What do you need to open a bank account?
Whether you are opening your first bank account, or you are creating a new account in addition to other bank accounts you own, there is some basic information that is required in order to complete the process.
A Checklist for You
Let’s start with a basic checklist, after which we can go through each item in a little more detail. While each institution may have additional requirements specific to their own operation, you can be assured that the following items must be presented in order to open a bank account:
- An acceptable form of identification
- Your Social Security or Taxpayer ID number
- Proof of address
- Funds with which to open your account
- If applicable to your situation, the same above information for each co-applicant
Now let’s dive a little deeper into each item for more specifics.
One of the reasons that a legally acceptable form of identification is required is that all FDIC-insured banks and financial institutions must confirm your age in addition to your identity.
If you are under the age of 18, you will be required to have an adult (usually a parent or guardian) open the account with you. If that is the case, you can remove the adult from that account after you reach the age of majority.
The most common form of identification is a state-issued driver’s license. Other forms that are accepted are passports and government-issued IDs. The one thing that all three of these forms have in common is that they show a picture of you as part of the identification.
Social Security/Taxpayer ID Information
The reasoning behind obtaining your social security or taxpayer ID number is so the financial institution can report any tax-related information to the appropriate government agencies.
While it is best if the name on your social security card matches your other identification precisely, there can be reasons why this may not be the case. The most common are recent marriages or divorces.
It is important to make sure that when your name is changed for legal purposes that you notify the Social Security Administration within a reasonable period of time. In the interim, carrying proof of the reason for the difference in your name is helpful.
While having an exact match of names on both your social security card and your state ID is ideal, most banks use reasonable judgment for minor differences. For example, if your social security card shows your name as James John Jones and your driver’s licenses reads as James J. Jones, it is quite sensible to conclude that they match for all intents and purposes.
Proof of Address
A physical address is also required by federal regulations. You can request that all communications go to a post office box or other mailing address, but this will not be accepted in place of a physical address.
For most people, it is as simple as providing your driver’s license. It is advisable to also bring along a utility bill, bank statement, or other pieces of mail from official sources that shows your name and address on it.
Keep in mind that if you move, you need to update any financial institution where you hold bank accounts.
While all of the above is required by law, your account is rather useless until you add some money to it. While there are some institutions that allow you to open an account without an initial deposit, you will need to get it funded sooner or later.
This means that the first step you need to take is to find out how much money is required to be able to open a bank account, assuming that all of the other above items can be satisfactorily provided.
Long gone are the innocent days of parents proudly marching their child into the local bank clutching their cherished piggy bank, which is then smashed opened, the glittering coins removed, and a simple brown bank book offered in return.
In other words, no one opens accounts with cold hard cash.
One method that is becoming more popular for immediate funding is to bring in a debit card. Whatever amount you want to use to open your new account can be easily and immediately verified.
However, be sure to confirm with your new bank what methods they specifically allow for funding new accounts. Even in this electronic age, some bank applications specifically indicate that they only accept checks for new account openings.
You can also use any other method of transfer acceptable by the financial institution, such as bank transfers and money orders.
If there is more than one person interested in being on the same bank account, the same information detailed above (excluding the above section on funding) is required by each applicant.
While the above list offers you an excellent starting point, do keep in mind that you should also research the various kinds of savings accounts available and compare their features and benefits before choosing the financial institution with whom you wish to forge a relationship.