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What do I Need to Open a Bank Account?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Depending on how you open a bank account and what type of account you need, different materials may be required. At a minimum, you must provide proof of your age, address, and legal status, whether you open the account in person, on the phone, or on the Internet. Prepare to set aside at least half an hour to complete the process, and gather your supporting materials first so that you are ready to go. If you are opening a joint account with another person or a cosigner, collect all of your information and plan on being together to open the account.

Before you get started, determine what kind of account you want and where you want to bank. Most people have a checking account, which allows them to deposit money and then write checks or use a debit card to pay bills. Depending on the bank, you may be able to get an interest-bearing checking account, which will allow you to earn money on your deposit. In this instance, the bank will probably require a minimum balance, typically around $1,000 US Dollars (USD), and if your balance dips below this amount, you will be charged a fee. If you just want to put money away, you will want to research various types of savings accounts, which earn interest on your deposit, but do not have the flexibility of checking.

You also have options when it comes to banks when you open an account. If you travel or move a great deal, you will probably want to consider a large chain bank, which will have many automatic teller machines (ATMs) for you to access cash from, as well as many physical branches. If, however, you prefer to do business locally or do not travel a great deal, a local bank or credit union is a good choice, and it will support your local economy.

When you open a bank account in person, you will need identification that proves your age, such as a driver's license or passport; proof of address, such as a utility sent to your home; and an additional proof of your legal status, such as a Social Security number or passport. You should also bring money to deposit. Go into the branch when it isn't too busy so that you can be helped quickly by the bank staff, and be sure to ask about fees associated with the account before you sign any paperwork. Once you have completed all the information, you will be given a passbook and temporary checks, if you have opened a checking account, to use until the bank mails you the official documents.

You can also open a bank account over the phone or on the Internet. Your supporting information is given to the banker over the phone or entered into a form, and the bank will request that you send in your signature to finalize the account. Once the bank has received your signature, it will send your checks, official passbook, and other materials related to your new account.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By nevinkortes — On Apr 26, 2012

Surely, opening a business account requires a little more documentation.

The first time I failed, I thought it might be good to read some recommendations at first.

By LivHappyr — On Jun 14, 2010


I second your suggestion. My husband and I also have a local and major bank account. But we did it because of problems with our credit union. Sometimes their debit card system fails and we can’t make purchases, which can be very embarrassing with a full grocery cart. But what finally pushed us to open a national bank account was when a large purchase was accidentally authorized twice on our debit card late one Friday night. And since there is no customer service available with our credit union during off hours, it remained that way until I could speak with the bank on Monday morning at 9am.

By ProudMom2 — On Jun 14, 2010

The article mentions some differences between major banks and local credit unions. Customers looking to open up new accounts should compare the pros and cons of each type to make sure it fits their needs. I opened up a credit union following high school and still have it today. It is good for low interest loans and free checking.

However major banks are a wise choice for people who travel, want 24/7 customer service and welcome newer electronic devices. I also have a major chain bank account. It’s good when traveling because the name is more recognizable, there are ATM’s out of my state and I can deposit any check at an ATM with instant access to funds. None of those are available with my credit union.

Another thing to consider is availability of funds. Last year I received a large insurance check; the major bank wanted a 14 day hold while the credit union gave immediate access to funds. A good suggestion would be to play it safe and have one major bank account and one credit union account.

By desertdunes — On Feb 21, 2010

Ever since the Patriot Act, you can't open a checking account without 2 forms of picture ID, or a major credit card could substitute for one of the pictures.

I had my drivers license, proof of residence and my Social Security card. They wouldn't let me open an account! Since I had no credit history and no bank account I couldn't get a major credit card..it was a catch-22!

I had to have my DAD put me on one of his credit cards before I could open an account! Talk about feeling like a kid again.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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