Checking Accounts

A checking account makes personal financial transactions simple, efficient, and reliable—even if you don’t write paper checks. Learn how to treat a checking account as a fundamental personal finance tool.

Basics of a Checking Account

young adult in jean shirt working on laptop
How Checking Accounts Work
Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you open a checking account?

    Opening a checking account is as simple as filling out a form with the bank or credit union. You’ll also need to provide some information, including your address, a Social Security number or other tax ID number, and your date of birth. A driver’s license or other state-issued ID and a bill with your name and address on it is usually all the documentation required.

  • What do you need to open a checking account?

    You’ll need at least two forms of identification—a driver’s license and a bill with your home address, for example—and you may need a small opening deposit of $100 or less, depending on the bank. Banks and credit unions don’t check your credit score, but they may check your profile through ChexSystems (which tracks bank account activity rather than credit account activity) to make sure you haven’t mismanaged a checking account in the past.

  • Can you set up a checking account online?

    It depends on the bank or credit union. Some banks and credit unions require you to open an account in person, while others allow you to open an account online. And some banks and credit unions are online-only, so online is the only way you can set up a checking account with those institutions.

  • What is the difference between a checking and savings account?

    A checking account is used for everyday spending, and there are no restrictions on how many purchases or transactions you can make per month. A savings account, on the other hand, is designed to hold money that you don’t expect to spend soon, and money stored in this account usually earns a bit of interest. The Federal Reserve used to cap the number of “convenient,” non-branch transactions account holders could make with a savings account, but that restriction is no longer a regulation (although many banks still do enforce transaction limits).

  • Can you open a bank account with no money?

    Yes, some banks and credit unions allow you to open an account with no money, while others require a minimum opening deposit of $25 to $100.

  • How do you close a checking account?

    You can close a checking account by notifying your bank. If you have any outstanding fees or overdrawn balances, you’ll need to settle those up. If you have any automatic deposits or payments associated with the account, you should also make plans for those—redirect your deposits to another account and reschedule your automatic payments from another account as well.

Key Terms

Explore Checking Accounts

Small business owner calculating expenses
What Is a Zero Balance Account (ZBA)?
Image shows a money order for $300 filled out for "Cosmo Kramer", from Jerry Seinfeld
How To Fill Out a Money Order
Man stands at bank teller paying for a money order with cash
What Is a Money Order?