How To Open a Bank Account and What You Need To Do It

Image of what you need to open a bank account, including a social security card, cash deposit, forms filled out and ID.

The Balance / Maddy Price

To open an account, you'll need to choose a bank and provide the bank with some necessary information, including your identification and proof of address. You'll usually need to be 18 to meet the bank's eligibility requirements. Finally, you might need to fund the account or have a minimum balance to avoid fees.

Key Takeaways

  • To open an account, you'll need to bring a government-issued ID, your identification number, and your physical and mailing address.
  • When deciding on an account, you'll want to read the disclosures so you can learn about any account fees or balance minimums.
  • You can decide what bank or account you want based on the features you're looking for, whether it's high-interest rates, low balance minimums, no ATM fees, or something else.

What You Need To Open a Bank Account

When you open a new bank account, you'll need to give the bank or credit union documentation so they can verify your identify.

Have the following items ready:

  • A government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license, passport, or military ID)
  • Your identification number
  • Proof of your physical and mailing address
  • An initial deposit (if required)

If you don’t have a government-issued ID, you may be able to use another form of ID. Ask your bank what other forms of identification it can accept.

Depending on your situation, your identification number may be your Social Security number, alien identification card number, Individual Tax Payer Identification Number, or another government-issued ID number. If you're a United States citizen, your identification number is most likely your Social Security number.

You'll need to provide this information in some form whether you're opening up an account online or in person.

Choose a Bank or Credit Union

After you have all of your documents together, you'll want to choose the best bank or credit union for your situation. If you know what type of account you want, you can look for the best deals, whether you're in the market for an online checking account, a high-yield savings account, or something else.

There are three basic categories of financial institutions:

  • Banks, including community banks and big banks: These might be well-known brands in your local community, or nationwide. They should offer most of the basic services you need, including checking and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, and more.
  • Credit unions: A credit union is a customer-owned financial institution that provides many of the same services and products that banks provide. If you opt to join one of these not-for-profit institutions, you'll often enjoy competitive rates because they're not necessarily trying to maximize profits. But that’s not always the case—so review fee schedules carefully.
  • Online banks and credit unions: These institutions operate entirely online. There’s no branch to visit (or pay for), and you’ll handle most service requests yourself. If you have access to and are comfortable using a computer or mobile device—and performing basic banking transactions—an online bank can help you reduce your fees and earn higher interest rates on savings accounts.


You might want to have accounts with multiple banks. For example, you may decide to open an online bank account and a brick-and-mortar bank to keep your fees low and maintain the ability to visit an in-person bank if you need to.

Choosing an Account

If you're not sure what type of account you want, consider what your needs are.

  • Checking accounts: These accounts are typically used to making payments and receive direct deposits.
  • Savings accounts: These accounts allow you to put your savings aside and earn interest on the money you're not currently using.
  • Money market accounts: These products sometimes earn slightly more interest than savings accounts (while maintaining your access to cash). You may also have debit and check writing options with these accounts.
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs): These products can earn much more than savings accounts but require you to lock up your funds for a certain period.

Within one of the above categories, a bank may offer multiple products, each with a different name and level of service. These accounts may have different minimum balance thresholds, fees, or interest rates.

A general rule of thumb is to choose an option with a mix of features and fees that meet your needs and budget. For example, if you think you won’t keep a lot of money in the account, you may want to open a bank account with a low initial deposit and low or no minimum balance and fee requirements so you don’t get stuck paying unnecessary fees.


In general, you'll only want to bank where your money is protected by FDIC insurance (or NCUSIF coverage if you use a credit union).

Your Financial History

Your financial history doesn’t need to be impeccable to open a bank account, but it may play into the bank’s decision to approve or deny your application. Your bank or credit union might use ChexSystems, a targeted consumer reporting agency that tracks checking and savings accounts, to determine how much risk a potential customer might pose to the institution where they’re applying for an account. ChexSystems is the banking equivalent of the credit reporting bureaus. 

You don’t necessarily need good credit to get a bank account, but having if you're having trouble opening an account, you might want to review your credit report and get a copy of your ChexSystems report.

Opening an Account

Once you've decided on a bank and type of account, you'll need to provide the bank with your information and sign some paperwork.

You’ll have to agree to abide by certain rules and accept responsibility for certain activities in your accounts. Make sure you read the disclosures before opening an account with the bank. Pay special attention to any fees, and make sure you know how often you can make withdrawals and deposits.


If you’re under 18 years old, you’ll need someone over age 18 to open the account with you. You still might be able to use a debit card and online banking, and you can eventually get your own account.

Print, Sign, and Mail (If Required)

If you're opening a bank account online, you may have to print, sign, and mail a document to the bank before the account is opened. Some banks use electronic disclosure and consent to make the banking relationship legally binding—you can do everything online.

Others still require a signed document to open an account. Until the bank receives the documents, your account is not active.

Fund Your Account

If you’re opening a checking or savings account, you’ll often need to make an initial deposit into the account. Sometimes, this is required as part of the opening process, and other times, you can do it after the account is up and running. There are several ways to fund your account:

  • Deposit cash: It should be available for you to spend within one business day.
  • Deposit a check or money order: The funds should be available within a few business days after you make the deposit, but it may take longer because it's a new account.
  • Set up direct deposit with your employer: If your company offers this, instead of getting a physical paycheck, your earnings will be sent directly to your new account.
  • Transfer funds electronically: You can move money from another bank account to make your initial deposit.

Start Using the Account

If you followed all the steps, you should have a brand new bank account in your name. It should be ready to use within a few minutes to a few days. For checking and savings accounts, keep an eye out for a debit card or ATM card in the mail.

You might also get a checkbook or be able to order a checkbook. To make the most of your account, you may be able to sign up for account features that help you manage your money, including:

  • Online bill pay: This feature allows you to pay bills electronically.
  • Remote check deposit: Your bank’s mobile app may allow you to deposit checks remotely so that you don’t have to make trips to a branch or fill out deposit slips.
  • Alerts: Sign up for text or email alerts so that you know when your account balance is running low or when large withdrawals happen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do I need to open a bank account?

When you open a new bank account, you'll need to provide identification so that the bank can verify your identity. You'll want to bring a government issued ID, like a driver's license, passport or military ID. If you don't have a government-issued ID, you should ask your bank what other forms of identification it can accept. You'll need to provide your identification number, which might be a Social Security number, alien identification number, or other government-issued ID number. Finally, you'll need proof of your physical and mailing address, as well as an initial deposit, if required.

How much money do you need to open a bank account?

Every bank has its own requirements for opening account balances. Most banks will require an initial deposit that ranges from $25 to $100. However, you can also find a few banks that will allow you to open an account without any money down. Be sure to ask the bank how much money you need to deposit to open an account and what the minimum balance is to avoid fees. Make sure any bank you put your money in is FDIC insured.

How long does it take to open a bank account?

The application process for a new bank account is fairly quick. You can usually apply online in 15 minutes or less, though it may take a bit longer in person. It may also take a few days for the bank to verify your information and allow you to begin using your account.

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  2. Northwestern Mutual. "Here's the Difference Between Banks, Credit Unions and Brokerages."

  3. Discover. "How does savings account interest work? Here’s your guide."

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  5. Ally. "Where to Save? Money Market Accounts vs. Savings Accounts."

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  10. "Answers About Funds Availability: I Deposited a Local Check. When Will My Funds Be Available/Released From the Hold?"

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