (or first) time you open a bank account, here’s what to expect and everything you’ll need to get started.
How to open a bank account in 5 steps
If you already know what kind of account and what kind of bank is right for you, skip to step two. If not, let’s figure out the hard part first.
1. Choose your bank and the type of account
Checking accounts are suitable for receiving paychecks and covering routine bills and expenses. Savings accounts, meanwhile, keep cash a little less accessible and are better for growing your money for a rainy day.
No matter the account, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors, like the interest rate you can earn on your account or the fees you might have to pay to maintain it.
These facts hold true whether you’re a senior citizen looking to stash away Social Security checks or a new grad seeking a checking account.
Beyond account types, you’ll also want to decide where to house your money. Bigger banks might afford you the convenience of more ATMs and faster service. Credit unions and online-only banks typically offer higher interest rates.
2. Decide how to open your account
I opened my newest account during my lunch break from work. But, these days, you can apply for and secure a new savings or checking account even faster. You can complete the whole process online or over the phone.
Citibank, for example, promises you’ll be “banking within minutes” of completing your online application. Bank of America, for its part, says you can finish the process on your laptop or smartphone within 10 minutes.
If you’re opening an account with an online-only bank, though, you’ll probably do everything online.
If you have the option, though, it might be faster and wiser to open the account in person, particularly if you’re new to banking.
When you walk into a branch, you can sit down with a personal banker who will guide you through the application process one step at a time. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions before opening your account.
For example, you might ask about the number of withdrawals you can make every month or about the benefits of overdraft protection.
3. Have your documents ready and apply
Whether you’re opening a bank account online, over the phone, or in person, you’ll need the same information handy. To apply for a new account, you need to be 18 years old and have a U.S. mailing address and Social Security number.
Ally, an online-only bank, asks for the following information during its application process:
- Street address
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
If you’re applying online, you’ll need to provide additional details from your driver’s license (or other ID), such as its issue and expiration date and state of origin. You might use a driver’s license or a state or military ID.
When I applied for a Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account, for example, my banker asked to see my driver’s license as my primary ID. Without anything else handy, he accepted my Bank of America debit card as a secondary ID.
You’ll need to provide the same information for your account co-owner if you’re opening a joint account. If you’re under 18, for example, your parent might be your co-owner.
Before approving you as an account holder, your bank will run this information through a service like TeleCheck or ChexSystems to view your banking history. They might even review your credit report.
Although the basic information necessary to open an account is standard, you might also need the following:
- Monthly bill (to verify your address)
- Offer printout or code (if you’re seeking an account sign-up bonus)
- Employer information (for setting up direct deposit)
If you don’t have something with you, you can always hit pause on your application and resume when you’re ready.
4. Make your first deposit
Your bank will want you to make an initial deposit on the spot. After all, you’re more likely to use the account if you have money sitting in it.
In some cases, this is a requirement to open a new bank account. Depending on the bank and your account, your opening deposit can be as low as $1.
If you’re in a branch, you can hand over cash, check, or transfer funds from another account.
If you’ve signed up with an online bank, you have many of the same options. At Ally, for example, you can:
- Set up an online or wire transfer from another bank
- Scan a check using the bank’s mobile app or website
- Mail a check
Don’t come empty-handed if you want to finalize your account’s opening the same day you file your application.
5. Activate your ATM or debit card
Whether you’re opening a savings account or a checking account, you will almost always receive some new plastic for your wallet.
After opening a Chase bank account, I received a temporary debit card in the branch with the promise that a permanent one would soon arrive in the mail. Similarly, SunTrust says on its website that new cards arrive by mail within seven days of completing an application.
You’ll also need to create a pin to use your card at the ATM. If you’re opening the account in person, your banker will ask you to type it into a keypad. The passcode length can vary — I have six- and four-digit pins for my accounts.
In addition to the card, you’ll be encouraged to set up your username and password for the bank’s website and mobile app. You might also receive free checks with the offer to buy more.
Ready to open a bank account?
After learning how to open a bank account, remember that the bank will be there to answer questions. After all, they’ll want to keep you happy as a customer.
The hard part is knowing what kind of account you need and which bank you want to use. If you’re still not sure what’s right for you, check out some of the best checking and savings accounts.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.49% effective March 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.50% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.53% – 8.79%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.55% – 7.12%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|